Growers Act to Guard Its Pedigree
Hillside vines up to a century old in Valdobbiadene, Italy,
are sources of prosecco superiore.
By ALAN TARDI
came down from the hills of Treviso after World War II,
making a name for itself in the chic cafes of Venice,
and later around the world, as a fresh, simple and appealing
it’s become a lot less simple. Two years ago, a
new area for prosecco production was created in the flat
valley extending into the Friuli region, and this has
encouraged winemakers in the original zone to set their
wines apart from the new ones.
In the new
area, which encompasses nine provinces, most vineyards
are large and their permitted yields high, and the vines
can be mechanically harvested, all of which facilitates
more-generic, lower-priced wine.
the original zone, amid the steep conical hills between
the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in the province
Treviso, most of the tiny plots carved out of the twisted
earth centuries ago continue to be worked by hand by independent
farmers. This area, now called prosecco superiore and
designated a Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita
(D.O.C.G.), the highest level in Italian wine, is a complex
mosaic of microclimates. Many winemakers are trying to
showcase these distinctions, with noteworthy results.
prosecco is nonvintage, enabling producers to blend wine
from the previous year, more and more superiore wineries
are making a millesimato, in which all the grapes must
be from one vintage. Moreover, a new system called rive
indicates vintage-dated proseccos made entirely of grapes
from a single town or hamlet.
hillside — or rive, as we say in dialect —
has a name, and each offers small particularities in pedoclimatic
conditions,” said Franco Adami, winemaker and former
president of the consortium of producers that is responsible
for creating and administering the D.O.C.G. regulations.
“The Rive Farra di Soligo is different from the
Rive di San Martino, which is different from the Rive
di Ogliano. This specialization of micro-zones, as exemplified
by the rive system, was something I was committed to bringing
to this region.”
the winemakers are specializing even further by producing
a wine from a single vineyard. An excellent example is
the Brut Prosecco Particella 68, made by Sorelle Bronca
from a tiny parcel in the Rive di Colbertaldo. It has
a subtle yeasty aroma of roasted peaches and dried flower
petals, with a long, refreshingly acidic finish.
itself is changing in the region. Prosecco is generally
made using Charmat (also known as the Italian method),
whereby wine, following its primary fermentation in stainless
steel, undergoes a second fermentation in large pressurized
tanks called autoclaves to make it sparkling. This practice
was developed in the late 1800s at the Scuola Enologica
in Conegliano, Italy’s oldest wine school, and local
producers have an almost paternal affection for it. But
there is nothing that says prosecco must be made this
number of winemakers are experimenting with classic method
refermentation in the bottle. Usually, sugar is added
along with the yeast to induce the second fermentation,
but some, like Bellenda in the S.C. 1931, are making a
bottle-fermented pas dosè (without added sugar),
creating a wine that is drier, yeastier and more complex
than most proseccos.
nothing that says a prosecco must be bubbly, either. Though
uncommon, nonsparkling prosecco is an intriguing wine
that retains the inimitable character of the glera grape,
as the prosecco grape is now called, and the unique terroir
it comes from. Adami, for example, makes a beautifully
aromatic prosecco tranquillo in which the absence of bubbles
seems to make the particularities of site and grape stand
out even more.
is made predominantly from glera, but the regulations
permit up to 15 percent of other approved grape varieties
to be used. Cuvée del Fondatore by Valdo, one of
the oldest wineries in the region, is made with 10 percent
chardonnay matured in small oak barrels for six months,
blended with 90 percent glera. The wine is then slowly
refermented in autoclaves for one year, resulting in an
unusually sophisticated prosecco that seems more mature
than it is.
winemakers are exploring new techniques, others are looking
to the past. One promising example of this is sur lie,
which is how prosecco was made before the advent of the
autoclave. After the wine is bottled, a small amount of
yeast is added and refermentation occurs. But, unlike
the classic method, here the sediment remains in the bottle.
This makes for a slightly cloudy, fizzy wine that combines
a distinctly rustic quality with straightforward elegance
and restraint, like the Sottoriva Sur Lie of Malibrán,
which has the aroma of rising bread dough and a lean,
almost metallic attack with prickly bubbles, followed
by tart crabapple and a bone-dry finish.
taste of the past comes from Paolo Bisol of Ruggeri winery.
“I was fascinated by the old vines — 80, 90,
100 years old or more — scattered throughout Valdobbiadene
with their thick contorted trunks and roots that go way,
way down into the earth,” said Mr. Bisol. “They
give a prosecco that is more robust, more profound and
a bit more mineral than a regular one.”
Ruggeri’s Vecchie Viti prosecco made from ancient
glera, verdiso, bianchetta and perera vines is an extraordinarily
subtle though lively, elegant and unique wine, of which
less than 5,000 bottles are made annually.
existence of two prosecco appellations is bound to create
some confusion, the much stricter D.O.C.G. regulations
will limit yields and ensure that the grapes actually
come from the hilly area, while the need to distinguish
prosecco superiore from the regular one will encourage
producers to excel.
remain to be seen.
can make regulations,” said Franco Adami, the former
president of the producers’ consortium, “but
we can’t regulate the market. People must be able
to taste the difference. The qualitative value of these
changes is up to consumers to decide.”
new and noteworthy proseccos from D.O.C.G. producers available
in the United States.
Prosecco Tranquillo Giardino; imported by Dalla Terra
Winery Direct and Martin Scott; $16.
example of the little-known still version of prosecco.
Aromatic and medium-bodied with tropical fruit flavors.
Valdobbiadene Frizzante Sottoriva 2009; the Admiralty
Beverage Company and George Wines; $18.
in the traditional sur lie manner. A bit cloudy with an
almost prickly fizziness and crisp sour-bitter flavors.
Rustic yet elegant.
Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra-Dry Rive di Ogliano Col di
Manza 2010; Chatrand Imports; $18.
of the new rive designations; some residual sugar is balanced
by mouth-puckering green apple and nice mineral finish.
Valdobbiadene Spumante Brut Vecchie Viti 2010; Villa Italia;
90 percent glera, with verdiso, bianchetta and perera
grapes from 80- to 100-year-old vines.
BRONCA Valdobbiadene Spumante Brut Particella 68; Polaner
Selections and Oliver McCrum Wines; $20.
From a parcel
in the Rive di Colbertaldo, using no added sugar and minimal