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.
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.
most 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
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 way.
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.
is 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.
some 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
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.
the 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.
results 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.
Valdobbiadene 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
Valdobbiadene Spumante Brut Vecchie Viti 2010;
Villa Italia; $39.
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.
parcel in the Rive di Colbertaldo, using no added sugar
and minimal sulfur.