The preferred wine of the Fist Lady of Roman
Lovely bubbly: a taste of Italy's prosecco region ( Guardian.co.uk august 2010 )
Italy's sparkling wine comes from a gorgeous valley north of Venice. Stay in Luxury Relais & Chateaux or Hip Hotel dei Chiostri and osterie, and eat at local trattorie, for a real taste of the area - and its refreshing fizz
Italy's famous sparkling prosecco wine comes from vineyards that cover a picturesque valley, just north of Venice. While Champagne refers to a region, prosecco is the name of the grape that is grown on rolling hills that stretch from the town of Valdobbiadene past Treviso and Conegliano, as far as Vittorio Veneto. A couple of days driving along this "strada del vino" combines wine tastings in village cantinas, staying in charming B&Bs run by winemakers, and the chance to discover the local Veneto cuisine in rural osterie and trattorie. Here are 10 places not to be missed.
Osteria senza oste
The name of this quite magical locale is "osteria without a host", and it totally lives up to its name, with no one behind the bar, and customers trusted to serve themselves prosecco from the fridge, along with cheese, hams, boiled eggs and bread. You then pop the payment into a wooden box. And somehow it works. Owned by a salami maker from a nearby village, the osteria is very difficult to find - obviously there are no signposts - and it's best to ask directions in Santo Stefano. A winding lane leads into the middle of vineyards where the car has to be parked, and then a five-minute walk brings you out by this ancient stone cottage. A bottle of wine and a whole salami each cost €10 (£8.30), and tables are set out on a shady terrace with stunning views of the surrounding vine-clad hills.
Abbazia di Follina
The cultural highlight on the prosecco wine road has to be a stop-off at the town of Follina. In a more touristy part of the country, Follina's fabulous Romanesque abbey would be crowded out with coach parties, but here you can wander round the 12th-century Cistercian church and cloisters relatively undisturbed, and then head back into the town centre for lunch at either the gourmet - and expensive - Relais & Chateuax Villa Abbazia, or a local favourite, Ristorante La Corte
Passo San Boldo
Just after the village of Cison, follow a sign for Passo San Boldo, a quite remarkable reminder that this region saw major action during the first world war. As the landscape suddenly becomes more alpine, there are traffic lights filtering one-way traffic through the Passo San Boldo, a hairpin route through tunnels and bridges that eventually brings you out at the beginning of the Dolomites. Known as the "100-day road", this was built at breakneck speed by the Austrian army at the end of 1918 to transport troops and artillery down to the battlefield. Immediately at the exit of the last tunnel is Osteria la Muda, originally a customs house and inn that dates back to 1400. It has recently been renovated and has an innovative list of proseccos and a creative German chef.
The prosecco of Conegliano Valdobbiadene is the jewel of Italian sparkling wines. it buds with a galden glow from the earth of an area which is made up of culture, tradition and beauty; emotions which are reinforced with every sip, and which remain in your heart forether.
History. of PROSECCO WINE ( GLERA GRAPES ) PROSECCOSHIRE
It is believed that Prosecco was already
produced in Roman times possibly as the vinum pucinum praised by
Pliny the Elder.
It is at any rate, one of the oldest wine grapes in Italy and ranks about thirtieth in importance among the country's some 2,000 grape varieties.
The name of Prosecco is derived from the northern Italian village of Prosecco (Trieste), where the grape is believed to have originated. Up until the 1960s, Prosecco sparkling wine was generally sweetish and barely distinguishable from the Asti Spumante wine produced in Piedmont.
Since then, production techniques have improved, leading to the high-quality dry wines produced today. According to a 2008 The New York Times report, prosecco has sharply risen in popularity in markets outside Italy, with global sales growing by double-digit percentages since 1998, aided also by its comparatively low price.
If a wine has the colour of topaz, an intoxicating bouquet, a
mischievous sapidity and is already unforgettable after the first
taste, one is most surely talking about the Prosecco of
zone extends through the band of hills of the Province of Treviso and encompasses the area between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.
The zone encompasses a series of hill chains - running from east to west - which follow one after the other from the lowlands to the Pre-Alps, lying equidistant between the sheltering Dolomites to the north and the Adriatic, which has a positive effect on the climate and countryside.
While Conegliano plays host to famous wine institutes, Valdobbiadene is surely the zone's productive heart.
Venice is only 50 kilometres away and is easily reached by either train or car in a little over half an hour.
The production zone comprises the territory of 15 communities and covers an area of approximately 18,000 hectares (approx. 45,000 acres) of cultivated land. Vines, however, are grown only on the south-facing slopes of the hills at an altitude of 50 - 500 metres (approx. 165 - 1650 ft.) above sea level, while the north-facing slopes are often covered with woods.
There are currently more than 4,300 hectares (approx. 9,750 acres) entered in the DOC Register which are worked by 5,000 producers. Of these hectares, 106 belong to Superiore di Cartizze which, every year, produces more than a million bottles of the finest sparkling wine.
The steep slopes of the hills make it difficult to mechanize the work and consequently managing the vineyards has almost always been left in the hands of small growers.
Only towards Conegliano does one find a few of the larger producers.
As to the number of wineries, however, there has been a steady growth: numerous new entrepreneurs have gradually joined the ranks of producers which already counted among them four cooperatives and 15 large sparkling wine houses.
It is truly thanks to this large peaceful army of men and the love they have for their land that it has been possible to conserve these hills.
The many embankments, ramps and terraces have slowly moulded the sunny faces of the hills over the centuries, indelibly modifying their profiles.
THE JOWEL OF PROSECCOSHIRE
A particularly prestigious type of Prosecco is
that made in the zone of "Cartizze", a small
delimited area described in the Disciplinary Rules as the 104
hectares (approx. 262 acres) of vineyards lying between the
steepest hills of San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano and Saccol
in the community of Valdobbiadene.
This zone is a real and true "cru" (vineyard or area of vineyards of a single vine variety) born of the perfect combination of a gentle microclimate and quite various soil, with moraines, sandstones and clays, which allows for rapid drainage of rainwater and, at the same time, maintains a constant reserve of water so that the vines can grow and develop in a balanced way.
The grape variety
Viticulture in the hills of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene dates back
to ancient times evidenced by the work of man who has, over the
centuries, sculpted the sunniest slopes. The
Prosecco vine has been cultivated on these hills
for over two hundred years.
Since the beginning of the XIX century, with the foundation of The School of Viticulture and Oenology and The Experimental Centre for Viticulture, both in Conegliano, research into this vine variety has greatly increased and the Prosecco has spread throughout the area.
The exact origins of this variety are somewhat of a mystery, but some would have it that it was, in fact, already known as the 'Pucino' in the time of the Roman Empire. The Empress Livia Augusta was particularly fond of the wine from this grape.
It is certain, however, that for at least two centuries the hills of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene have provided an ideal environment for the cultivation of Prosecco where a whole series of biotypes became widespread. One of these, the Prosecco Balbi, was the result of clonal selection carried out by Count Balbi Valier in the second half of the last century and is in fact still cultivated today.
This first documented case of selection has been followed up, over the last twenty years, by a tremendous amount of work on clonal selection done by The Experimental Institute for Viticulture. This research is aimed at safeguarding the typicity of the product while at the same time adapting the variety to the differing growing conditions found in the hills of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.
The Prosecco is a vigorous and hardy vine, with nut-coloured shoots and quite large, loosely-packed winged clusters of beautiful golden yellow berries nestled amongst large bright green leaves.
The Prosecco is the vine which guarantees the base structure of the wine of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, but Verdiso, Perera and Bianchetta, vine varieties which are considered to be of lesser stature, can be used up to a maximum of 15%. In some years and in certain zones, they can contribute, on account of their specificity, to the organolectic balance of Prosecco.
The Verdiso is documented as having been
present in the Conegliano zone as early as 1700; by the XIX century
it was already widely grown with its production exceeding that of
every other variety in the zone.
Used in the vinification of Prosecco to increase its acidity and sapidity, Verdiso plays an important role in balancing its acid component in hot years.
The Perera, a variety cited as already being
grown in the Treviso province in the last century, was used in
small quantities in the vinification of Prosecco, above all in the
Valdobbiadene zone, to enhance its perfume and aroma.
Some say that its 'strange' name comes from the very particular taste of its pulp (that is to say the taste of 'pera', the Italian word for 'pear') although it more likely owes its name to the shape of the berry, which resembles that of an upturned pear.
The Bianchetta, a vine mentioned by name as early as the XVI century and claimed by some authers to be indigenous to the Treviso area, was used, on account of its early maturation, to 'refine and polish' the Prosecco, especially in cold years. This is why it was often grown, together with Verdiso, in the higher and less accessible zones.
The winemaking process
This is how the production of Prosecco DOC happens:
The harvest: An important moment closely followed by the Tutelary Consortium which checks the maturity of the grapes, gives the latest advice to the producers and, during a public meeting attended by the growers, gives the go-ahead for the harvest to begin in the various zones.
The pressing: this takes place when the grapes, harvested by
hand and gathered from the various vineyards, are transported to
the winery, where the work of vinification begins.
The pressing is accomplished by highly sophisticated equipment which presses the grapes very gently so that only the free-run juice from the heart of the berry is extracted. The Disciplinary Rules dictate that a maximum of 70 litres (approx. 15.4 imp. gal.) of wine may be obtained from 100 kg. (about 220 lb.) of grapes. From the still damp pomace (skins), the perfumed and light Prosecco grappa is distilled.
The decantation: after the pressing, the turbid must (juice) is
left to rest in stainless steel tanks chilled to a temperature of
5-10° C (41-50° F).
After approximately 10-12 hours, the limpid part of the must has separated from the deposits and fermentation begins.
The vinification: this comes about thanks to yeasts which
provoke alcoholic fermentation. Vinification takes about 15-20 days
and is completed in stainless steel vats kept at a constant
temperature of 18-20° C (65-68° F).
Grapes coming from a single vineyard are usually vinified together and the wineries keep the different lots separate.
The foaming: this takes place after the base wine has become
Only then can the process of becoming a sparkling wine begin, an operation in which style, taste and the experience of the oenologist play a decisive role.
After a careful tasting of the various lots of base wine, the different vattings are assembled: the wines, which have until this point been kept separately due to their different origins, moments of harvesting and organolectic characteristics are now carefully assembled in precise proportions, so as to achieve a perfect balance of all the components.
Only a few rare lots made from grapes from particular crus (single vineyards), which while still in the vineyard appeared to be endowed with a distinct style or a perfect balance, are made into sparkling wines purely on their own.
The bottling: different types of bottles are used according to the type of wine being bottled, the 'Renana' (Rhenish) or the 'Borgognona' (Burgundian) bottle for the 'Tranquillo' (still wine), the 'Champagnotta' (Champagne) bottle for 'Frizzante' (semi-sparkling wine) and the classic Prosecco bottle for 'Spumante' (sparkling wine). All of the bottles are green in colour to ensure that the wine is not damaged by light. After 30-40 days, the wine is ready to be released to market.
Styles and serving suggestions
The various types
The Prosecco of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene was thus borne of few, but precise rules that guarantee its uniqueness and authenticity and from a tradition that, while adapting to change, has managed to retain a distinct and unmistakable indentity over the years.
Whether still, semi-sparkling or fully sparkling, the Prosecco DOCG of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene is recognizable by its pale straw-yellow colour, its moderate body and its exclusively fruity and floral aroma. Follows a brief description of the characteristics of the various types of wine produced.
Sparkling Prosecco DOCG of
The Sparkling Prosecco gives full expression to its character, which is at once, both agile and energetic and is produced principally in two versions, the Extra Dry and the Brut. In the former, refermentation is interrupted while a small percentage of sugars (12-20 gr/l) still remains; in the latter, however, refermentation is almost complete (max. 15 gr/l), leaving the wine bone dry.
This is the most modern of the Prosecco wines and it has had great international success. It is characterized by richer aromas of citrus fruit and fresh vegetation with pleasant hints of bread crust showing through, coming together on the palate with an exquisite gustative energy.
Its fine perlage ensures a persistent taste which is clean on the palate, making this the sparkling wine par excellence for the table.
It should be served at 7-9° C (44-46° F) and goes well with simple or elaborate fish and vegetables hors d'oeuvres, first courses of sea foods and baked fish, or, as is the custom in its production zone, enjoyed throughout the entire meal.
This is a 'classic' Prosecco, the version which combines the vine variety's aromatic quality with the exalted sapidity of its fine bubbles.
The colour is a brilliant straw-yellow enlivened by its perlage (strands of tiny bubbles). Its aromatic quality is fresh and rich in fruity aromas of apple and pear with a hint of citrus fruit which fades into the floral bouquet.
In the mouth it is soft, yet at the same time dry, thanks to its good acidity.
It makes the perfect aperitif, ideally served at 8-10° C (45-50° F), and is a good compliment to vegetable soups, sea foods, pasta dishes with a light meat sauce, fresh cheeses and white meats.
The Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di
This is truly the inimitable embodiment of life's beautiful moments.The intensity of its colour signals the complexity of the ample and inviting aromas that are to follow: from apple to pear, from apricot to citrus fruit, to rose, with a pleasant note of glazed almonds on the after taste. Produced almost exclusively in its Dry version (residual sugar of 17-35 grammes per litre), this sparkling wine makes a good companion to traditional desserts, from short pastries to fruit tarts, to sweetened 'focaccia' (type of flat soft bread). Cartizze is not only the perfect conclusion to an important dinner, but also adds to every well-wishing toast and makes every ceremony more festive.
Semi-sparkling Prosecco di
This is the most forthcoming and therefore the easiest Prosecco to taste: it was first made with the young and less expert consumer in mind.
The version which has been refermented in the bottle on the lees (sur lie), is the true ambassdor of the wine maker's traditions, assertive, dry, light and easily digestible.
Semi-sparkling Prosecco, usually fermented in autoclaves, harmonizes the fragrance of the grape's varietal aromas, with a delicate hint of carbon dioxide in a union characterized by its freshness. Its colour is the signature pale straw-yellow. On the nose, it has rich floral and fruit aromas, with green apple and lemon coming to the fore. It is perfect served at 8-10° C (45-50° F) as an aperitif and as an accompaniment to hors d'oeuvres and simple first courses.
Still Prosecco of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene
This is the least known version of Prosecco outside the production zone.
It is made from well-matured grapes coming from the more densely planted and less productive vineyards.
Vinification involves a brief cold maceration of the grape-skins to enrich the bouquet and structure of the wine. It is delicate straw-yellow in colour, with a bouquet of apple, pear, almond and wild-flower honey.
The Still Prosecco has a smooth and persistent structure, and an aftertaste sometimes characterized by pleasantly bitter almond undertones, which give the wine greater expression and complexity. Even though this is not a wine to be aged, it can still be appreciated in its second year of life.
It should be served at 10-12° C (50-53° F) with light fish and vegetable-based hors d'oeuvres and is also an excellent accompaniment to the marinated morsels traditional to the Veneto.