When it comes to Prosecco, not all Proseccos are created equal. Get to know Conegliano Valdobiaddene Prosecco Superiore DOCG which is produced from a much smaller delimited area in the north eastern corner of the Veneto region. Nearly all the wines are handcrafted with delicate, floral, fruity aromas and light to medium bodies that are very different than the massmarket versions. I had the pleasure of sipping through 9 wines from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG at City Winery yesterday.
I find this wine appellation a tongue-twister, Jeremy Parzen, Do Bianchi created the Grape Name Project in helping people with the proper pronounciation of Italian wines and grapes. Here are links to the pronounciation for Conegliano ( KOH-neh-L’YEE’AH-noh) and Valdobbiadene (vahl-doh-Bee’Ah-deh-neh). For that matter, here are links for Prosecco and Glera (GLEH-rah), the grape used to make the wine.
The event was sponsored by the Consorzio Tutela Del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco and presented by Alan Tardi the U.S. Ambassador. Alan, also, wrote a book on champagne, Champagne, Uncorked: The House of Krug and the Timeless Allure of the World’s Most Celebrated Drink. He obviously knows his bubbles or as the Italians refer to, the perlage.
It was a very dreary, rainy day with the downpour pelting the metal roof at City Winery Sipping these light, effervescent wines with notes of peach and white flowers made the day a little brighter!
Given that I love geography and maps, let’s put Prosecco Superiore in perspective to the Veneto region where it resides and the Prosecco DOC in general. Alan covered the appellation in great detail, noting that making of prosecco wines goes back to the Romans. The grape was originally called prosecco but after 2009 because of the confusion of the wine with the grape, one of the changes that took place along with the creation of Prosecco Superiore DOCGs appellations, the official name of the grape was changed to one of its synonyms, glera.
Wine appellations to me are like Russian nesting dolls, you go from larger to smaller. The Prosecco DOC which is huge covers the outskirts of Treviso, encompasses Friuli and stretches to the borders of Austria, Trentino-Alto-Adige and Slovenia. Then within the the Treviso province is the Treviso Prosecco DOC, then wthin that are found the hills in the area between the towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. The Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG was created in 2009, along with the neighboring Colli Asolani Prosecco DOCG. There are 43 named rives, which are named growing areas for the grapes. Then the Cartizze growing area because of its extremely steep hills, the position of its slopes in relation to sunlight and the morainic soil is known to grow the highest quality grapes so it is considered the “grand cru” area for wine.
Italy like France, won the geographical and topographical lottery for soils and landscape. There are so many nooks and crannys, ConVal (I’ll abbreviate from here on) is one of them. Alan described the area and explained that the grapes are grown on very steep hillsides, with the Cartizze having the steepest slopes. Everything is hand harvested and very little manipulation in the cellar except for the Charmat process. On one side of the hills is the Dolomites and the other side leads to the towns, valley and the Piave river.
One of the things that makes Prosecco, Prosecco, is the Charmat method which Alan explained was developed originally with the invention of the autoclave in 1895 by Federico Martinotti and then expanded into broad scale production by Eugene Charmat in 1910. The Charmat method aka “the tank method” for sparkling involves the second fermentation in stainless steel tanks which makes the wine, light, delicate and much cheaper to produce.
Alan ,also, pointed out the variations on style: spumante 95% production (sparkling 3.5+ bars of pressure), frizzante (fizzy 1-2.5) and tranquillo (still). Then spumante ,only, has ranges of sweetness: brut (0-12 rs), extra dry (12-17 rs), dry (17-32 rs). In Valdobbiadene they are even making Prosecco Col Fondo where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle and is not filtered, very similar to natural wine “pet-nats”. In my internet surfing for this piece, I found a small write-up by MS Tim Gaiser of a trip he took there in 2012.
In tasting the wines, besides their tasting completely different than the syrupy after taste of mass produced proseccos, was the lack of sensation on my palate of all the residual sugar in some of the wines. The high acidity due to the growing areas where the grapes were sourced and the minerality from the soils counter balanced all the sugar. It was astonishing. All the wines we tasted, one, because of the charmat method and two, that they were produced in smaller quantities were very delicate, floral, fruity but not overly so.
Prosecco is so much a part of the area that we were told they have a festival celebrating all proseccos of the area every May that families from all over Italy attend called Vino in Villa. It sounds like it is like the Terra Madre of Prosecco where people just come to celebrate the diversity in wine making and the history of it.
The wines we tasted were:
- Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry produced by Biancavigna ABV 11.5%, RS 17 g/l, TA 7.2 g/l 90% glera 10% pinot bianco $24 srp apple, white peach and a fine perlage
- Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry “Luxury” produced by Mionetto ABV 11% RS 14-17 g/l TA 5.5-6.5 g/l 100% glera $22 srp This wine was more acidic but the vineyards were at a slightly higher altitude.
- Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry Rive de Ogliano 2015 produced by Masottina. ABV 11.5% RS 16 g/l 100% glera SRP $30 This wine was creamy, full-bodied but soft and dense at the same time. It was higher in acid then the previous wines which made sense since it was from a particular named rive.
- Valdobbiadene DOCG Superiore di Cartizze Dry produced by Le Colture. ABV 11% RS 23g/l 100% glera SRP $35 The most amazing thing about this wine was how unnoticeable the sugar level was and how it was balanced by the brightness and acid. It was light, white peach, pear and white flowers. My thought was perfect with a frosted cake.
- Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Rive de Collalto 2015 produced by Borguluce ABV 11.%% RS 3 g/l TA 6 g/l 100% glera srp $25 The aromatics were lovely with white flowers prevalent they cite wisteria and acacia on the producer site. This is another wine that comes from a specific rive.
- Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut “Bosco di Gica” produced by Adami. ABV 11% RS 9-10g/l TA 6 g/l 95-97% glera 3-5% chardonnay srp $18 This wine was made from a field blend.
- Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut “Prior” Millesimato produced by Bortolomio. ABV 12% RS 8 g/l TA 6 g/l 100% glera SRP $15
- Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG Frizzante rifermentato in bottiglia “Bade” produced by Valdellovo. ABV 11% RS 0 g/l TA 5.8 g/l 100% glera SRP $20 This one was produced “pet-nat” style. This one had fruit and yeasty flavors going on.
- Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Nature “Doro” produced by Le Vigne de Alice. ABV 11.5% RS 3 g/l TA 5.8 g/l 100% glera SRP $20 They keep it on the lees for 90 days before the second tank fermentation. Golden apple and bread crust in this one. Their website is intriguing, worth checking it out.
There are other DOCG wines, mostly reciotos made in the Colli Conegliano (hills) area. Most of the Proseccos we tasted were closer to Valdobbiadene. Even within that area, Alan explained there are a diversity of Prosecco styles produced in smaller quantities. Looking at a few pictures of the area, it looks like another beautiful, authentic, non-American touristy wine area to put on the “to visit” list. We were given maps and a booklet with more details on the requirements of the DOCGS. The map said “Visit Conegliano Valdobbiadene“. After looking at some of the beautiful vistas below, sounds like a great idea to me! If you can’t visit, try sipping on a Prosecco from ConVal and think of these views!