PROSECCO - Wines and Territory

This story begins in Conegliano Valdobbiadene, a hilly area in North-East Italy, 50 km from Venice and around 100 from the Dolomites. Here, for over three centuries, people have grown the grapes that produce Prosecco Superiore. The real success began with the founding of Italy’s first School of Winemaking in 1876. The production area covers 15 communes and represents the heart of the world of Prosecco; it is one of Italy’s historic denominations, recognized in 1969. In 2009, with the reorganisation of the denominations for Prosecco, the Ministry of Agriculture classified it as a Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin (D.O.C.G.), the highest level of quality for Italian wines.
There are also the Asolo D.O.C.G. and the Prosecco D.O.C., covering 9 Provinces in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, created to protect the viticultural heritage of Prosecco and defend it around the world.

Qualitative pyramid of Prosecco


Winemaking 

The grapes are harvested during the first weeks of September when the organoleptic qualities (sugars, acidity and aromatic substances) have reached maturity and are perfect for producing sparkling and semi-sparkling Prosecco DOC. It is a delicate process because it is important to keep the grapes whole and avoid spontaneous fermentations.
After the grapes have been picked, they are crushed. The grapes are separated from their stalks in preparation for pressing. Only the free-run must is extracted from the grapes by soft pressing.
Selected yeasts are used to start the white winemaking process, transforming the sugar of the grapes into alcohol and CO2. The action of the yeasts (fermentation) lasts for around 15/20 days at a maximum temperature of 18°C to preserve the delicate aromas of the original grapes.
After fermentation the ageing process begins and the wine is racked and filtered to clear it.
Prosecco Tranquillo is bottled, while the Frizzante and Spumante varieties continue to the final unique stage in the Prosecco process: natural secondary fermentation.
The second fermentation, achieved by using the Martinotti method, takes place in large stainless steel vats called autoclaves which keep the wine under pressure. This is where the wine gets its famous bubbles, thanks to secondary fermentation.
Towards the end of the secondary fermentation, which lasts a minimum of 30 days, the temperature is lowered to stop fermentation, leaving enough residual sugar to guarantee balance and harmony.
Semi-sparkling wines are also produced with secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating aromas reminiscent of yeast and bread crusts and a smoother, more rounded sensation on the palate.

Hand-picked Glera grapes at Foss Marai vineyards.

The Wines

-Prosecco D.O.C.
The production area is located in northeast Italy, more precisely in the territories of 5 Veneto provinces (Treviso, Venice, Vicenza, Padua, Belluno) and 4 provinces in Friuli Venezia Giulia (Gorizia, Pordenone, Trieste and Udine), one of the most stunning areas in the Italian peninsula. When the grapes are harvested and the wine produced and bottled exclusively in the provinces of Treviso and Trieste, the special mention Treviso or Trieste may be written on the label in recognition of the invaluable part these two provinces have played in the history of Prosecco. The most known prosecco worldwide is in fact Treviso D.O.C. (Get it here)

-Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G.
Is a sparkling wine produced exclusively in the hills of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area; it is made from the Glera grape variety. The denomination is made up of 15 municipalities and takes its name from the area’s twin capitals: Conegliano, the cultural capital, which was responsible for the creation of the Prosecco phenomenon thanks to being the site of Italy’s first School of Winemaking, where this wine’s production method was perfected; Valdobbiadene, the heart of production in the zone: it is surrounded by vineyards of extraordinary beauty, with a special vocation for producing high-quality grapes. (hence why they are more expensive than other proseccos) The permitted grape yield in the vineyards is 13.5 tonnes per hectare. Each winery, by skilfully mixing the grapes from the various micro-zones of the area, creates the blends (“cuvées”) that act as ambassadors for its own, distinctive winemaking philosophy. Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore may be enjoyed in Brut,Extra Dry and Dry versions, classified according to their level of residual sugar. (Get it herehere and here)

-Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. Rive
The term “Rive” indicates, in the local language, the slopes of the steep hills that are characteristic of the zone. This category of wine highlights the diverse expressions of Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Rive wines are often obtained from the most sloped, high-quality vineyards, from grapes grown in a single area, enhancing the characteristics that a particular terroir gives to the wine. Within the denomination there are 43 Rive, and each one expresses a different and distinctive combination of soil, exposure and microclimates. In the Rive, yields are reduced to 13 tonnes of grapes per hectare, the grapes are picked exclusively by hand and the vintage is always shown on the label. These wines are hardly ever exported due to the short supply and very high local demand.

Prosecco Superiore D.O.C.G. di Cartizze
The golden-hued wine that expresses absolute top quality within the denomination, Cartizze comes from a sub-zone that has had its own specific regulations since 1969. It covers just 107 hectares of vineyards, in the shape of a pentagon, lying amidst the steepest hillsides of San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano and Saccol, in the commune of Valdobbiadene.
The perfect combination of a mild microclimate and very ancient soils, made up of moraines, sandstone and clays, give these wines unique characteristics. The maximum yield is of 12 tonnes of grapes per hectare.
Its colour is a straw yellow, with brilliant highlights that vary from pastel shades to golden tones. The nose is characterized by very complex scents that recall apples and pears, citrus fruits, rich aromas of peaches and apricots and hints of roses, along with a note of almonds in the aftertaste. Its flavour is well-balanced and elegant, with very fresh, mellow fruit underpinned by delicate, fine bubbles.Again, also these wines are hardly ever exported due to the short supply and extremely high local demand.

There are also some minor styles, mostly consumed by the local market:

Frizzante
Apart from the type produced in autoclaves (pressurized tanks), which is extremely appealing and easy to drink, in this category we also find semi-sparkling wines which have been stored on their lees in the bottle. These are considered to be the real representatives of the local tradition, and are still produced today by almost every family in the zone. They call for a brief re-fermentation in the bottle during the spring, and are meant to be drunk in the summer and autumn following the vintage. It has a characteristic straw-like colour and, on the nose, apart from fruity and floral aromas, one also finds attractive faint yeasty hints.

Tranquillo
This is the least-known version: a real niche product. It is obtained from the most densely planted and shy-yielding vineyards, where the grapes are harvested when they are very ripe. Its colour is a delicate straw yellow, and its fragrances are of apples, pears, almonds and honey.

Col Fondo
It is a prosecco produced with second fermentation in the bottle. A  traditional technique dating back to the late 1800s, where the wine is aged with the grape’s natural yeasts and a thin film forms on the surface, creating a smoother rounder flavour on the palate. When the wine undergoes this particular process, it will say “Secondary fermentation in the bottle” on the label.

Every glass of Prosecco is a work of art. (Fasol Menin)

UNDERSTANDING THE LABELS

Terroir really counts. The label of every bottle of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore tells us part of the story. 


GOVERNMENT QUALITY LABEL

Every bottle bears a Government Quality Label, displaying a number that makes it unique and traceable, together with the name and logo of the denomination. It can be recognized by its golden colour, which identifies all of Italy’s D.O.C.G's.



WINE LABEL

The label is the wine’s identity card. It gives various details about the wine, of which the most important is the name of the zone it comes from. This is either written on its own, or associated with the term “Prosecco Superiore” in the case of the sparkling wine.


Dining with Prosecco Superiore

Refreshing, versatile and with only moderate alcohol, Prosecco is ideal for all sorts of occasions. It has become famous worldwide as a must at “aperitivo-time”, a ritual that has now become popular worldwide, establishing an iconic moment of the Italian lifestyle. However, thanks to its variable level of sweetness, Prosecco Superiore is also suitable for drinking throughout a meal, particularly in the Brut version.

It should always be served “straight” (never mixed) and the secret of matching it with food is combining its elegant personality with dishes that preserve the original flavours and aromas of the ingredients.


The Terroir, the Climate, the Territory

Why is Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene so unique?
The soils of Conegliano Valdobbiadene have very ancient origins and are the result of the emerging of sea and lake beds. One part of the hills was re-modelled by the glaciers of the Dolomites, which brought various sediments downhill. The resulting soils are deep and are made up of conglomerates of rock and sand, containing a lot of clay and sometimes rich in iron oxides. In the area unaffected by the glaciers, the soils remained of marine origin, composed of marls and sandstone, not as deep but more porous. This has led to the co-existence of many types of different soils and also to differently shaped hills: some are gently sloped, as in the area of Conegliano, others are steeper and completely south-facing like in Valdobbiadene. Each of the combinations of slope, exposure and soils make each micro-zone unique, as you can discover in the wines from the Rive and Cartizze.
The perfect position of this area, nestled between the Adriatic sea and the Prealps ensures a mild climate, with an average temperature during the year of 12.3°C and constant breezes, which allow the grapes to dry quickly after the rain. The area is characterized by frequent heavy showers in the summer, with average rainfall of 1250 mm.
The hills stretch from east to west, so they have a south-facing slope – on which the vineyards benefit from excellent exposure to sunshine – and a northern slope, usually covered in woodland. The altitude varies between 100 and 500 m and guarantees good differences between day- and night-time temperatures, so that the aromas develop well in the grapes.

View of Guia, Valdobbiadene


History

Vine-growing has been widespread in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone since ancient times. A memorial stone in the area recalls the words of a Roman centurion, mentioning the vendemmiales, celebrations on the occasion of the grape harvest

VI Century
San Venanzio Fortunato, Bishop of Poitiers (530-607), describes Valdobbiadene, his place of origin, thus: "Quo Vineta Vernatur, Sub Monte Jugo Calvo, Quo Viror Umbrosus Tegit Sicca Metalla" (“an area where vines bud below the high mountains, and in which the lush greenery protects the more barren zones”)

XII Century
A 12th century fresco on the external façade of the parish church of San Pietro di Feletto portrays the “Sunday Christ”. The warning is clear: those who work on Sundays make Christ suffer (we see him bleeding, surrounded by tools for work). Thank to these we can understand what were the typical jobs in these hills at that time, and how vines and wine were already part of everyday life.

1574
When King Henry III of Poland passed through on his way to Paris to be crowned King of France, the community of Conegliano made the white wine from their hills to pour all day from the Fountain of Neptune.


1754
Aureliano Acanti in his “Il Roccolo, Ditirambo” cites "Prosecco". It is the first written mention of the name

“Who does not know how exquisite are our Marzeminos, Bianchettos, Proseccos, Moscatellos, Malvasias, Glossari and others, that are grown on various hills near here, when they are indeed made with the greater care required by these grape varieties and by the land where they are cultivated?

1772
Francesco Maria Malvolti (1725-1807), in Volume VIII of the Giornale d’Italia of 1772, links Prosecco for the first time with Conegliano Valdobbiadene

a quarter of the above “square perches” (I cannot be absolutely precise about the quantity), is all devoted to vineyards, which I planted with Prosecco vines, more dependable and fertile than any other variety, and which yield an outstanding white wine, full of grace and strength

1868
Count Marco Giulio Balbi Valier, famous for identifying and selecting a type of Prosecco vine that was better than the others and known as “Prosecco Balbi”, published a booklet in 1868 in which he described his own crops

1876
The Oenological Institute of Conegliano was founded, the first of its kind in Italy

1923
The foundation of the Experimental Station for Viticulture and Oenology took place in Conegliano

1930s
The boundaries of the production area for Prosecco were outlined

1946
The Brotherhood of Prosecco was founded

7th June 1962
11 producers formed the Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene (Consortium for the Protection of Prosecco from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene)

1963
The first Sparkling Wine Exhibition was inaugurated in Valdobbiadene

1966
The Strada del Prosecco was set up, the first recognized Wine Road in Italy

2nd April 1969
Denominazione di Origine Controllata status was granted to the Prosecco produced in the 15 municipalities between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene

1960s and ’70s
An important contribution to improving the quality of production was given by Prof. Tullio De Rosa, author of important texts such as Tecnologia dei Vini Spumanti, a work of reference in perfecting the Conegliano Valdobbiadene method of making sparkling wines, studied by generations of students

2003
The Denomination was awarded the status of First Sparkling Wine District in Italy

2004
The District’s Research Centre was founded. The results of the studies carried out by this body are presented every year in December.

1st August 2009
Conegliano Valdobbiadene became Italy’s 44th D.O.C.G.

 



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