Everything you might never imagine about Prosecco




I would like a Prosecco! How many times have we asked or have been asked, very often we realize that the collective mentality associates it with any sparkling wine, which has now become a stereotype of bubbly, regardless of its Docg, area of origin, grape variety, but also region, sometimes we hear Prosecco from Marche, Piedmont, Sicily, you name it!

If it has bubbles it is a prosecco, and from the name it will definitely be a dry wine.

How much more wrong in this widespread idea, as widespread as the generalized prejudice of those who think that prosecco is only and exclusively an industrial wine, grown with conventional, intensive and invasive agriculture.

In a way the wine of this area of Treviso, by the way unexpectedly stupendous (if you have never been trust me, you will be amazed) has had a history somewhat similar to the Lambrusco production area for Emilia Romagna and also Verdicchio for Marche.

 

 

A very old peasant tradition of winemaking, followed by the advent of industrialization in agriculture with its techniques aimed primarily at mass production and consumption, which, while resulting in its spread and fame throughout the world, has given back a false identity of this sparkling wine, but with a lot of work and considerable effort, a handful of winemakers have been working for decades for Prosecco to return to its origin, to its ancestral world, far from industry and chemical processes, with an edge over their fathers or grandfathers, with field experience preceded by studies.

Where we are

At this point, all we have to do is get to Treviso, nose around the city and point the navigator toward Valdobbiadene.

 

Of the expanse of plains cultivated with Glera, that is, the part of the countryside that has made prosecco famous throughout the world, you won't even see a row of it by mistake; the road passes to the north and we are already in the hills. We share with you a small part of the vast production area, the richest, the most difficult but also the most magical. The morphology of the land here, between Vittorio Veneto towards Valdobbiadene, is anything but flat, the endless expanses of rows give way to irregular patches planted with vines often with very old plants, climbing extreme slopes; the sandy, clayey soil gradually gives way to marly/limestone soils: a whole different story!

 

So let's lower the bar of prejudice and go on a winery tour, maybe even by bike, so that in addition to the over-treated plains we would all notice the climbs...and how there are some! And what an incline then! Sometimes they even reach around 70 percent!

Let's take a step back and take a bird's eye view of the entire area.

 

The giant of the Veneto region, both in terms of area planted with vines and production, Prosecco covers all of central and northeastern Veneto and all of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Prosecco is the most produced DOC in Italy and the world's best-selling sparkling wine in terms of volume, surpassing Champagne since 2013 and to date continuing to climb.

A bit of history

Until not so long ago, Prosecco was called both the region of production and the grape used, since 2009 Glera, according to European regulations protecting Prosecco as a protected geographical designation.

 

Prosecco is the name of a town on the Trieste coast from where its name originated: the people of Trieste, in exchange for protection from the Habsburgs, offered their local wine.

 

The first production of Prosecco, in terms of traditional sparkling wine making, occurred in 1873 at the hands of Antonio Carpenè who, a few years later, founded the first school of oenology in Italy in Conegliano.

Vinification

Until about the 1930s it was vinified exclusively by the traditional method, then the rapid evolution: the first rudimentary autoclave dates back to 1852 at the hands of French chemist E.J. Maumené, later refined with wooden tanks and patented for commercial purposes by Asti winemaker Federico Martinotti in 1895. It would be necessary to wait until 1907 and the industrial revolution, when French agronomist Jean-Eugène Charmat first used stainless steel tanks. The Charmat or Martinotti method is the most widely used method for producing Prosecco.

 

Unlike Champagne, Franciacorta, and all classic methods more generally, the character of the grape, already a semi-aromatic type, plays a key role: unlike the neutral grape varieties used for classic methods, which spend a lot of time on the yeasts through autolysis and the winemaking process, it is the winemaking itself that has more weight on the final character of the wines, while wines made in tanks emphasize more the fruity and floral character of the Glera, which is not affected in taste by the character of the yeasts but rather, all its floral and fruity variety is expressed.

In addition, vinification in large tanks is less labor-intensive and consequently less expensive than the double classical method, without racking and disgorging, the management cost is far less. This was the first element that contributed to the spread and popularity of Prosecco.

Grape varieties and characteristics of Prosecco

Let's come to the grapes: Prosecco DOC is made from at least 85 percent Glera, while the remaining 15 percent may be Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Chardonnay, Perera, Glera Lunga, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and/or Pinot Nero.

 

Two related varieties, Glera Lunga and the more common Glera Tonda, are often planted together and blended in Prosecco wines.

 

Glera tonda, large, pyramidal, spreading cluster, spherical, speckled berry, thin, aromatic skin. The nose is a harmonious, enveloping wisteria, the juice is a delicate yellow fruit.

 

Glera lunga: pyramidal, dense cluster, berry is elongated, taste is vegetal, citrusy and spicy.

 

Perera or Madonna grape: delicate and unpredictable, adapts less easily. Cluster pyramidal, winged, spreading; berry is round, yellow, pulpy and thick-skinned.

 

The assertive character lends richness and flair; it has a fresh vitality, fruit reminiscent of pear, and the nose is as flowery as a freshly dewy rose.

 

Verdiso: pyramidal cluster, dense, elongated berry, green, fresh, balsamic and crisp.

 

La Bianchetta: short, compact cluster with developed wings. Berry round, pruinose, golden with pinkish hues. Gentle, graceful and delicately spiced character.

Dosages can vary from brut nature to demi-sec, but most wines have residual sugar and fall into the extra dry and dry categories.

 

Other styles are allowed, such as refermentation in the bottle: we will find the wording on the lees or with the bottom, the style similar to pét-nat, allows the contact and permanence of the yeasts in the bottle, without racking or disgorging. In style it will be in a sense more rustic and authentic, sometimes peaty and never pandering.

 

From 2020, Prosecco rosé will also be added, allowed only for DOC, with 10%-15% Pinot Noir added to 85% Glera and can range from brut nature to extra dry.

 

The entire Prosecco DOC area is so vast (covering 556 municipalities in the nine provinces) that it is very complex to define general characteristics of climate, terrain and consequent quality. The climate is predominantly continental, influenced by the Alps and the Adriatic Sea; the larger area is flat, very fertile and produces simple, high-yielding wines, such as those from the two subareas Treviso (95 municipalities) and Trieste.

The fascinating hillside area

The most fascinating area is that of the DOCGs, the area of the hills. They rise up from the plains in the northwestern part of the province of Treviso, dividing into the less widespread Asolo Prosecco DOCG (an area best known for producing red wines) and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG, which holds almost all production.

 

Labels may or may not bear Superiore and Prosecco, the full appellation name or even simply Valdobbiadene or Conegliano as long as they come from one of the two municipalities.

 

 

 

The hills draw a cordon of grassy ridges and overall a mosaic agricultural landscape of extreme beauty.

 

They stretch from Conegliano in the east to Valdobbiadene in the west, over an altitude of 50 to 550 meters, in some cases with extremely steep slopes

Excellent ventilation prevents moisture and grape rot; the Dolomites block cold winds from the north and help prevent spring frosts, while the Venetian plain and lagoon bring warmer breezes from the south. Then there is the return action of the wind: cold air from the hills flows out to the valleys, while the middle slopes of the hills retain heat. Heat and sun exposure are decisive for the ripening of the grapes and the resulting aromatic expressiveness of Glera.

The western slope of Valdobbiadene, is cooler and steeper at higher elevations, where the wines tend to be more floral, perfumed and perfumed, while the slope east of Conegliano is warmer and lower in elevation, so the wines tend to be more full-bodied and spicy. Valdobbiadene's soils are predominantly marl and conglomerate, with excellent drainage on steep slopes, while Conegliano's soils are predominantly moraine or clay.

 

What determines the DOCG is the harvesting of grapes in the vineyards of the 43 rive, contrade or MGA, which may appear on the labels of sparkling wines only, very low yields, manual harvesting (in any case rather expected given the vertiginous slope) and alcohol volume not above 11.5 percent.

 

To better understand the verticality of the vineyards and all that it entails in agriculture, just think that a prosecco from the plains generally requires about 120 hours of work per hectare, compared to 800/900 hours in the hills.

The jewel in the crown of Prosecco: Cartizze

The most courtly and outstanding part by far is Cartizze: it stretches near Valdobbiadene for 107 hectares cultivated by a hundred or so farmers, so prized that until recently it was the most expensive vineyard land in Italy, second only to Barolo. The steep slopes with average gradation of 35 percent and maximum of 60 percent, are all south-facing, have perfect irradiation and heat exposure, and the only division, though not certified, is by elevation and consequent soil characterization: the higher you go the more the soils are enriched with minerals, rocky marls, pebbles and, because of the return of air, the lower area is cooler and the higher is warmer but, altitude and day/night temperature changes allow the grapes to still maintain a high level of acidity.

 

Cartizze are deep and persistent, with residual sugar generally between 17-32 grams liter but perfectly balanced by the fruit and wide aromatic range. The yield is the lowest in the area: 12 tons per hectare while the alcohol volume is the same (11.50% as in the shores)

All this represents an area to be preserved, the variety of grapes symbolizing a place and the expression of oenological projects that always refer to old knowledge. A rich indigenous diversity to be preserved, enhanced and, above all, defended from the upper hand of international grape varieties. A place where the balance between production and consumption is subtle but is also its strength, because in the middle stands the scenic beauty to be defended as a priceless legacy of nature.

 

 

 

In 2019 the hills were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

We have not yet told you about a truly incredible type of Prosecco: bottle-fermented, or the origin of Prosecco, as it was vinified in the past. Brisk, fresh, enrgic, a real food more than a drink, for the body and also for the spirit, because it really recalls togetherness, conviviality and lightheartedness, little is not!

 

This deserves a separate chapter though, so follow us to learn more!

Mind the pleasure, please! Taste different!

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