The Prosecco DOC from this area of Veneto is now one of the most prestigious in the world, mainly because of the unique landscape of steep hills that provides such a range of flavours in such a compact area.
Prosecco is having a moment.
Prosecco sales in the UK topped those of Champagne over the holidays. News reports of Prosecco
shortages in 2017 alarmed wine lovers the world over, warning that production – already having
trouble keeping up with increasing demand – was slowed due to weather.
All this from an appellation that didn’t even formally exist until 2009.
The DOC for Prosecco, which reaches into two Italian regions, was officially created in 2009, while the name of the grape used to make the popular bubbly was changed from Prosecco to Glera to avoid confusion. Production of sparkling wine in what is now the Prosecco DOC region dates back centuries, but until the years after World War II, those wines were almost all consumed locally. As Prosecco’s popularity grew beyond the borders of Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, inferior imitations starting cropping up (think “parmesan” vs. Parmigiano Reggiano), which led wine producers to form the consortium that would go on to create the DOC.
Further prestige was given to the tiny area between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. The vineyards that blanket the hills there are Prosecco Superiore DOCG, the most prized version of the sparkling wine. This area is also known as the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG for its two main cities and the region are currently on the list to be considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As small as the Prosecco Superiore DOCG area is, however, there are differences among the wines produced in each part. The varying terrain and microclimates create different growing and harvesting requirements, leading to grapes – and wines – with subtly distinct personalities.
The two capitals, Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, are on opposite ends of the region and surrounded by dramatically differing landscapes. Knowing a little bit about the flavours of wines produced around each city can help guide your wine purchases – and visiting wineries in each part of the DOCG region is a great way to taste the terroir differences for yourself.
Conegliano, the site of Italy’s first winemaking school (opened in 1876), is in the eastern part of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG. The lands around Conegliano were carved by glaciers, which smoothed the rocky edges into rolling hills and left deep mineral deposits in the soil. The soil here is a mix of clay, stones, and sand, which yields grapes with more sugar.
Grapes that are grown around Conegliano typically have persistent and intense flavours of fruit, with some floral and even spicy notes. For instance, Terra Serena’s Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry is lightly sweet with notes of flowers and fruit. It makes a lovely aperitivo on its own, though it is also food-friendly. It’s best with light dishes – strong flavours can overpower the delicate notes of the wine – like vegetable appetizers or fish.
Valdobbiadene’s hills in the west are, by contrast, rugged and steep. The soil here comes partly from ancient sea beds, a mix of marlstone, sandstone, and clay.
Wines made from grapes grown in this area tend to be more floral, while fruit elements can vary from citrus to sweeter white fruits. The wines produced by Bortolomiol, such as the Bandarossa Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry Millesimato, are a creamy and balanced mix of white fruit flavours and citrus with floral hints. It works well as an aperitivo, and pairs nicely with preparations of light meat cooked with fruit. Bortolomiol’s flagship wine, the Grande Cuvée Del Fondatore, is a Brut that can even hold its own against a dish of suckling pig.
An even more exclusive sub-designation is “Il Cartizze,” given to only 107 hectares near Valdobbiadene. The growing area includes all the steepest hills of the DOC, all of which are south-facing. The marlstone-sandstone soil here is old, but not as deep as around Conegliano.
The highest-quality and most sought-after wines come from this part of the DOCG region, partly because of the unique growing conditions created by the terrain – every aspect of grape growing here must is managed by hand. The tricky landscape is one of the reasons for the high quality of the grapes, though, as the steep slopes mean excellent drainage that keeps vines healthy.
The grapes that grow in Il Cartizze produce wines that are predominantly floral rather than fruity, and usually are made Dry (which is the sweet end of the Prosecco scale). The Col Vetoraz winery produces seven Valdobbiadene DOCG wines, with their flagship – Cartizze Superiore – coming from this unique micro-region. The light sweetness of this velvety wine makes it a perfect after-dinner drink.
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