Nowhere does Italy’s famous bubbly shine brighter than the hilly region between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. It was the first sparkling wine district in Italy and is the leader in crafting superior Prosecco loved around the world.
Head To The Hills For Quality
Our latest exploration with wine education program #Winestudio is the hilly terrain of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG of northeast Italy. Conegliano Valdobbiadene is part of the Veneto wine region and was named Italy’s first DOCG for sparkling wine in 2003. We eagerly drank in the step up in quality with DOCG (Italy’s highest classification) Prosecco. The difference between “regular” DOC Prosecco and that produced in Conegliano Valdobbiadene was eye-opening.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene has a unique microclimate particularly suited to growing grapes and vineyards have flourished here since ancient times. The region is situated between the sea and the Prealp mountains ensuring a mild climate.
Constant breezes enable the grapes to dry off quickly after rain. The hills run east to west and provide a south-facing slope, benefitting the vineyard with ample exposure to sunshine. The hills allow for good daytime and nighttime temperature differences, which promotes aromatic qualities in the grapes. Glera, grapes almost exclusively used in Prosecco, has found an ideal environment here. There’s plenty of rain, but the hills provide good drainage.
Until our tasting of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG wines, we were unaware of the quality nuances of Prosecco. We've had quite a bit of Prosecco over the years. It’s produced primarily using the autoclave method (also called cuvée close or Charmat method) whereby the wine’s second fermentation takes place in a tank as opposed to in the bottle. This is one reason why Prosecco is less expensive than Champagne.
The Charmat method is used on all quality ranges of sparkling wine, including high end wines. We were delighted to discover that the traditional method, with the second fermentation in the bottle, is used on some of the premium Proseccos.
Kaleidoscope Of Prosecco Quality
We had always thought there was one flavor profile for Prosecco – which we happened to like. Silly us! We were exposed to a variety of styles through our Wine Studio tasting.
We started with Bortolomiol Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry Millesimato "Banda Rossa" 2016 and Conte Collalto Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut. In the world of sparkling wine, Dry isn’t necessarily dry. Of the three styles we tasted, Dry was the sweetest, followed by Extra Dry and then Brut. The Conte Collalto had nice froth with decentralized bubbles and was our first indication that we had been missing out on a higher tier of Prosecco tasting.
Our next round of tasting exposed a gap in my Certified Specialist of Wine studies. Nowhere in my studies for CSW did they cover the Rive sub-category of Prosecco. Rive is the local term for the steep sloping hills upon which Prosecco grapes are grown. There are 43 different Rive districts, each with its own unique microclimate. All wines are vintage dated with the grapes hand picked.
We rolled out some pheasant pate and parmesan crisps and sampled three Rive Prosecco. The Val d'OcaValdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Nature "Rive di Santo Stefano,” packaged in a unique squat bottle, had a nutty taste and a steady perlage. Masottina Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry Rive di Ogliano 2016 was crisp and clear in color with notes of tropical fruit. Tenuta degli Ultimi Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Rive di Collalto "Biancariva" had minerality and a twist of lime.
While 95% of Prosecco is made using the autoclave, the 5% done with the second fermentation in the bottle are special indeed. Our two tastes were Bellenda Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut "Sei Uno" Rive di Carpesica 2015 and Malibran Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG "Credamora" Rifermentato in Bottiglia 2015. The Sei Uno offers tastes of toasted brioche and energetic streams of bubbles. The Malibran is aged sur lie which gives it a complex yeasty flavor with a dollop of lemon cream. This was one of our favorites.
The “Grand Cru” Of Conegliano Valdobbiadene
Without a doubt, the pinnacle of Prosecco is Cartizze. It is produced only in a tiny 264-acre region, where the southern exposure allows grapes to ripen to a higher sweetness. This is balanced by the minerality of the ancient soil. Cartizze was typically produced in a Dry style, meaning sweeter. Now Brut Cartizze is being made by more producers. We tried one of each style: Colesel Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Brut and Le Colture Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Dry.
Cartizze is complex sparkling wine that will please any lover of fine wine and grab the attention of those who stick primarily to Champagne. The wafting flavors of apples and pears, with nutty undertones and a creamy froth of fine bubbles made these wines a delightful experience.
If you see Cartizze online or on the shelf, buy it! The same goes for any Prosecco from our new favorite sparkling wine region. It is sensational wine and the perfect expression of the people and terroir of Conegliano Valdobbiadene.