Wine notes

Sunday 14 June 2009


The Consorzio Tutela Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene celebrates 40 years of protected origin and carries the Prosecco grape to the grave.

This year’s Vino in Villa, the annual presentation of Prosecco wines organised by the Consorzio of Producers of Italy’s most famous sparkler in the Province of Treviso, commemorated 40 years of DOC, the equivalent of France’s AOC and established in 1969. This large annual tasting, a stylish affair, not least due to its stunning location, the impressive Castello di Susegana, overlooking at one side the plain of Piave, the source of large volumes of cheap wine, and on the other the hills of Treviso towards the Alps, was also the inaugural event to introduce the highest quality designation, the so called DOCG, to the region just in time before the OCM kicks in this August.
The Consorzio’s motto for this year’s event was: Prosecco is not the wine of a specific provenan or terroir, but rather a terroir expressing itself in a wine. This may seem an open door to most wine lovers accustomed with France’s AOC, but, with very few exceptions, Italy rarely gets philosophical about its viticultural history.

The changing status of Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene, as the wine is officially called, has far more implications than meets the eye. Giancarlo Vettorello, the Consorzio’s director and its most important communicator, is one of the main protagonists behind the elevation of the wine to DOCG status. Interestingly, Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene is not the only area to benefit from a promotion. What were until now the so called IGTs, a table wine category with a geographic indication, of which there are five in Veneto, accommodating large volumes of Prosecco produced under less strict rules, will also be pulled up in the hierarchy to Prosecco DOC.

Although in general the DOCG category represents the highest level of wine quality with more stringent production methods, the new status for Prosecco wines from Conegliano Valdobbiadene, will not result in any major changes, neither in volume nor methods. The DOC, on the other hand, which will plainly be called “Prosecco” and including all the IGT’s under which previously the sparkling wine was produced, will see a considerable lowering of yields, from 250 to 180 quintals. One doesn’t need to do think long to realise that these lower yields will have a major impact on the large and very large bottling operations in Veneto, which, with the beginning of the 2009 vintage, will see their total production volume come under pressure. The only way this can be compensated is by planting new vineyards. And although with more than 10,000 ha the province of Treviso alone produces 95% of all Prosecco in Italy, the whole of Veneto can be expected to see a formidable increase in hectares in the next few years.
Vettorello, however, sees the changes as an enormous benefit for the consumer, who has associated Prosecco with a sparkling wine from Italy in the first place, blissfully ignorant that the word actually stands for a grape variety. Not only will a lower yield for the elevated DOC Prosecco mean an increase in quality according to Vettorello, but the quality control that comes with it, and which has never been mandatory for IGT wines, will improve the wines further, at least in theory.

It is easy to see that one of the main reasons for the changes is the fact that Prosecco has become a victim of its own success. According to Vettorello, many hundreds of hectares of Prosecco vineyards, especially in South America, will come on stream in the near future, potentially threatening one of Italy’s most lucrative wines. But one doesn’t have to look too far into the wine world, nor the future, to realise how fragile Prosecco as a truly Italian product is. Recently, a German court ruled that still wine from Prosecco grapes imported into Germany and undergoing its secondary fermentation in that country, legally could be labelled “Prosecco”. The court ruled that the base product originates from Italy, and while respecting the IGT regulations, exactly where the wine is made sparkling doesn’t play any role.

In the very near future, praxis like this will no longer be possible, as Prosecco no longer be a will be grape variety but a designated region, literally anchored in the village of Prosecco on the Slovenian border in the province of Friuli. From the 2009 vintage on any wine labelled Prosecco can only come from this enormous DOC, which will represent de basis of the quality pyramid, with the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG representing the top, and the Cru of Cartizze, around 106ha of the very best vineyard sites in the classic hilly area producing grapes of the highest standard, the very pinnacle.
Although it would seem that all regulation are in place to prevent any abuse of the word Prosecco within Europe, and furnishing Italy as a EU partner with a strong weapon to prosecute any idle use of the name, this didn’t seem to go quite far enough for the Consorzio. The very name of the grape will cease to exist, and will officially be changed into Glera, the Friulian synonym for Prosecco. Perhaps the Italians are now more than ever on their guard, especially after having recently seen their white Tocai Friulano grape variety loose its name, when Hungary claimed exclusivity over it. But one can’t help a certain loss, Prosecco probably being the same grape the Romans called Pucinus and officially documented from the 16th century on. But Vettorello is adamant that only these drastic changes will see a halt to what he considers abuse of the Prosecco name. And that will include the Prosecco Rosé, a fizzy Prosecco literally coloured with a dash of the red Raboso and sold at the lowest price point in strikingly gaudy pink labelled, and which recently appeared on the shelves of one of UK’s largest supermarkets.

At the Vino in Villa tasting the Consorzio had changed the traditional alphabetical producer order into rooms devoted to the largest of the Rives, with the two subzones, Conegliano and Valdobbiadene each having most of the space.

Even after having tasted more than 50 wines, all in the Extra Dry category in an effort to keep at least one of the variables constant (a fallacy in itself, as Extra dry ranges from 12 to 20 g/l of residual sugar, with overlaps both into Brut – up to 15 g/l – and Dry – from 20-35 g/l), a common theme did not emerge.

Please note that the life span of Prosecco in general is roughly about 18 months, which gives it just enough time for the last vintage to be drunk before the next one is released on the market.

Buffon Giorgio, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 14.5 Drink now – 2010
Cold fermentation aromas with a certain yeasty impact, perhaps a touch medicinal even. Sweet fruit on the palate without a lot of length. 11.5% (WS)

Ca’ Vittoria, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now - 2010
Fresh green apple and white fruits. Very fine, but fleeing co2 on the palate. Highish acidity on the finish with pleasant bitternote. 11.5% (WS)

Carmina, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 16 Drink now – 2010
Subdued but elegant white fruit palate, well balanced, clean and attractive. 11.5% (WS)

Carpene Malvolti, Prosecco di Conegliano Spumante Extra Dry 14.5 Drink Now - 2010
Initially dusty nose. Assertive co2 on the attack, while on the medium finish the residual sweetness pops up briefly. 11.5% (WS)

Giavi, Prosecco di Conegliano Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now – 2010
Characterful, almost minerally nose. Fragrant palate, but medium length disappoints somewhat. 11.5% (WS)

Lucchetta Marcello, Prosecco di Conegliano Spumante Extra Dry 14 Drink now – 2010
Open, inviting nose, with hints of earth and bubblegum. Somewhat earthy on the palate too. Not entirely clean? 11.5% (WS)

Massotina, Prosecco di Conegliano Spumante Extra Dry 15.5 Drink now – 2010
Fresh green fruit nose. Assertive co2 attack, but the impression lasts. Well balanced, would make for a nice aperitif. 11.5% (WS)

Salatin, Prosecco di Conegliano Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now -2010
Very restraint, almost herbal. Similar restraint palate, without great impact, but fragrant finish and lasting co2. 11.5% (WS)

Colsaliz, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 14.5 Drink now -2010
Boskop apple with a touch of spice. Almost aggressive co2 on the palate, contrasted by sweet apple sauce notes, and well integrated sweetness. Not ridiculously long. 11.5% (WS)

Colvendrà, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now – 2010
Pronounced green apple. Attratcive wine, without a lot to say on the mid palate, but fragrant finish with freshness. 11.5% (WS)

Andrea da Ponte, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15.5 Drink now – 2010
Vinous nose of white stone fruit and bread crust. Quite vinous palate too with refined co2 and good length. Quite delicious. 11.5% (WS)

Pieve di Soligo
Cantina Colli del Soligo, 2008 “Solicum Cuvee”, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 16 Drink now – 2010
Spicy apple and Satsuma nose, with a light fragrant palate, and aromas becoming more pronounced on the fisish. Good length and balance. 11% (WS)

San Pietro di Feletto
Bepin De Eto, Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 16 Drink now – 2010
Light, herbal apply nose, with notes of cut grass and white blossoms. Apple fruit palate with sweet sour balancing act on a lingering, but light finish. 11.5% (WS)

Frassinelli, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15.5 Drink now – 2010
Earthy white fruit and yeast nose. Quite persistent with mid palate concentration. Assertive co2. 11.5% (WS)

Il Colle, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 14.5 Drink now – 2010
Subdued, soft and very fine co2, which doesn’t make it to the finish. 11% (WS)

Le Manzane, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now – 2010
Earthy, almost smoky. Somewhat less impressive on the palate, but fresh fruit impression returns on the finish. The earthy note gives it some complexity. 11.5% (WS)

Roberti Itali, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 16 Drink now – 2010
Uplifting, fresh with an invitingly featherlight palate. Elegant and quite delicious finish. 11.5% (WS)

San Giuseppe, Prosecco di Conegliano Spumante Extra Dry 16 11% Drink now - 2010
At first somewhat neutral and at the same time serious. Develops notes of tropical fruit on the nose but shows restraint on the palate. Finish with long lasting co2, good balance without being overtly sweet. 11% (WS)

Vittorio Veneto
Bellenda, “Miraval” Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 14 drink now – 2010
Does this wine have a problem? Seems quite vegetal. 11.5% (WS)

Le Vigne di Alice, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now – 2010
Brooding, almost heady fruit fragrance, with a restraint palate. Good balance. Pleasant. 11.5% (WS)

Cison di Valmarino
Vigne Matte, “Millesimatte” (sic) Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 16 Drink now – 2010
Fresh, light and appealing, with notes of spicy apple. Quite assertive co2 on a full flavoured palate. Touch of boiled sweets but charming. 11.5% (WS)

Gregoletto, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 16 Drink now – 2010
Seems to have a bit more colour than the other wines. Brooding white fruit compote, intense, medium sweet apple palate, and interesting apply finish, with very good length. 12% (WS)

Borgoluce, 2008 Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 16 Drink now – 2011
Small production of 4000 bottles, made by Collalto, but marketed under a separate label. Quite vinous with spiel and full bodied sensation on the palate. Full flavoured too and long. Will certainly not be cheap. 11.5% (WS)

Malibran, “Gorio” Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15.5 Drink Now - 2010
Lifted fruit nose with hints of bread crust. Good persistence on the palate, with lasting acidity balancing the sweetness. 11.5% (WS)

Farra di Soligo
Perlage, “ Col di Manza” Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 14.5 Drink now – 2010
From biodynamically grown grapes.
Sweet, almost candied lemon peel. Quite sweet attack with herbal finish. 11.5% (WS)

Progettidivini, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now - 2010
Fresh nose, with a hint of candied peel. Very light co2 on the palate, just enough to reach the finish. Shows attractive acidity in a medium white fruit finish. 11.5% (WS)

Scandolera, “Vigneti del Fait”, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 14.5 Drink now - 2010
Apple compote with a vegetal note. Similar vegetalness comes through on a light fruit palate. No great persistence. 11.5 % (WS)

Bortolin Angelo, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 15 Drink now - 2010
Lifted green apple with a touch of melon and cold fermentation aromas. Quite “dry” fragrant fruit and lemony notes on a medium finish with very fine co2. 11% (WS)

Col Vetoraz, Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Extra Dry 14.5 Drink now – 2010
White fruits with green streak. Less pronounced on the palate with modest length. 11.5% (WS)