Lying north of Venice in the province of Treviso, in the foothills of the Marco Trevigiana running from Valdobbiadene to Conegliano, is the Prosecco DOCG wine zone. Vineyards take up just about every square food of land, amongst picturesque towns with ancient churches and castles. Here is the source of the wonderful sparkling wine that is served everywhere in Italy. This lovely area of the Veneto lies in the foothills of the Alps, with ancient terraced vineyards clinging to the sides of every possible slope. For hundreds of years, the locals have appreciated that their unique terrain affords the perfect combination of drainage, air currents and sun exposure for the production of these refreshing sparkling wines. The origins of wine cultivation in this area date back even prior to the Roman colonization in the 2nd Century B.C.
The original Prosecco region centered around the steep hill of Cartizze. As in all wine varietals, the more challenging the terrain, the better the wines. Forcing the roots to dig deep for nutrients and water produces the best quality grapes for wine production. The Prosecco from the Cartizze area, a small area of 106 hectares in the steepest hills of San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano and Saccol, is considered to be the best, the “Grand Cru” of Prosecco. These grapes are the last to be harvested, as they are difficult to access. The high quality of the grapes, combined with the lower yields and difficulties with cultivating here all contribute to the higher cost of these wines.
This dramatic growth in popularity of prosecco in recent years has brought to market many suppliers using the name “prosecco” who are not located in the traditional hill-region that produces the best grapes, and may not adhere to the same quality standards. As happened with the French “champagne” sparkling wine, this dilution of the name “prosecco” has become a bit of a problem, as these lesser quality wines hit the market bearing the same name. In an effort to combat this situation, a new quality designation was created specifically for the sparking wines from the original Conegliano to Valdobbiadene area – the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita.) This is the highest quality designation for Italian wines. It is more strict than the DOC rating, with lower allowable yields, and an evaluation by a tasting committee before they can be bottled. This DOCG region is comprised of 15 communes, of around 20,000 hectares. The grapes are grown only on the sunny parts of these hills. Right now, only 5,000 hectares of vineyards are entered into the official DOCG register.
Proseccos from the surrounding areas in Veneto and east in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia are labeled Prosecco DOC. Proseccos from other regions in Italy are labeled with the IGT designation, indicating more of a table wine, and display a wide range of quality levels.
A tour of the region will allow you to experience the wide range of proseccos available from the many smaller producers that may be hard to find outside of the Veneto. One can detect the characteristics of the terroir of different vineyards in the final products; proseccos from fields near Conegliano are fruitier, while those from Valdobbiadena exhibit more of a crisp citrus.
Starting at the very top of Cartizze, along a spine that abuts the hill 400 meters above sea level, is the Col Vetoraz winery. Prosecco has been grown on this plot of land since 1838 by the Miotto family. In 1993, descendant Francesco Miotto joined forces with Paolo De Bortoli and enologist Loris dall’Acqua to start Col Vetoraz. They are quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in this region filled with quality producers. A visit here will also offer you a chance to enjoy the absolutely amazing panoramic view. Their Valdobbiadene Brut Prosecco DOCG, is a wonderful fresh, intense, dry prosecco – not surprising, given their enviable location. Well worth the climb up the hill!
The town of Vidor has several producers worth checking out, including the Adami Winery. Vidor is south of Valdobbiadene, on the southernmost edge of the wine DOCG region. The Adami production facility is located at the base of the hills where their vineyards enjoy optimum sun exposure. Adami was started in 1920, when grandfather Abele purchased the vineyard. Shaped as an amphitheater, and exposed to the south, its shallow calcareous soil is set on the under lying bedrock. Now in the hands of grandsons Armando and Franco, their wonderful wines are exported worldwide. These are found fairly easily in the US, both the Garbel, as well as the Bosco di Gica.
In Farra di Soligno one finds Merotto. Their production facility is again down in the valley, but their vineyards are located in a ring of hills surrounding Col San Martino, an ancient Lombard village north of Treviso. Check out their Bareta Brut, as well as their flagship wine, the Cuvee di Fondatore Giovanni Merotto. Both fresh, dry, and flavorful, with a bit more yeast on the palate with the Cuvee. Perfect apertif wines.
Throughout a tour of the region, you can see fields belonging to growers of Val d’Oca. Val d’Oca has vineyards right in prime Cartizze territory, next to Col Vetoraz, as well as enviable locations throughout the area. Val d’Oca is the Cantina Produttori di Valdobbiadene, a consortium of 600 growers who own 614 hectares here in the Prosecco DOC. The Cantina itself is located in Valdobbiadene. The Val d’Oca Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG is elegant and crisp, and was awarded 5 Grappoli from the Duemilavini in 2010. The Millesimato Val d’Oca Extra Dry earned 4 Grappoli.
A region well worth a visit by any aficionado of this wonderful sparkling wine – seeing first hand the vineyards and culture that have produced these wines for centuries gives one a new appreciation for their art. Many of these family run estates have rebuilt their vineyards and facilities multiple times; first after the phylloxera epidemic, then following the devastation left by two World Wars. But thankfully, many of the producers that survived emerged rededicated to supplying prosecco of the highest quality, and there is no better way to end a day of touring Italy than enjoying a glass as an evening aperitif.
Kathy Bechtel is Owner of Italiaoutdoors.