La Primavera Del Prosecco
Spring In The Prosecco Country
When spring comes to the Prosecco region all the tired spirits from a long cold winter are like blown away. Spring is in the air ….and better get your wine glass ready to start a wine tasting experience along the white wine road of the Marca Trevigiana.
The following villages are the production places along the road.
We start in Conegliano – go on to San Pietro di Feletto, Refrontolo, Pieve di Soligo, Farra di Soligo and arrive to the capital of the Prosecco – to Valdobbiadene. Of course on the way you can go off road and into the country side, just turn in to any Cantina and have a bite of salami, some local cheese, a good taste of wine.
I would like to introduce to you the different types of Prosecco.
Prosecco Tranquillo is the least known Prosecco outside its production area. It is pale yellow in color, and has a bouquet of apple, pear, almonds and a strong honey taste. It is light but persistent in flavor, with a slight bitter after-taste, which is reminiscent of almonds, and serves to show an aspect of Prosecco that is smooth and intense. While best drunk still young, it can still be enjoyed when it is two years old.
The character of this vine means that only the best and most mature grapes, coming from the best vineyards, and therefore yielding only a few bunches per stump, are used to make Prosecco Tranquillo. The careful selection of these grapes, together with the attentive care during the wine making process – involving a brief cold maceration of the grape skins – all serves to enrich the bouquet and structure of Prosecco Tranquillo. The care and expertise involved has also greatly enhanced the reputation of this wine, and there is a continuous challenge for producers to develop its unique and innovative personality. Prosecco Tranquillo is bottled in either the „Renana“ or „Borgogna“ type bottle. These are green colored to ensure protection from the light. All the bottles are rinsed before being filled, then corked and labeled. The bottles are then left in a cool and dark cellar, of constant temperature and humidity, which allows the wine to mature. After 30 – 40 days the wine is ready for dispatch.
The Prosecco DOC of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, if kept in a fresh and dark environment, maintains its particular characteristics for 12 to 18 months or more. (The bottles should be rotated every 5/6 months if kept on bottle racks or shelves). Best served at temperatures of between 10° – 12° C, and it is perfect to drink with delicate starters of either fish, meat or vegetables. It is particularly well adapted for the traditional marinated titbits of the Veneto, but is equally delicious with steamed or grilled fish, or with soups or any light first course.
The Prosecco production zone extends along the hills that gently slope down the south side of the Prealpi Trevigiane towards the Piave River. This area has about 3,500 hectares under vines, at a height of between 50 – 500 meters above sea level. The climate is known and appreciated for its proverbial mildness. The three principal centre in the north of the Marca Trevigiane – known since medieval times as „joyful and loving“ by numerous distinguished people, including Dante himself, are the cities of Conegliano, Pieve di Soligo and Valdobbiadene. These towns are all close to each other, as well as to other minor towns and villages, along a route of about 50 km known as the famous Strada del vino Prosecco, the “ Prosecco Wine Route“. This was inaugurated in 1966, but was already planned as far back as 1938, and based on the German Weinstrasse, which joins the valleys of the Rhine and Moselle.
The wine consortiums in Italy are the institutions designed, by law, to organize and administer the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) Zones. They work on a voluntary basis amongst the various categories of producers; the small and independent producers as well as the big and prestigious „champagne“ type vineyards. Their aim is to harmonize and protect the interests of all concerned, and work towards the development of the Zone, and ensure that the rules and regulations are rigidly adhered to. The history of the Prosecco consortium goes back to 1962, the year in which a group of 11 producers, representing the main wine producing cooperatives as well as the big wine houses, set up their consortium and proposed the production regulations. Seven years later, on 02 April 1969, their efforts were rewarded with the acknowledgement, on the part of the Minister for Agriculture, of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene as the only DOC Zone for the production of Prosecco and the Superiore di Cartizze. The Consortium was born, therefore, of the forward thinking of its founders, and was supported from the very beginning by the Wine School and Wine Institute. All the other institutions and associations of wine producers of the area collaborated. Aware of the fierce competition in the market place, they focused on quality and a strong identity for the product. In this way, they were able to both protect and value the legendary reputation of the wine from the hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. The Consortium, a legally recognized body, has the twin challenge of collaborating with the laws of the State to ensure all aspects of production are adhered to, as well as working with the producers and helping them to improve their product and achieve more market share. Their ultimate aim, defined by statute, is to maintain, guarantee and improve the quality of Prosecco DOC, and spread an awareness of this great product in Italy and abroad. To achieve this, they make use of all the best marketing companies, as well as technical and scientific institutions. The Consortium uses the services of laboratories specialized in wine analysis to provide vineyard owners with technical assistance, to research and develop their wines, and aid experimentation into new techniques. The laboratory carries out quality control tests on the grapes, to determine the best time to harvest the grape in the various zones. Periodic analysis and tasting is undertaken to control the wine quality of the producers in the consortium, to ensure rigorous standards. On a yearly basis, tests of wine on both the national and international marked are carried out, to ensure that the quality is maintained, as well as its state of conservation.
In all the Prosecco region, these fairs and exhibitions start on January 5th at 8 p.m., with the simultaneous lighting of the „panevin“, a bonfire which depending on the direction of its sparks, forecasts good or bad signs for the harvest. At the end of winter, all the products from the vineyard can be seen at the „Primavera del Prosecco“ Shows, held all over in DOC Zones. Other local products are displayed and tasted at the same time. Exhibitions of traditional artisan work are enjoying a revival, with a return to old ways and craftsmanship. All these events, together with the other local country fairs, have become occasions to get together and enjoy the food and wine specialties of the area.
L’OMBRA – means „shade“. To go for an ‚ombra‘ is a Treviso custom. It means going from bar to bar, trying a glass of this or that wine. This is a very particular kind of „pilgrimage“, where the names (wines) and numbers (prices) of different wines are chalked up on a board. Some say that once upon a time the hostelries and bars were the meeting places of painters, and one of these had the idea of substituting the word „glass“ with that of the word „shadow“ – caused by a full glass of wine reflecting on the table. Others say that to call a glass of wine as an ‚ombra‘ was an euphemism at a time when it was thought vulgar to drink wine in public. Yet another explanation put forward was the suggestion that a glass of wine has the effect of easing sad and melancholy thoughts – or casting a „shadow“ on the brain. L’ombra today is not just a glass of wine, but has become the expression for the custom when at about11 a.m. people break off from their work, and go for a glass of white wine in the nearest bar.
The 107 hectares that make up the area where the grapes to make the „Superiore di Cartizze“ are grown, has an annual yield of around 1 million bottles of a sparkling, „spumante“ (champagne type) wine, that is both unique and truly sumptuous. Beginning with the colour, which is intense, it has a complex bouquet that is inviting and diverse, from apple to pear, sometimes apricot or citrus, an overtone of rose scent and a pleasant after-taste of glazed almonds. It has a pleasant full flavor, and the delicate sparkling qualities produce a harmonious wine and accentuates is bouquet.
In the „Cartizze“ zone, found in the heart of Valdobbiadene, in October and towards the end of the season, the Prosecco grape is completely ripe, thus guaranteeing an intense concentration of perfumes and smells, and ensures a taste that is light, fresh but intense. The basic wine is allowed to ferment naturally, until only a trace of natural sugars is left (which helps to conserve it). Subsequently, the wine is left out in the winter cold, which removes the tartaric acid and makes it clear. In Spring, special yeasts are added to aid secondary fermentation under pressure and at low temperature. Just enough sugar is also added so that this secondary fermentation produces the required pressure. When the fermentation is complete the only sugar that remains is that required to give the wine its particular characteristics. The wine ferments at a temperature of around 15°C and after approximately 15 days reaches the desired pressure. At this point re-fermentation is blocked by means of refrigerated autoclaves (vats). The yeast gradually falls to the bottom of the vat and after about 8 – 10 days at this temperature the wine is transferred, without loss of pressure, into another autoclave and is then bottled immediately. The classic „Prosecco“ type bottle is used, which is green to give maximum protection from the light. Each bottle is rinsed before being filled, corked and labeled. The bottles are then left in a cool and dark cantina, at constant temperature, which allows the wine to mature. After 30 – 40 days the wine is ready for delivery. The Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze , if kept in a cool and dark environment, maintains its particular characteristics for 12 to 18 months or more. (The bottles should be rotated every 5/6 months if kept on bottle racks or shelves). Best served between 8° – 10°, produced almost exclusively in a Dry version, this spumante / champagne type wine is excellent drunk with all kinds of traditional sweets, pastries and cakes. It can, however, also be drunk with light, savory, piquant dishes. Delicious to round off an important lunch or dinner, it is also enjoyed as a ceremonial wine on special occasions, thus making a great event out of every party, every party more exciting, every meeting more important. The Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze is truly an incomparable wine to be drunk and enjoyed during the most beautiful moments of life
This extraordinary wine is produced, as we have already seen, solely and exclusively in the zone of „Cartizze, which comprises 107 hectares of vineyards, found in the steep hills of San Pietro di Barbozza and Santo Stefano e Saccol, in the commune of Valdobbiadene. Cartizze is in every sense of the word a „cru“, a well defined locality, born of a perfect combination of a mild micro-climate and very ancient ground. Over the natural rock lies varied terrain composed of glacial deposits, sandstone and clay, which aid the quick drainage of any rains, but at the same time help to maintain a continuous supply of water. In this way, the vines grow and mature in a well balanced way. According to some, the name „Cartizze“ which we find on survey maps, dates back to the Middle Ages and a Spanish soldier of fortune, who retired to these hills after years of battle. A more likely interpretation, however, suggests that that the name „Cartizze“ derives from „gardiz, gardizze, etc“, which are words in dialect for the trellises where the bunches of grapes are hung to ripen to the fullest extent. In the Cartizze zone, in fact, the grapes are harvested late, when they begin to show signs of shriveling on the vine. This results in the wine having its unusually intense aroma and flavor, which makes so unique.
The wine events of Valdobbiadene, city of vineyards and wine, Queen of Prosecco, are celebrated annually in September, with the Mostra Nazionale dello Spumante – the National Spumante Fair. Cultivation of grapes and wine making is a vocation in this area, and its major importance is shown in all aspects of local life and the many traditions still celebrated by the people living there. Saint Venanzio Fortunato, a 16th century poet and bishop of Poitiers, was one of the most distinguished sons of Valdobbiadene, and his verses salute and praise his country as the land „quo vineta vernatur“, the place where the vines blossom. Saint Venanzio Fortunato who esteemed both poetry and gastronomy and who sings the praises of the joys of eating and drinking good wine, is the patron saint of the Confraternita del Prosecco di Valdbbiadene, the Confraternity of Prosecco di Valdobbiadene. During a spectacular celebration, held annually in commemoration of the Nozze di Canaa, the Marriage Feast of Canaa, they call on Saint Venanzio Fortunato for inspiration and advice. This event takes place in the wine cellars of Saint Pietro di Barbozza, the headquarters of the Confraternity, when the Cavalieri (Knights) of Prosecco are elected. The Confraternity, the authentic University of Prosecco, was initiated on 14 August 1945 by the wine makers of the Valdobbiadene zone, with the aim of stimulating the economic revival of the vineyards, which lay abandoned, uncultivated and neglected after years of war:
Prosecco Frizzante (sparkling) makes for very easy drinking, produced mainly for the younger set and the casual drinker, but nevertheless has real quality and personality. It is produced by the secondary fermentation method (Sur lie) and has become the ideal flagship wine for the traditional vineyard. It is excellent to drink, light, dry and easily digestible. It is known for its pale straw colour, with rich floral notes and fruity overtones mainly of sour apple and lemon. Its flavor is delicate and well balanced.
The basic wine is allowed to ferment naturally, until only a trace of natural sugars is left (which helps to conserve it). Subsequently, the wine is left out in the winter cold, which removes the tartaric acid and makes it clear. In spring, special yeasts are added to aid secondary fermentation under pressure and at low temperature. Just enough sugar is also added so that this secondary fermentation produces the required pressure. When the fermentation is complete the only sugar that remains is that required to give the wine its particular characteristics. The wine ferments at a temperature of around 15°C and after approximately 15 days reaches the desired pressure. At this point re-fermentation is blocked by means of refrigerated autoclaves (vats). The yeast gradually falls to the bottom of the vat and after about 8 – 10 days at this temperature the wine is transferred, without loss of pressure, into another autoclave and is then bottled immediately. During fermentation in the autoclaves, the delicious taste of the wine combines with a tiny amount of carbon dioxide, which results in a light, fresh and Prosecco Frizzante. The „Champagnotta“ type bottle is used for bottling. It is green in colour to give protection from the light. Each bottle is rinsed before being filled, corked and labeled. The bottles are then left in a cool and dark cellar at constant temperature, which allows the wine to mature. After 30 – 40 days the wine is ready for delivery.
The beautiful and sunny places we can enjoy along the Strada del Prosecco, or the „Prosecco Wine Route“ are landscapes reproduced in the paintings of Giovanni Battista Cima, the great painter of the 1400s. He was born and grew up here, and drew on his local environment for creative inspiration. The roadside „ombre“ (meaning „shade“ – but local name for a glass of wine), did not merely refer to the shady places of the hills and surrounding countryside. It also referred to the shady green pergolas of the small restaurants, hostelries and bars, where one could rest and enjoy a glass of Prosecco, in the shade, together with homemade bread, salami, cheese and other typical local dishes.
Another event became in the last years the spring event of the region :
“THE PROSECCHISSIMA “.
This is an annual ecological bicycle ( 22 km ) and mountain bike ( 38 km ) tour along the hills of the Prosecco. It starts the first Sunday in April and everybody can join it. Of course it is a pleasure to ride along these roads also on a motorbike…..
The calendar of events for the presentation of the new Prosecco in the above mentioned villages starts in April and end June 10th 2006. For details please contact me.
I hope you are ready for a tasting experience. I will be happy to accompany you to the above described places and wish you already now : salute , cin, cin.