Italian Wine Tales, there are so many ways to tell the story! The Advice Sisters recently reported on the combined Slow Wine and VinItaly event in New York City. In that report we featured some of the Prosecco offerings that were featured. When we attend these tastings, we always find a lot of different wines to sample, and because we can’t try them all without getting seriously drunk and then, confused, we have to be selective.
We often select Prosecco. It is a wine that is near and dear to our hearts – a sparking wine that is great for both celebrations or special events, but also makes a great party or entertaining wine even for those on a limited budget. In fact, Prosecco has become so popular that it with volumes soaring worldwide, it has just replaced Champagne as the most popular sparkling wine. When we attend vents, Prosecco is almost always the wine of choice that is offered.
It was with this backdrop that The Advice Sisters attended a tasting and seminar held in March at the Metropolitan Pavilion in NYC, featuring some of the worlds best prosecco wines. Afterwards there was a larger. walk-around tasting of prosecco wines, and also a selection of Vino Nobile Red Tuscan wines which we didn’t sample, but that looked quite good.
The Italian Wine Tales seminar we attended before the walk around tastings featured seven wines from the prestigious Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG region of Italy. This small area which covers just 6,000 hilly hectares north of Venice produces the highest quality grapes and wines in the entire Prosseco region. The glera grape varietal (from with all prosseco wines are made) was first cultivated here in 1876 and is still picked by hand from small terraced vineyards today. In this area 170 smallish producers create about 70 million bottles of prosseco wines each year, few of which make it to the United States.
In the seminar we learned a lot about the production process of prosseco, as well has how the wine should be drunk. First, unlike its cousin Champagne, Prosseco is not fermented in the bottle, but rather in tanks. This reduces both the loss of juice, as well as reduces aging time which is one reason why even the best of Prosseco wines are moderately priced in comparison to bottle fermented sparkling varieties. In addition, Prosseco is made to be drunk fresh, and unlike Champagne does not age well. Two years is considered old for Prosseco wine.
Wines from the Conegliano Valrobbiadene DOCG are labled as such and carry a reputation for both quality and complexity. This is because the region has a more mineral soil than much of Prosseco, and the grapes pick up a complexity from this terroir. While all of the wines that we tasted had a classic prosseco character, they often had more of the earthly notes that one might see in a chardonnay based wine.
We started with a wine by Valdellovo, known as Bade. Note that all of these wines are from the DOCG and contain that labeling. This first wine was a frizzante, which is an ancestral method for making wine which is actually bottle fermented. The wine was a cloudy pale yellow in color with a dusty melon nose that also has a bit of cucumber on it. The mousse of the wine was fizzy but not frothy, and the wine was a bit sour on the palette. Some yeastiness and a bit of minerality but the sourness prevailed. While this is a unique variant on Prosseco, we think it might take some getting used to – particularly for an American palette.
We moved on to a wine from Col del Sas. This was a Brut from the village of Solighetto (in prosseco labeling the town is called Rive). The 2012 wine was pale yellow in color and had an extremely subtle nose with just a hint of citrus. This did not reflect in the palette of the wine with was quite sugary (a brut is allowed up to 12 grams of sugar). The taste featured orange on the front and an almost sugar cane quality with a very clean finish. Again, not what one generally thinks of when drinking prosseco, and very reflective of the distinctness of DOCG wines.
The third wine was by Astoria, a 2013 brut called Rive di Refrontolo “Casa Vittorrino” or House Grapes. Here we tasted more of what one expects from prosecco. The nose was floral, with strong jasmine notes, and the elegant wine was super fruity with a lot of peach and some banana. Almost tropical in nature. Again, the color was a pale golden yellow and the mousse was very light.
We then moved on to an extra dry prosseco from Bortolomiol. The 2013 Bandarossa Millesimato was described by one of the other tasting participants as the “wine of the Medici” and we soulc see wiy. The color was a light golden hue, and the nose was floral with some tea rose. This wine had a soft creamy mousse and was very Champagen like, with strong toasty notes on the palate. While there was some of the melon notes that one sees in prosseco, they were slight. In fact, this wine reminded me a lot of a Mumm cuve brut, and while not available in America would likely be priced at about half the cost of the Champagne.
This was followed by Rive di Farra di Soligo Millesimato (2012) from La Farra, which was again a very unique offering. With a nose of light florals and rasins, the wine had a palate that was strong on sugars and minerality but was no fruity at all.
The next wine, Nani Rizzi’s Dry Millesimato (2013) was sweeter than the traditional extra dry prosseco. With a somewhat soapy nose, this clear to yellow wine had a fruity apple on the palate, and was sweeter that we prefer (though not unpleasant). The peach on the finish reminded us that we were indeed drinking a prosseco.
We finished with a dry prosseco from Valdo which was from the best of the best region of the DOCG, almost the Grand Cru of the region. Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Dry Oro (gold) actually had a very clear color and a sandy nose. The tase was actually peppery especially on the finish. More than anything else we tasted this was a food wine, and could be paired with anything from seafoods to meats. The moose was almost still and we actually saw this as almost the Bordeaux of prossecos.
During the interludes between wine tastings, we met another one of the participants who had just began importing a DOCG wine to America. Naturally, we were intrigued. We chatted for a while, and later on in the week, he was kind enough to send a bottle of his wine, along with his store, to share with us. A review of his Alteneve will be published on this site in the future. We also plan to include some “hoiw-to” when it comes to entertaining with procecco, as most of the showcases we attend really don’t address this as they assume the attendees know all the basics. Perhaps the attendees do, but we feel our readers might like to know more! Please tell us your thoughts on this in our comments section.
Overall, there is a great deal of variety in prosseco wines, especially considering that they are all dominated by the single glera varietal. This large region in northern Italy produces a great deal of very friendly and approachable wines. Those from the DOCG are surely more complex and interesting and if they turn up in your local package store or restaurant should be considered as excellent values and alternatives to other higher priced sparkling wines.
FYI: HERE IS A LIST OF THE WINES PRESENTED IN THE WALK-AROUND TASTING:
|CASALE DAVIDDI www.casaledaviddi.it
|FATTORIA LA BRACCESCA – MARCHESI ANTINORI www.antinori.it
|BORTOLIN F.LLI www.bortolin.com/
|LA CIARLIANA www.laciarliana.it/
|LE BERNE www.leberne.it/
|LA FARRA www.lafarra.it/
|VECCHIA CANTINA DI MONTEPULCIANO www.vecchiacantinadimontepulciano.com
|NANI RIZZI www.nanirizzi.it/
|SPAGNOL – COL DEL SAS www.coldelsas.it/
**Thanks to John Dunham, The Advice Sisters’ wine enthusiast, for this report.