A warm summer evening, a romantic café overlooking the Grand Canal, and a glass of perfectly chilled, sparkling Prosecco. Few things evoke the spirit of Venice more fully than this scene. The light and fruity Prosecco, however, is enjoyed far beyond the canals. Produced exclusively in the Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOC, amongst the hills rolling between the villages of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene about an hour and a half north of Venice (making it a perfect wine tasting day excursion from Venice), Prosecco is Italy’s most popular sparkling wine.
Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene
The steep green hills of Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene are situated mid-way between Venice and the Alps, and it is a “must do” wine tour while in Northeastern Italy. The capital, Valdobbiadene, is the starting point of a route that winds among castles, ancient churches and delightful vineyards. Highlights of the Prosecco wine region include Conegliano (a pretty town crowned with a castle, that is one of the “wine capitals of the world” for its famous Winemaking School – the oldest in Italy- and Experimental Institute of Viticulture), the Confraternita del Prosecco in San Pietro di Barbozza (with a beautiful frescoed wine vault), Rolle (a picturesque wine hamlet), Molinetto della Croda (where a historic river mill is still in operation), The Abbey of Follina, and the San Salvatore castle in Susegana (with its spectacular backdrop of the Alps). The scenery is captivating: vibrant valleys, verdant riverbanks, and steep hillsides chiseled into terraces and laden with vines.
Climate & Terrior
Influenced in equal measures by Alpine breezes and the Adriatic Sea, the region’s enviable position bestows it with a refreshingly cool climate, an abundance of sunny days and lush vegetation. The cool Prosecco di Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOC, in the province of Treviso and near the alpine Belluno province, is a land of steep hills, generous rainfall, and cold winters. The Piave River, which helps to regulate the climate here, slices through the region’s heart. Poor soil, a varying mix of marl, clayey limestone, marine sandstone and rough clay, draws out Prosecco’s creamy yet fresh peach notes, the wine’s signature aroma. Prosecco wines may also exhibit notes of citrus fruits, apple, pear, crusty bread, and almonds or hazelnuts. In nearly all quality Proseccos, the end note is pleasantly bitter.
Steep Vineyards & Low Yields
Made with the late-ripening white variety Glera (formerly known as Prosecco Grape – the name changes in 2009) and can be blended with native grapes Verdisio, Bianchetta, and/or Perera and non-native grapes Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio, the delightfully dry, fizzy wine made here is fruitier although less crisp than Champagne. The best Proseccos are considered those from the Cartizze denomination, a select area of vineyards northeast of Valdobbiandene. The steep vineyards have very low yields and produce wines considered more powerful and robust than other Proseccos.
The wine’s tell-tale peachy aromas are enhanced thanks to the Charmat process, a winemaking method whose second fermentation is carried out in large stainless steel pressure tanks rather than individual bottles (like the champagne method). Almost all Proseccos are a blend of grapes although occasionally there are a few single varietal Proseccos made with grapes from special crus (single vineyards). Prosecco wines are usually released to the market about a month after bottling. A few still, dry Proseccos are also made, although the majority of the more than 250 million bottles produced annually are either semi-sparkling (frizzante) or fully sparkling (spumanti). You can also find a small amount of still, sweet Prosecco.
A favorite summer drink, fizzy Prosecco is the perfect aperitif before enjoying the famed seafood dishes of the Veneto. It’s no exaggeration to say that there’s not a café in the city where Prosecco isn’t served in abundance; for locals and visitors alike, it’s a perfect afternoon pick-me-up or pre-dinner drink. Although Prosecco is delicious on its own, many Venetians mix it with fruit juice or spices for a more flavorful aperitif. Try adding a dash of pomegranate juice and a pinch of cinnamon. Or, make your own version of the famous Bellini cocktail (first made by Harry’s Bar in Venice) by mixing fresh white peach juice and icy cold Prosecco. In any case, pair the drink with light dishes that won’t overwhelm the wine’s delicate bouquet: smoked salmon, finger sandwiches or a local cheese, like Ubriaco. You can also serve Prosecco (dry or sweet) alongside a fruity dessert, like apple tart or sorbet. To serve with a meal, choose a light pasta or soup dish.