Within the northern Italian regions of Veneto and Friuli, bubbly seekers will find Prosecco country. However, among the 23,000ha where production of the popular fizz are allowed, there are a number of ways to distinguish the average from the outstanding.
The first distinction could be simply wether it’s “frizzante” or “spumante”, which relates to the bars of pressure that ultimately determine how intense is a bottle’s fizz. The first has between 2.5 to 3.5 bars while the latter has around 5 to 6 bars (same as Champagne). There is also a still type of Prosecco caleld “tranquilo” which is rarely found outside of Italy.
But when it come to regional differences, there are also important notes to read regarding quality and provenance: Prosecco DOC (Controlled Designation of Origin) is the largest appellation (which can be divided into DOC Veneto, DOC Marca Trevigiana and DOC Colli Trevigiani), where most Prosecco comes from. Up a step, there are DOCG regions (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), which are tied to smaller areas and more strict production rules and standards.
Asolo, or going by its full name, Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG is one of these smaller sub-regions, located in northern Italy’s province of Treviso, in the heart of the Veneto. While only recoginsed as a region in 2009, it’s winemaking history traces back to the times of the Holy Roman Empire and by the 14th century the terrain on its hills was already regarded as great for vinegrowing.
We spoke with Armando Serena, Chairperson of the Consorzio Vini Asolo Montello since 2012. Born in a town part of the appellation, he belongs to the fourth generation of people involved in the wine world in his family. He explains that “Asolo Prosecco has a higher dry extract with respect to others, which allows to produce a wine with a stronger body which makes it suitable for food pairing and not only to be enjoyed by itself.”
Because of that, producers in the region can lower the amount of sugar, without losing the appeal of the product. “This has allowed us to introduce the Extra Brut version (0-6 grams of residual sugar per litre) and so far we are the only one allowed to produce a Prosecco Extra Brut”, he adds.
Alberto Serena, Armando’s son and CEO of Montelvini, is aware that the recognition of the Asolo region in 2009 was a great opportunity, but notes that producers of premium Prosecco are now responsible for sustaining the quality.
“The quality is really controlled and we work in order to improve it and the costumers can be sure of the standard achieved by the producer”, he says, in relation to the DOGC status, adding that producers must be focused in investing in reserach and innovation, with the aim for the best quality even if the result is to produce less and that one of the main goals is now to “protect the identity but most of all, to stop increasing the surface of new vineyards.”
A Sustainable Approach to Production
Giancarlo Moretti Polegato, president and owner of Villa Sandi, is also well aware of the popularity of Prosecco and all it entitles.
In the last few years Prosecco has boomed all over the world making the production area one of the most popular as well.”
Besides working to foster Prosecco’s reputation, Giancarlo is vocal about the importance of working with an environmentally-friendly ethos. “Our winery vineyards are certified ‘Biodiversity Friend’ by the WBA (World Biodivesity Association). The Association has certified the low environmental impact of sustainable agricultural methods such as the ones used by Villa Sandi and which the winery is transferring to all the vine growers cooperating with the winery by delivering their grapes.”
They also run the project “Villa Sandi for Life”, extending the sustainability principles throughout the entire business, including the use of alternative energy sources in the winery, sustainable use of water resources and a strict limit to the CO2 emissions.
For Giovanni, the focus for producers of premium Prosecco should be the deep bond and involvement of producers with the production areas.
We have recognized early on that Prosecco’s success throughout the world would not be sustainable unless producers led the way in becoming stewards of the land, which not only reflects in the quality of their wines but the in the land itself.”
He agrees with Alberto Serena in that the region shouldn’t expand its plantings any further, adding that the next steps are the correct managing of the production potential.
Lorenzo Palla, current owner of the family-run Loredan Gasparini winery explains that “the Asolo DOCG is the smallest of the Prosecco appellations” and he points out that “the low yields combined with cultivation following the organic protocol ensure that our Asolo Prosecco stands out.” Because of that, producers are wary of increasing the area or making any change that could risk prioritising quantity over quality.
Asolo DOCG Prosecco producers have become much more aware of the potential of the land, notes Lorenzo, adding that having been recognized as producers of a Superior Prosecco has also definitely made producers more aware of their importance in the world of wine, which has become a great source of motivation.
For Armando Serena, from the Consorzio, “the biggest challenge to be able to reach an immediate recognisability.” Secondly, they are working on strenghtening the link between the wine region and the beautiful landscape and the cultural heritage surrounding it. The third big goal is to continue progressing towards a more sustainable production.
“The North of Italy is Full of Prosecco”
“Big industrial wineries that produce Prosecco in high quantities have to go to war with each other to offer Prosecco at the lowest price possible”, explains Lorenzo Palla, for whom that game happens in a different field to that of the smaller wineries who focus on quality.
“We believed in the potential of our land from the beginning”, he says, adding that while other producers saw the creation of the DOCG Asolo as a cut of yields, others more visionary embraced to challenged of premiumisation.
Since day one we have aimed to produce a Prosecco different from all others, offering true selections made from single vineyards dating back to 1980 and using exclusively our own selected indigenous yeasts after experimenting for years in cooperation with an avant-garde lab of the area.
When asked what are the next steps for the region, Lorenzo summarises what other neighbours in the appellation have been saying: “we have to keep on working on the quality aspect of our wine enhancing the characteristics that only an Asolo Prosecco can offer, because the north of Italy is full of Prosecco producers but here we are lucky enough to work with a product that is completely different from all others thanks to the great structure and minerality given by the terroir and we should always work on this aspect leaving industrial production quantity to others.”
Drink it like a local
While entry level Prosecco is often enjoyed as an aperitif or as party bubbles, Premium Prosecco can do more for wine lovers.
Armando recommends to pair it with food, as it is a very gastronomic wine. “We tend to pair it with sopressa (a local fat salami), especially when it comes to Col Fondo, a Pet-Nat Prosecco which is becoming more and more popular.”
Col Fondo is a bottle-fermented Prosecco that is not disgorged and is bottles on its lees. Because of that, the wine looks cloudy and has an intense flavour. As for pairing ideas, Armando points out that “Col Fondo is a rich, tasty, creamy sparkling suitable also for pairing risotto with asparagus as well as ‘risi e bisi’ (a risotto with peas).”
For tank fermented premium Prosecco and food pairings he recommends to try dishes such as “baccalà” (cod fish), white meat, or “faraona in pevarada” (guinea-fowl with a peppery sauce).
Enjoy it Like a Tourist
Asolo is a 30-minute car ride from Treviso and a 45-minute ride from Venice, so these are the better airports to use if you are looking to get to the region.
Visitors can also arrive by train in Montebelluna and rent a car there. On the website of Asolo Montello Consorzio there is a list of all wineries in the region, well worht having a look while planning your trip.
If you choose your timing well, you might even experience a local festival. This summer, there’s a cinema festival in June, and on August 10th there is one of the most beautiful Calici di Stelle of all Italy (meaning “Goblet of Stars”, the town centre fills up with producers and people enjoying a glass of Asolo Prosecco while stargazing).
Tourists can find information about festivals, markets, places and activities at asolo.it/en
Ca’ Morlin, Prosecco Superiore Spumante Asolo DOCG
€30 – Available at wineonline.ie
This Prosecco has persistent bubbles and a delicate, long-lasting foam.
A combination of aromas of nectarines, white floral blossom and zesty lemon converge in a vibrant and sharp Prosecco that is sharper and drier than many of its cousins.
Brilliant as an aperitif, it’s made with 100% Glera grapes, the region’s variety par excellence.
Gabriela’s passion for writing is only matched by her love for food and wine. Journalist, confectioner and sommelier, she fell in love with Ireland years ago and moved from Venezuela to Dublin in 2014.
Since then, she has written about and worked in the local food scene, and she’s determined to discover and share the different traditions, flavours and places that have led Irish food and drink to fascinate her.