Prosecco is produced in the DOC area area between Venice and the Dolomites. The Prosecco Superiore CV DOCG, or to give it its full, and tongue twisting name (at least to the non Italian speaker) of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore, is produced in the heart of this area where the vines on the steep slopes are tended by hand in the traditional way.
The DOC was established in 1969, and then the DOCG for the wines of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, within this region was granted in 2009. With the DOCG signifying the Controlled and Guranteed Denomination of Origin.
All Prosecco is made in accordance to the DOC and DOCG regulations, making 380 million bottles a year of both semi and fully sparkling wine. The fully sparkling wine is made in large tanks by the Italian method, which intensifies the bouquet.
Conegliano and the surrounding areas are the main center for production and research for Prosecco Superiore, and is also home to Italy’s first school of oenology, situated in an attractive mansion, surrounded by their experimental vineyards and winery.
The terroir is very different from other wine areas which I have visited, the hills with their back drop of mist covered mountains were stunning even on a dull overcast day; they must be magnificent in the sun.
The rules for production state that the main grape (85%) in the Prosecco Superiore CV DOCG must be the Glera, a fruit of greenish golden colour with a sweet flesh and juice tasting of tropical fruit – mango and lychees which is tempered by the bitterness in the tannic skin. The remainder of the wine is made with Verdiso, Bianchetta or Glera Lunga grapes.
Due to the terrain the grapes must be harvested by hand, a process that can take 10 times as long on the steep slopes than the flatter valley floor.
The grapes are lightly pressed to extract the sweet juices from the center of the fruit, and according to the DOCG regulations a maximum of 70 litres of wine can be made from 100 kg of fruit. The grapes are then pressed again to be used in a light grappa. The freshly pressed juice, or must, is left to chill and settle in a process known as racking, so the sediment can settle to the bottom.
After about 12 hours the clear juice is separated and transferred to steel tanks along with natural yeast to begin the process of fermentation, which takes 15 – 20 days. Each base wine is then taken, tasted and carefully blended to make the final wine.
This still wine is made into sparkling Prosecco by the Italian method, where the wine is mixed with sugars and more yeast in large pressurised tanks for a secondary fermentation. This takes place over at least 30 days but it can be much longer, from 60 or even up to 90 days. The is the same principle of re-fermentation as the traditional or French method – sugars are turned to carbon dioxide that is dissolved in the wine. The gas remains dissolved because the fermentation takes place in a closed, pressurised vessel, but with the French or champagne method this is done in a bottle whereas with the Italian method it is done in a tank and happens much faster, giving a fresh fruity wine.
To ensure quality every batch of wine has to be tested by a expert oenologists before it it bottled.
The final wine is fruity, yellow with silky bubbles and the delightful characteristic fruity and floral flavour and bouquet that makes Prosecco Superiore CV DOCG so popular and much loved, as well as being a delightful and easy drink. To fully appreciate Prosecco always serve it in a wine glass, never a flute – the next time you have a bottle try both and you will instantly appreciate the difference.
I was commissioned by Sapòrem to travel to Italy and to write about and share my experience visiting their four Consortia of premium traditional Italian products, of which Prosecco Superiore CV DOCG is one. All opinions my own.