Ahh, bubbles. Such a joyful way to end/begin a year. But why wait for a big celebration? There are affordable bubbles to celebrate all through the year! Celebrate Tuesday! Why not?
There are Prosecco DOC wines like the Val d’Oca or the Terre di Bacco, that wrote about earlier this month (it has been quite the sparkling month!). But then you take a step up the quality ladder to the wines of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, which is what we do today!
Let’s start with some of the basics
Prosecco is a sparkling wine from Northern Italy. This DOC is for a sparkling wine made with a minimum of 85% Glera. The remainder may be Bianchetta, Chardonnay, Glera Lunga, Perera, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, or Verdiso.
Until 2021, the Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) would need to be vinified as a white wine to be included and still call the wine Prosecco. As of January of 2021, the Prosecco DOC Consortium will allow Prosecco Rosé, where the Pinot Nero could be vinified as a rosé. Many producers already make a sparkling rosé. We in fact had one that we enjoyed with Thanksgiving.
The Prosecco DOC spans nine Provinces in Veneto and Fruili Venezia Giulia. Within it, you find two DOCGs, Prosecco Superiore di Asolo DOCG and Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG
You won’t however find any Prosecco Rosé in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG. They hold to their vision of Prosecco and it doesn’t include the pink craze.
This DOCG is a small zone in Veneto within the Province of Treviso, is made up on 15 communes; Cison di Valmarino, Colle Umberto, Conegliano, Farra di Soligo, Follina, Miane, Pieve di Soligo, Refrontolo, San Pietro di Feletto, San Vendemiano, Susegana, Tarzo, Valdobbiadene, Vidor and Vittorio Veneto.
Two additional DOCG for higher quality exist within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, those include; Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive DOCG made up of 43 Rive and Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG which is a subzone of 108 hectares.
Slopes around Valdobbiadene have grades up to 70% requiring most work to be completed by hand. During Harvest … this becomes visually apparent as workers climb up and down the steep vineyards with buckets to harvest the grape. That’ll build your quads!
This denomination is known for its care of the environment and was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2019 as a cultural landscape to be protected.
Over the centuries the people of this region adapted ciglione – a type of terrace that rather than relying on stones, uses grassy soil which reduces erosion as it reinforces the slope. It looks like the shapes on a topographical map.
Ecologically the area is kept diverse because the vineyard plots are many and small and are separated by wooded areas.
So viticulture here is “heroic” in two senses, the steep slopes requiring nerves of steel to farm and working as a protector for the environment and our planet.
Out of the Vineyard into the Winery
Here the main variety is again Glera at 85% of the blend. Of the other varieties allowed; Bianchetta Trevigiana tends to mellow the wine, Perera adds aroma and fruit notes, and Verdiso adds salinity. Glera Lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Pinot Nero may also be added.
Picked by hand and pressed only for free-run juice, the rules provide that 100 kg of grapes can only make 70 liters of wine. All the lots from the various vineyards are kept separately and only blended into the cuvée after their initial fermentation into base wine.
The typical method in the region is the Italian Method (also called the Charmant Method, the Tank Method, or the Martinotti Method). In this method, the fermented juice does its second fermentation in large tanks or Autoclaves rather than in bottle.
There are 3 overall styles of wine made in the region
- Spumante – sparkling
- Frizzante – semi-sparkling
- Tranquillo – still
The styles of Spumante are dictated by the amount of residual sugar (rs) left in the finished wine. These range from the driest at Extra Brut (0-6 g/l rs), to Brut (0-12 g/l rs), Extra Dry (12-17 g/l rs), and Dry (17-32 g/l rs). Ironically, the Dry style is the sweetest of these styles, it is also the least common. The most traditional style is Extra Dry, with Extra Brut, the driest version being the newest as palates worldwide lean toward dryer wines.
A new addition to the Spumante style was added in 2019. Sui Lieviti means “on the lees”. Traditionally known as “col fondo” or “with sediment” these echo back to the original wines made in the ancient method where the second fermentation occurs in the bottle and the yeast falls to the bottom. We received a bottle of wine in this style, the Bianca Vigna, that you will read about below.
We received three samples from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG via Charles Communications for December’s #ItalianFWT group. Unfortunately, these wines arrived too late to do proper pairings with them in time for the post.
*These wines were received as media samples. No other compensation was received. All opinions are our own.*
So, here we are now, just before the New Year, the perfect time for Prosecco! Let me tell you a bit about each of the wineries and wines from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG and then we will get into the pairings.
The history of this winery began in 1926 when a group of winemakers from Valdobbiadene got together to create a company devoted to making sparkling wine in Valdobbiadene and Cartizze. The company was bought by a Verona family with the name Bolla. They renamed the winery Valdo Spumanti.
Sergio Bolla was the 1st President of the company. Today his son Pierluigi is the Chairman.
Valdo Prosecco Superiore DOCG – Cuvee 1926 – Extra Dry
This wine was created to honor the founding year of the winery and is part of their prestige line. 90% Glera and 10% Chardonnay it has 16 g/l residual sugar and extra-fine bubbles. It has 5 months Charmant aging and another 3 months in the bottle before release.
My notes: Notes of lemon zest and yellow apple. Bright but soft. On the palate, Meyer lemon, pear, and yellow apple.
11% abv 16 g/l rs $20 SRP
In 1978 Bruno and Marinella started their vineyard, Mongarda, in Col San Martino. Their son Martino now runs the business. They do not use herbicides or chemical fertilizers.
They produce 50,000 bottles annually in the Martinotti method and refermentation in the bottle.
Mongarda Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut
This wine hails from the San Gallo Vineyard and is Glera with old indigenous grapes. San Gallo sits at an average of 367 meters (1200 feet), the average slope is 38% and the soil is calcareous with iron and aluminum silicates.
These vines are hand-harvested into small crates.
My notes: The first thing that hit my nose was bread, followed by notes of pear and a bit of dust. The tartness swims around in your mouth, fades briefly then returns making your teeth tingle.
11% abv 3 g/l RS $16 SRP
Bianca Vigna is the youngest of these Conegliano Valdobbiadene wineries, founded in 2004 by 2 siblings Elena and Enrico. The vineyard however had been in the family since 1958 when their grandfather Genesio and his son (their father) Luigi farmed and sold grapes to a cooperative winery in Soligo.
Genesio and Luigi dreamed of having their own winery, and a generation later Enrico and Elena brought this dream to life, founding Bianca Vigna.
They are guided by the practice of sustainability. The winery is certified Casaclimawine and they have SQNPI certification for their product chain.
Their new winery has a photovoltaic system that provides 80% of their energy needs and they use eco-friendly and recycled material.
They farm 32 hectares, with 4 vineyards in the DOC area: Soligo, Borgo Breda, Busa Schiratti, and Campolongo, 4 in the DOCG: Soligo, Fornaci, Crevada, and Monticella. And 3 Rive: San Gallo, Collalto, and Ogliano. They produce 600,000 bottles annually.
Bianca Vigna Sui Lieviti Spumante Brut Nature 2019
This is the “sui lieviti” that I mentioned earlier. This is traditional Prosecco, on the lees with sediment in the bottle. This sparkling process takes place in the bottle, as in the method champenoise, but without disgorgement, so the wine stays on the yeast giving it its unique character.
The vineyards for this wine are within Conegliano with rocky-clay soil.
My notes: The first thing that hit me was the smell of biscuit dough. It brightens on my palate with bright lemon notes and a lovely creaminess.
100% Glera 11.5% abv 1 g/l rs $20 SRP
Our Venetian inspired pairings
As I looked for pairings, I wanted to include dishes of the region. We began with a cheese plate with gruyere cheese, dried figs, Marcona almonds, sardines, Prosciutto Panino (prosciutto wrapped around Mozzarella), pear, walnuts, and dried apricots. Not all of which are Venetian elements, but the sardines, almonds, figs and pears are all inspired by the region.
Polenta and rice are the grains of this region overtaking the typical Italian pasta. So we ran with that!
We made Baccalà mantecato which is a fluffy Venetian spread of fish and olive oil. While typically made of salt cod, we used pollock as that was what was available. The fish cooks in milk with peppercorns and a bay leaf, before draining and mashing and whipping with olive oil. We served it, as is traditional in Venice with toasted polenta.
Pear, Walnut, Radicchio Salad
We did a salad with radicchio which is prevalent in the area. This mixed the radicchio with red leaf lettuce, pear, toasted walnuts, and croutons with a dressing of honey, white wine, mustard, and olive oil.
Pea and Bacon Risotto
Finally, we had to do a risotto. I created a simple pea and bacon risotto. It was perhaps not as creamy as it should have been (I might have been Chopped), but it was delicious.
How did they pair?
All 3 Conegliano Valdobbiadene wines paired beautifully with the food. With the risotto, they lifted the notes of lemon zest and complimented the richness of the dish.
With the Baccalà mantecato, the Valdo elevated the fish and brought out a nutty note. The Mongarda rounded the dish and pulled up more mineral and savory notes. The Bianca Vigna was good with this dish, but was my least favorite, pulling forward the bay leaf notes in the dish.
The salad, with its radicchio and honey, was different with each wine, the Valdo melded with the pear pulling forth the sweetness and accentuated the char on the croutons. The Mongarda made the sweetness of the dressing more serious and the Bianca Vigna popped the honey and the toasted walnuts in the dish.
All in all, these were glorious pairings for these wines.
These delicious Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG wines and are so affordable, that you can enjoy them on more than just a special occasion, say Tuesday! They are perfect for the holidays and for ringing in the New Year!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.