Michael and I recently returned from a visit to Northern Italy. It seems like only yesterday that we were driving the back roads of Valdobbiadene and seeing firsthand why they call this heroic viticulture.
I recieved the wine I speak about in this post as a media sample. This is part of a recipe contest being held on Instagram promoting the multiple styles of wines in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG.
I recieved no other compensation, and the opinions I share are honest, authentic and my own.
I might however, if they like the recipe and post, win a $150 gift card and a 6-bottle selection of wines from the region.
The Prosecco wine I am pairing this with is from Le Colture in Valdobbiadene. It is their “Gerardo” Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut. More specifically, it comes from their vineyards in the Santo Stefano Rive.
*Rive – what’s that you’re asking? Okay, I guess it’s time for a Prosecco rabbit hole detour.
Down the Rabbit hole –
What is Prosecco?
Prosecco is a sparkling wine made primarily from a grape called glera (that used to be called prosecco) in Northern Italy. These wines come specifically from the Veneto or Friuli Venezia Guilia, which is the Northeast corner of Italy.
The wine is made in the Charmant or Martinotti Method. A base wine is made from the glera. Then the wine is put in a large stainless steel tank called an autoclave for its second fermentation (this is where the bubbles form). The tank is pressurized and holds in the bubbles.
Ah yes, Prosecco, like many other sparkling wines, comes in a variety of styles based on sweetness, the residual sugar in the finished wine.
Extra Dry, contrary to logic, is actually on the sweeter side, which Brut and Extra Brut are drier (less sugar).
The styles from driest to sweetest are:
Brut Nature – Extra Brut – Brut – Extra Dry – Dry – Semi-Secco
The Where on Prosecco
You can find Prosecco made within 9 Provinces, 5 in the Veneto and 4 in Friuli, but the heart of the Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata – that’s a quality certification) is in the Conegliano/Valdobbiadene region which is in the Province of Treviso.
Within Conegliano/Valdobbiadene, there are 15 Communes that can be listed on the label if all the grapes come from that commune. A step beyond that are the Rive.
A Rive is one of 43 communes (villages) or frazione (hamlets within villages). So this is a very specific area in which the grapes are grown.
Exit the Rabbit hole, back to Santa Stefano
This wine comes from Santa Stefano, a Rive located in the Western end of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Region, where the hills are very steep, and they do what is known as “Heroic Viticulture.” It sounds a bit pompous, but you have not seen these vineyards. The slopes go up to 60%! You need to be a mountain goat to get around in them!
This family has been growing grapes in this region since the 1500s. It was 1983 when Cesare Ruggeri decided to make and sell sparking wines. Today his three children, the next generation are active in the winery.
They are careful about their environmental impact, with solar panels recently installed and water purification systems.
Le Colture Gerardo, Rive di Santo Stefano, Valdobbiadene DOCG Spumante Brut
This bottle is dedicated to their grandfather Gerardo, who was passionate about the care of his Rive vineyards. There is a charming quote on their tech sheet
“… reminding us the times of our childhood when we run to hug him and he proudly showed us the grapes shining under September sunrays, giving us his unforgettable smile, a precious gift that is still in our memory …”
These vines are the oldest in Santo Stefano at 35 to 40 years old.
This wine had fine persistent bubbles with notes of green apple, pear, mineral, chalk, white flowers and brioche. It was charming.
Pairing with Cicchetti
Cicchetti is delicious. The Venetian small bites, like Spanish Tapas, are meant for aperitivo, though you can make a meal of them.
We enjoyed a selection while briefly in Venice. After our time in Valdobbiadene, we spent 2 days in Venice strolling the city, taking in the canals, exploring the labyrinth of alleys, enjoying art in the parks, and taking in the sunset over the Chiesa di San Giorgio Maggiore. That left us hungry and ready for aperitivo, which we found at Bacaretto Cicchetto just in from Riva degli Schiavoni on Calle del Dose.
This was not a traditional Bararo, where you stand at the bar, sip your Ombra and enjoy cicchetti. We were too close to the tourist district for that, and our legs were tired from all that walking. But we did sit and ordered an Aperol Spritz and two platters of cicchetti, which were delicious.
So with visions of Venice still floating through my daydreams, I knew I wanted to pair this Prosecco Superiore with cicchetti.
Often, these dishes are served on crostini, making them easy to eat. But you know what? I just published a book on spoons, hors d’oeuvre spoons, so maybe we skip the bread (better for our waistline, and it leaves more calories for wine) and just pile some flavors in a spoon for the perfect bite.
But how to decide what to pair?
We did a little competition of our own with 4 different cicchetti and settled on the one that we enjoyed most. We did a bacala mantecato on fried polenta topped with caviar, a tuna polpette with yogurt dressing, phyllo cups with roasted butternut squash and fresh apple and pear, and prosciutto with ciliegine (small mozzarella balls) and radicchio sautéed in olive oil with agrodolce, prosecco vinegar.
And the winner is!
Tuna Polpettes with tarragon & basil yogurt dressing!
For our cicchetti pairing, I settled on Tuna polpettes. These meatballs are often made larger, but we went spoon size, using a melon baller to size them.
I began with “good tuna.” This was Ortiz tuna (yes, it’s Spanish) that comes packed in oil in a jar. You can see the unbroken fillets inside.
I sautéed shallot and garlic and added spinach until it wilted. Once this was cool, it was added to the tuna in a large bowl where I had already broken up the tuna well with a fork. To this, we add ricotta, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and almond flour, as well as fresh tarragon, basil, parsley, and salt & pepper. This gets mixed up with your hands (take those rings off and get in there!). If the mixture feels too wet, add a bit more almond flour. It will still be pretty sticky in the end.
With a melon baller, form balls. This won’t be perfect, but that’s okay.
Lay them out on parchment on a sheet pan and bake at 400 degrees. I did 15 minutes on one side, then flipped them and gave them another 5 minutes.
To dress them, I used a mixture of yogurt, lemon, juice, Basil, parsley, salt, and pepper.
Once the polpettes were cool, I put the sauce down in the spoon, sat the polpette on top, and topped with another dollop of sauce, some tarragon, lime zest, and (because I found it at the farmers market and was feeling fancy) some finger lime. Finger limes, if you are not familiar, are small finger-shaped limes whose cells squeeze out like small pearls of tangy caviar.
This perfect little bite-size cicchetti was perfect with the Le Colture “Gerardo” Extra Brut Prosecco. This Prosecco is Extra Brut which means it has less than 6 grams per liter of sugar. So it is pretty dry and goes beautifully with savory foods (I love that!)
This pairing brings out the bright notes of the herbs, the tartness of the yogurt, and the richness of the tuna, and the fine bubbles cleanse your palate after every glorious bite.
For now, this virtual trip will have to do, but I’m longing to revisit those Prosecco hills!
Watch for more on our amazing Northern Italian Adventure. In the meantime, here is some more we have written on Prosecco!
Tuna, ricotta, sautéed shallot & garlic, spinach, eggs, mayonnaise, Lemon juice,
lemon zest, fresh tarragon, parsley, and basil. Serve with a bit of tzatziki-style
sauce with fresh herbs.
The sauce goes in the spoon with the polpette on top and a small dollop of the
sauce on top, a sliced grape tomato on the side, and fresh tarragon, lime zest,
and finger lime as garnish.
Perfect to pair with a Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG in the Extra Brut style!
Based on a recipe from https://downshiftology.com/recipes/baked-tuna-meatballs/
- For the Polpettes
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 shallot (finely chopped)
- 1 cup of spinach (chopped)
- 1 clove of garlic (minced)
- 1 jar of tuna
- 1/2 cup of almond flour (divided)
- 1 egg beaten
- ¼ cup ricotta
- 1 tsp mayo
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 1 tsp fresh tarragon chopped
- 1 tsp fresh parsley
- 1 tsp fresh basil
- For the dipping sauce
- ½ cup yogurt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp chopped tarragon
- 1 tbsp chopped basil
- Lemon zest
- Salt & pepper to taste
- To Garnish
- Fresh Tarragon
- Lime zest
- Finger Lime
- Cherry tomatoes quartered
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium skillet.
- Add the diced shallot and minced garlic and quickly cook until the shallot is translucent.
- Add the spinach and cook until wilted.
- Stick this in the freezer to cool.
- Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
- Drain the tuna and break it into small pieces with a fork in a large bowl.
- Add the cooled spinach mixture, ¼ cup of almond flour, the beaten egg, ricotta, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and herbs.
- Time to take your rings off and get your hands dirty. Mix this together, adding more of the almond flour if needed if the mixture is too wet. It will be a damp, sticky mixture, though.
- I used a melon baller to make the polpettes as I wanted them to be small enough to fit in my hors d’oeuvres spoon.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment. Place the polpettes on the sheet about 1 in apart.
- Bake for about 15 minutes, then flip them and bake another 5. They should be golden brown.
- For the sauce, mix ½ cup of yogurt, 1 tbsp lemon juice, basil, tarragon, salt & pepper & lemon zest
- Place a bit of yogurt dip in the spoon, set one polpette on top, a slice of cherry tomato on the side, and top with a
dollop of the yogurt sauce, lime zest, a bit of tarragon, and finger lime.
Of course, you don't need to make these in appetizer spoons, but aren't they pretty?
You can also make them larger. Just increase your baking time.
Amount Per Serving Calories 40Total Fat 2gSaturated Fat 0gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 2gCholesterol 10mgSodium 99mgCarbohydrates 2gFiber 1gSugar 1gProtein 3g
Nutrition information isn’t always accurate.
Check out our book “Tempting Spoonfuls” available through Amazon!
Inspired by the flavors and aromas in wines, this book creates “tempting spoonfuls” of flavors to pair with wines.
Robin has always had a love for spoons, with a drawer full of them in all different shapes and sizes. There is comfort in eating something from a spoon and something very sensual also.
Creating a spoon filled with flavors and aromas that will be eaten in a single bite, allowing the flavors to meld and pop in your mouth, is a joyful endeavor, and you are encouraged to make these your own.
The spoons range from savory to sweet, with something for everyone, and while they are paired with wines, they are delicious on their own.
These recipes are wonderful for appetizers and hors d’oeuvres or simple to create something delicious to spoil yourself, much like a pint of ice cream.
Each of these spoons is paired with a specific wine, and you get a bit of background on the wine, its flavors, aromas, and a bit of its story. She also includes other suggestions for wines to pair with the spoon.
The book is a feast for your eyes, with photos of each layered spoonful.
There are also photos of the wines with the elements of their flavor profile surrounding them. Those elements often inspire the pairing.
The goal is to make your mouth water and encourage you to create your own “Tempting Spoonfuls.”
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. 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.