Conegliano Valdobbiadene– a sense of place!

Join me on virtual trip to Conegliano Valdobbiadene with Consorzio Tutela Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore

Since the turn of the Millennium, Prosecco has soared to the top of the charts with wine drinkers worldwide as Prosecco to many has become the synonym of partying, especially outdoor during summer. Sip your Prosecco poolside from your flûte, enjoy it in an Aperol Spritz or let it accompany your seafood platter… It just goes so well with celebrating life the Italian way.

The hierarchy of Prosecco consists of a pyramid with Prosecco DOC as its base, Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG in the middle and Congeliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore at the top.

Some might argue, that the flipside of the popularity of Prosecco is that huge quantities of less interesting wine is made nowadays to satisfy an enormous market for Prosecco. A gigantic demand for inexpensive Prosecco, which has led to a much larger area being included in the Prosecco DOC.
Prosecco DOC now covers the entire region of Friuli and more than a good chunk of Veneto – altogether 9 provinces and more than 500 municipalities.
As a consequence, Prosecco DOC can be said to have lost some of its sense of place.

Very much the opposite is the case with Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, which is solely produced in what is arguably the heartland of Prosecco, located in an incredibly beautiful hilly area between Venice on the Adriatic coast and the Dolomites.

Photo credit: Arcangelo Piai – Copia

Such a location with the proximity of both the mountains and the beautiful city of Venice with all of its cultural and historical importance and splendour, the sheer beauty of the area itself and the amazing Italian cuisine really makes Conegliano Valdobbiadene an attractive tourists destination.

Naming the DOC (Congliano Valdobbiadene was promoted to DOCG in 2009) after these two cities back in 1969, makes a lot of sense, Conegliano being the cultural capital of the area and Valdobbiadene the very heart of the region’s wine production.
The Consortium for the Protection of Prosecco Superiore was created by 11 producers already in 1962.

Winegrowing in these hills goes back to ancient times with the first written evidence linking Prosecco to the area dating back to 1772 and in 1876 the GB Cerletti Wine School was founded in Conegliano and was the very first of its kind in Italy.

A sense of place

Within Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore a further division is made with its 43 Rive (crus) as premium expressions of terroir and Superiore di Cartizze at the very top of the hierarchy.

Photo credit: Arcangelo Piai – Copia

The soils of Conegliano Valdobbiadene are ancient, dating back all the way to the upward movement of the seas and the lake beds. In some areas the marl and sandstone soils of marine origin have remained, whereas in other areas glacial action, which have formed part of the hills of the region, has brought different sediments down into the valleys with soils that tend to be deeper, more fine-textured. Overall, the result is a rather complex picture of soils which is used to broadly divide Conegliano Valdobbiadene into five distinct zones: Cartizze, Central Zone, Central-Western Zone, Eastern Zone and Central-Eastern Zone and hence a diverse range of styles and expressions each represent these different subregions. This is why the concept of Rive is such an important part of understanding Congliano Valdobbiadene.

The climate is moderate continental with warm summers and not too excessively cold winters. Moderating influences occur from both the Alps and the Adriatic Sea. The average rainfall is around 1.250 mm and this level of precipitation suits the production of sparkling wine very well. The annual mean temperature is 12,3º C with varying altitudes of the vineyards (100-600 meters above sea level) provide different levels of higher diurnal range and thus better preservation of the acidity in the grapes.

Climate changes make themselves felt in this region as well with higher temperatures and seriously changes in the rain patterns with fewer, heavier showers, which will impact the viticulture, as excess downpour will run off of the vineyards and course increased erosion.

Traditionally, most of the Prosecco on the international market has been in a fruity, Extra Dry style, whereas a more modern style, I would say, would be either the Brut or the Extra Brut style. Don’t let the labelling terms confuse you. Extra Dry contains 12-17 grams of residual sugar per liter, Brut 0-12 grams and Extra Brut can only contain a maximum of 6 grams per liter.

The drier versions are excellent gastronomic wines – especially if you come across the Extra Brut ones – and the lower levels of residual sugar really allow for the different terroirs to show more clearly – and as I said, Conegliano Valdobbiadene is about terroir and tasting through the different Rive gives you a really good understanding of why that is.

A serious study of the different sub-zones is “The Terroirs of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Wines. A Study of the Origins of Quality in the Hills of the Unesco Heritage Site” edited by Diego Tomasi and Federica Gaiotti.

When tasting and comparing the different Rive, it is really interesting to consider both the differences in soils as well as temperatures and diurnal range and the resulting influence of these factors on the aromatic contents in the final wines, even within such a relatively small region.

Tasting through the Rive

Extra Brut styles Coneglino Valdobbiadene will be an excellent alternative to champagne come New Year’s evening and at a considerably lower price point.

Le Manzane Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut
Rive di Formeniga Millesimato 2020

From old vines dating back to 1975 planted on morenic soils in a Rive which enjoys a growing season with slightly lower diurnal range than the regional average Le Manzane has produced a creamy and rich style which embodies ripe, yellow apples, a savoury note and a spicy finish. A wine with very nice concentration and a wine made in a gourmet style.
The lower levels of floral notes (monoterpenes) lead back to lower diurnal range, the intensity of ripe and tropical fruit (norisoprenoids) is just slightly above average, which makes sense given the warmer temperatures at night. Albeit a bit below average, the levels of benzenoids with its spicy and balsamic notes remain noticeable.

Malibran Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut
Rive di S. Maria di Feletto 2020 ‘5 Grammi’

From rolling hills and less steep vineyards on Feletti soils (reddish, clayey and slightly acidic) comes this round and rich Prosecco displaying green apple, fine citrus, floral aromas like blossom and honeysuckle. When ripe, the wine will show honeyed notes, too. The basewine was allowed to develop texture and additional bready, doughy notes from 10 months lees contact.

La Farra Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Brut
Rive di Farra di Soligo 2020

La Farra sources their grapes from very steep sites (->60-70%) containing conglomerate soils (rock over sedimentary soils) in a warmer area, which shows on the levels of norisoprenoids, which are quite high here: Ripe apple and pear as well as tropical fruit such as litchi and pineapple. The area is known for high diurnal range (->12-13ºC), which helps preserve the freshness and the levels of monoterpenes, providing a floral lift. As often with wines with this profile, the acid may seem lower than it really is, but this is really a wine with a steely, nervy backbone.

Tanoré Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut
Rive di Guia 2019

The grapes to this wine come from a warmer Rive in the western part on steep, fine textured marly slopes with different aspects that see protection both from the Alps and to the south. The mean temperature is normally approx. 1ºC higher in this area than in the region’s average. A moderating factor is the altitude (250-300 meters above sea level), which has aided the levels of monoterpenes (white flowers). Aromas of peach and apricot get added nerve from a mineral, saline finish. The wine comes with a mere 4 grams of residual sugar and is a great gastro wine to accompany e.g. a seafood risotto or maybe a carpaccio of scallop.

Colesel Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Brut 2020

Cartizze is such a small zone of only 108 hectares, calcareous and rich in limestone, which normally adds finesse to the wine. Even within such a small zone, though, distinct climatic differences may be found. Eastern Cartizze, where Colesel is located, normally experiences higher maximum temperatures and considerably higher diurnal range than e.g. Upper Cartizze. 2020 was a year with later harvest, leading to a full bodied and complex wine showing pear, white flower, peach and apricot and tropical aromas. A wine with cool grace where the inherent acidity lifts the wine and is balancing the 8 grams of residual sugar.

Join me in part two, as the journey continues.

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