Between Cortina and Venice, the hills of Prosecco Superiore
Hills roll sinuously from Conegliano to Valdobbiadene, opening up into small valleys colored intense shades of green, speckled with the yellow of ripe grapes. Viewpoints offer a wide panorama over rows of vines, country houses and a tranquility that soothes the eye. This caml landscape is one of the most beautiful in Italy. The charm of theze places, harmonious and serene like a late summer afternoon, is wedded to the pleasure of a wine that express a faithful reflection of a terroir, its history and the living traditions that offer a strong continuity with the past. This landscape is defined by wine. The Conegliano Valdobbiadene hills, as well as its villages, hamlets, farmhouses and families, all speak of a very particular wine, of effervescence, of fine bubbles moving harmoniously in a glass. For 40-odd kilometers, between gentle hills, small villages and secluded corners, you can feel this perfumed nectar on your skin. Conegliano is the home of Cima, one of the masters of 16th-century painting. The town is elegant and beautiful, with cathedral dating from 1352, its shops and cobbled streets. From here, the road leads north to San Pietro di Feletto, where every corner has its own magic, the perfect expression of the Marca Trevigiana. Rolling hills stretch to the horizon, covered in rows of grapevines. Here you'll find the 12th-century Pieve, a jewel box of a church, and then the Molinetto della Croda in Refrontolo. Pieve di Soligo, a small town of aristocratic tastes with iets elegantr piazza, leads onto Solighetto, where the historic Villa Brandolini houses the Tutelary Consortium.
Then Col San Martino, before finally reaching Valdobbiadene, in a sunset of images, the Piave Valley stretching to the horizon, the last rays of the sun lighting up the gently sloping vineyards.
There has been a culture of Prosecco in the 15 municipalities between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene for over three centuries. This hilly land, the landscape alternating bewteen steep drops and gentle slopes, is punctuated everywhere by vineyards, their grapes destined to be turned into Prosecco Superiore. The territory's natural vocation, joined with human skill, meant that Doc status, the controlled denomination of origin, was awarded back in 1696 for Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene. In 2009, with the attainment of Docg (controlled and guaranteed denomination of origin) status, we have come to the end of the journey to have Conegliano Valdobbiadene wine recognized as the best expression of Prosecco.
This is why, in the Docg, the word Prosecco is accompanied by the adjective "Superiore". Uniquely, more than 40 years after the Doc was awarded, the Docg area is still limited to the same 15 historic municipalities in the hills between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Within the Italian classification system, Docg status is granted to the wines of the highest quality. This is clear from the fact that in Italy there are currently more than 300 Doc wines, but only around 40 with Docg status. The G stands for "guaranteed", because each bottle of Docg wine is identified by a number; making it unique and guaranteeing its quality to the consumer.
The new context
The Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg was officially introduced with the 2009 harvest and the First bottle of the new denomination was released onto the market in April 2010.
This charge wich also brought the Docg the small Colli Asolani area, is one of a series of changes affecting the whole Prosecco world. The meaning of the word Prosecco has changed. It now no longer refers to the grape variety (like Cabernet or Merlot), but to a denomination of origin wine (like Soave or Chianti). This means the consumer has the guarantee that the only wines with Prosecco on the label come from northeastern Italy. As a result, products copying the name, a common phenomenon in Germany and Austria, have been eliminated from the market. The new law, the result of a long and complex process, is unique case in Italy. A determining role in reaching the desired objective was played by the institutions and producers, most of all the 160 sparkling winemakers and 3,000 vine-growers of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, and all those in the nine provinces of Veneto and Friuli where Prosecco Igt was previously made. Under the new system, the historic Prosecco Doc (Conegliano Valdobbiadene and Colli Asolani) have become Docg, while the areas of northeast Italy that used to make Prosecco Igt can now make the base Doc.
The result is that there are now two levels of Prosecco on the market: the Docg, the peak of the quality pyramid, represented by the Conegliano Valdobbiadene denomination, with its 15 hill municipalities, and the base Doc, covering the provinces of Treviso, Belluno, Venice, Padua, Vicenza, Udine, Pordenone, Trieste and Gorizia, a broad denomination made up of more than 600 municipalities in Veneto and Friuli.
Defining Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg
With the introduction of the Docg, the most important innovation is that territory takes first place, with the move from Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene to Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco. A small but significant change, it revals the desire to focus on the element of uniqueness: the production area. The Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg has kept the majority of the previous production rules, but there are plenty of changes too. From the vineyard to the bottle, and before reaching the market, a third-party certifying body carries out constant controls on the product in order guarantee its quality to the consumer.
A Landscape of colors and scents
There is a landscape embroidered by vineyards, rich in woods and rugged slopes, historic towns and picturesque villages, a place where over the centuries vines have taken on a central role in the material and productive culture.
We are in the province of Treviso, just an hour’s drive from Piazza San Marco, the pulsing heart of one Italy’s most celebrated cities, Venice, but also only a hundred kilometers from Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the beautiful setting of the eastern Dolomites. The Marca Trevigiana is a fascinating strip of Veneto, easy to reach and an excellent starting base of many destinations.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene comes only from here, in this area with a unique microclimate and soil composition. The elegance, freshness and vitality of its fine bubbles are the pleasurable end point of this unique land with very particular geography and physical features. Direct evidence comes from the entrepreneurial skills of the sparkling wine producers and the technical skill matured over time thanks to research and training centers of international renown.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene means Prosecco the way Florence means Renaissance. It is the symbol of these lands, which the consortium, supported by local authorities and institutions, is working to have nominated as a Unesco World Heritage Cultural Landscape. The initiative draws on three significant aspects that explain the distinctive nature of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene hills.
The First aspect concerns the particularly fragile physical and geographical environment and the important interaction between humans and the landscape. The hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene are unique because of the characteristics of the soil, microclimate and landscape. Grapevines have an ideal habitat here, while the hand of man has done the rest, embroidering the hills with vineyards and over the centuries creating a rural landscape of seductive beauty. Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg wine is produced in an area covered by just 15 municipalities, with grapes grown between 50 and 500 meters above sea level, on the south-facing slopes of a strip of hills. The grape variety itself: The winters are long but not excessively cold, while the summers are hot but not sweltering. The vines flourish in different places, with a wide variability in soil composition, exposure, gradient and altitude, making Conegliano Valdobbiadene a wine of many nuances.
The beauty of the hills takes on many physical forms. Some slope gently towards the valley, while the northeastern hills drop down more steeply. Cultivation methods vary precisely because of this variety of environments. On the precipitous hills in the north, the vineyards are laid out in extraordinary patterns, defining the visual drama of the landscape, carved out by humans with most traditional tools of the trade. The plants are carefully tended by hand, due to the difficult nature of the land: rugged, steep and inaccessible to mechanical equipment. They are grown with great effort at heights of up to 500 meters, on slopes that can reach gradients of 70%.
The vineyards mostly have a southern exposure and the majority are planted with Glera, with small areas of Perera, Bianchetta and Verdiso, the other varieties allowed in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene blend. They are vines of great vigor, cultivated along the gradient lines in “traverso” and “girapoggio” systems, with an average density of 3,000 to 4,500 vines per hectare. Thanks to zonation, in-depth studies have been carried out on the interaction here between vines and territory.
They have found strong temperature swings (12-14°C), a thin layer of soil and minimal water resources, factors that allow for the production of grapes with good levels of sugar and acidity.
The wines are thus characterized by intense perfumes notes of wisteria and white flowers, ripe fruit and tropical notes, peach, apricot and a light hint of citrus in the background. The grapes from these “heroic” vineyards are used to make Rive, a new category in the Docg specifications. In dialect, rive are the steepest vineyards, and Rive was created to celebrate the differences and nuances of their wines. It is made only with grapes from a single sub-zone, or a municipality, and the grapes are picked only by hand. The gentlest and flattest hills are in a large area of morainic origin with sandy-clayey type soils. The slopes have less steep gradients, running gently down towards the plains. The traditional vine-training system is the Sylvoz, with around 2,000-2,500 vines per hectare, but recent years have seen the introduction of the Guyot, with higher densities of up to 4,000 vines per hectare. Zonation research has shown lower average temperatures in this area because of the fresh air coming down from the Prealps. The temperature ranges are higher and so are the concentrations of sugars and acidity. The Glera grapes from these hills give the wine a quality marked by distinct notes of flowers, ripe fruit and citrus.
Grapevines have a thousand years of history in the area between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. The last 200 years have seen the creation of two prestigious centers for research, innovation and training. The first is the Istitute Cerletti, founded in 1876, the first Italian enological school, a hotbed for hundreds of wine experts and winery professionals, which today alsoruns a university course. The second is the experimental viticulture institute, founded in 1923, and today part of the CRA, Italy’s Agricultural Research Council. With its workshops, vast specialized library, numerous publications, research activities and germoplasm collection, over the decades the experimental institute has contributed greatly to the selection and improvement of vine varieties and cultivation techniques.