Asolo Prosecco

For­get cheap and cheer­ful fizz – Asoslo Prosecco is a qual­ity ar­ti­san sparkling wine, made in var­i­ous so­phis­ti­cated styles. Tom Hy­land in­tro­duces the lead­ing pro­duc­ers and rec­om­mends bot­tles to try

Decanter - - CONTENTS -

Seek­ing out su­pe­rior sparkle in Italy with Tom Hy­land

ANY­ONE WHO HASN’T been liv­ing on an­other planet will know that Prosecco has en­joyed tremen­dous suc­cess in the mar­ket­place over the past decade, be­com­ing a go-to choice for the many wine drinkers look­ing for easy, mod­er­ately priced bub­bles. And for those in search of some­thing more com­plex than the ma­jor­ity of Prosecco bot­tles jostling for shelf space, Conegliano Val­dob­bi­adene has achieved wide recog­ni­tion as be­ing a step up in qual­ity.

Yet it’s not the only op­tion. Only a few miles away, the ar­ti­sans of the far less well-known Asolo Prosecco zone have also made great strides, and are to­day re­leas­ing some no­table ex­am­ples that are, in ad­di­tion, among the most dis­tinc­tive. The two ar­eas are of­fi­cially recog­nised as be­ing su­pe­rior. In 2009, the de­ci­sion was made to el­e­vate Prosecco to DOCG sta­tus for wines made in the hills of the Tre­viso prov­ince; other ex­am­ples from Italy – in­clud­ing those from Fri­uli – would be la­belled as DOC. Two wines were granted DOCG sta­tus: Conegliano Val­dob­bi­adene Prosecco Su­pe­ri­ore and Asolo Prosecco Su­pe­ri­ore. In ad­di­tion, the word Prosecco would now only re­fer to the wine, and not the grape that served as the base of these prod­ucts; that would be known as Glera, a for­mer des­ig­na­tion for this va­ri­ety.

The Asolo Prosecco area lies di­rectly south of the Conegliano Val­dob­bi­adene zone, and is much smaller, com­pris­ing 1,600ha to the 6,500ha of the lat­ter. Around 10 mil­lion bot­tles of Asolo Prosecco were pro­duced in 2017, com­pared to 90 mil­lion of Conegliano Val­dob­bi­adene. Be­ing much smaller, Asolo has much work to do around rais­ing aware­ness.

Qual­ity styles

While mar­ket­ing strate­gies change over time, the one con­stant pro­duc­ers can con­trol is qual­ity, which is quite good for the most part, al­though some in­con­sis­ten­cies emerge with cer­tain wines. Ex­tra Dry (be­tween 12g and 20g of resid­ual su­gar) is the most pop­u­lar cat­e­gory, and while there are some ex­am­ples that truly shine (Pat del Colmèl’s ver­sion is stel­lar), far too of­ten these wines dis­play lit­tle per­son­al­ity, of­fer­ing only a gen­tle sweet­ness with a mod­est aro­matic pro­file.

Far bet­ter are the Ex­tra Brut wines, as these are sub­stan­tially drier (6g/l and less of resid­ual su­gar), and present a much more ex­pres­sive aro­matic pro­file – from melon, le­mon rind and gin­ger to can­died or­ange and aca­cia flow­ers – with no­table com­plex­ity and greater per­sis­tence. For now, Asolo Prosecco is the only Prosecco that can be la­belled as Ex­tra Brut, which is a pos­i­tive sales point, al­though this term will soon be al­lowed for Prosecco from Conegliano Val­dob­bi­adene.

The most dis­tinc­tive style made here is col fondo, made via refer­men­ta­tion in the bot­tle, and not in a tank, as with most ex­am­ples of Prosecco (a small per­cent­age of Conegliano Val­dob­bi­adene pro­duc­tion is also made in this style). Lit­er­ally mean­ing ‘with sed­i­ment’, col fondo has sed­i­ment at the bot­tom of the bot­tle, as the wine is not dis­gorged; caus­ing a cloudy ap­pear­ance. Mirco Poz­zobon, wine­maker at Case Paolin, re­marks that, ‘Col fondo has a long tra­di­tion due to the tech­ni­cal sim­plic­ity of pro­duc­tion com­pared to the Char­mat method, which re­quires more tech­nol­ogy.’

So why make such a wine to­day, es­pe­cially when peo­ple are so fa­mil­iar with squeaky-clean Prosecco? ‘Lees pro­tect the wine, so there’s no need to add sul­phites,’ notes Paola Fer­raro, co-owner at Bele Casel win­ery. ‘We’re very proud of this wine. It re­ally speaks of the soil and the peo­ple who make it.’

Poz­zobon ex­plains that col fondo has been a great suc­cess for his win­ery, and that he is ‘es­pe­cially sur­prised’ by the ap­pre­ci­a­tion this wine has re­ceived in ex­port mar­kets such as the UK, the US, Den­mark and even France. Bele Casel has en­joyed sim­i­lar suc­cess, and of­ten sells sev­eral vin­tages con­cur­rently; tast­ing through five vin­tages at the win­ery re­vealed the im­pres­sive com­plex­ity of these wines, with notes of brewer’s yeast and le­mon rind com­ing through in sev­eral ex­am­ples. The 2009 dis­plays beau­ti­ful fresh­ness af­ter more than eight years, while the 2014 com­bines ex­cel­lent con­cen­tra­tion with no­table per­sis­tence; these wines show how dis­tinc­tive Asolo Prosecco can truly be.

‘We’re a much smaller zone, so we’ve been able to bet­ter main­tain the ar­ti­sanal phi­los­o­phy’ Si­mone Rech

Left: sun­set over the hills of Asolo

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