Prosecco At its Finest: Highlights From My Recent Trip

In early May, at the invitation of the Consorzio di Tutela Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG I returned to the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene region of Italy for the first time in more than 17 years. My previous visit was to attend a wedding, and while we did a little bit of wine tasting at the time, I was more focused on connecting with friends than diving deep into the wine. But my impressions of the wines from that trip, as well as many subsequent tastings of Prosecco Superiore since are fairly clear.

In fact, I’ve enjoyed watching the evolution of Prosecco Superiore over the last 15 years. It has gotten drier, more refined, and more expressive. When I first visited, not many producers were making extra brut or brut nature versions of their wines. Most were focused on the extra dry versions of Prosecco, which can contain between 12 and 17 grams of sugar per liter. These days, nearly everyone has extra brut versions of their wines (with less than 6 grams of sugar per liter) and many make a brut nature with less than three grams of sugar.

A number of other things have changed in the region over the past 15 years, most notably the declaration of the wine region as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the region’s decision to make a total ban on the use of glyphosate in any of its vineyards (the first region in Europe to do so).

The Prosecco DOCG region has also spent a lot of time digging deep, so to speak, into its terroirs, and has identified 43 of its steepest, highest-quality, most historical vineyard production areas and codified them into named Rive that can be thought of as the region’s equivalent to Burgundy’s climats.

Needless to say, there was a lot of new stuff for me to explore on my recent trip, and a chance to get to know the region with more depth and intimacy.

What You Need to Know About Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Not all Prosecco is created equal. Sparkling wine made from the Glera grape in a massive swath of northern Italy stretching from Lake Garda across most of the Veneto and all of Friuli gets bottled as Prosecco DOC.

The Prosecco DOC region in light and dark green with the two DOCG regions in yellow and brown.

There’s nothing particularly wrong with Prosecco DOC wine from the wider area. Producers there have even started to make a Rosé version of it that is pretty fun. But a tastier, higher-quality version of Prosecco exists, and that is the wine made in the Prosecco Superiore DOCG region, a much smaller area with stricter controls on how the wine is made, and a striking, definitive terroir and climate.

There are actually two of these DOCG regions, a tiny one surrounding the commune of Asolo, and the other, more well-known one—an area of 15 different communes stretched between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, which is where I recently spent a week.

The Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG region consists of slightly more than 9000 hectares or 23,600 acres of vineyards, split among more than 3400 growers, most of which farm only a tiny slice of a hillside vineyard near their homes.

These vineyards sit just in front of what the Italians call the “pre-alps.” The DOCG region occupies the very first folds of hills that come up off the Venetian plains before the Dolomites rise steeply to snowcapped peaks, which can easily be seen from various vineyards on a clear day.

Cool air flows downwards from these mountain peaks, along with precipitation, creating something of a goldilocks growing region with mild temperatures, generous rainfall, and well-drained, stony hillsides, many of which conveniently face towards the sunnier south.

The soils of the region are all sedimentary in origin, but include 5 distinctly different types, ranging from cobbly conglomerates to iron-rich marls to gravelly morainic soils left behind by glacial outwash.

Most people don’t know that the Prosecco DOCG vineyards are among the most visually spectacular, difficult, and even dangerous…

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