The world has become a complicated place. I have more passwords than quiet moments and the pressure to do mindfulness meditation only makes me feel worse. What the world (or perhaps my world) needs now is to slow down. To have long lunches and long conversations, and drink a drink that symbolises warmth, generosity, vitality, and social connectedness. That drink is Prosecco.
Prosecco is a (mostly) sparkling wine made in the northeast of Italy not far from the romance of Venice. A glass of Prosecco will typically have notes of green apple, pear, melon, fresh lemon, and flowers, and to be called Prosecco, the wine must be made primarily from Glera grapes grown on vineyards etched into the hills and valleys of Veneto and Friuli.
Prosecco can be spumante (sparkling) or frizzante (semi-sparkling), or even a still wine (i.e., no bubbles); regardless, Prosecco will always be a lively, charming drink that is easy going—it’s great as an aperitif and pairs with most meals from entrée to dessert. It can range from extremely dry (Brut Dosaggio Zero—my favourite!) to sweet.
There is a style of Prosecco for everyone but not all Prosecco is equal. The region between the towns of Valdobbiadene, to the west, and Conegliano, to the east, produce superior Prosecco, and within that zone, a small area (107 hectares) called Cartizze, which is just outside Valdobbiadene and south of the village of Santo Stefano, has the finest terroirs (i.e., natural environments in which the wine is produced) for Prosecco.
The Prosecco wines of Conegliano Valdobbiadene are indeed elegant and can be savoured and enjoyed with cheeses and Italian dishes like polenta with prawns. But, the quality of the wines in Conegliano Valdobbiadene does not alone account for the sense the region conveys that we all need to slow down. Just as Tuscany became a symbol of a simpler, quainter, richer life, the rustic charm of the Proseccco hills also reminds us to enjoy the simple pleasures.
Driving northwest from Venice, the slopes of the Dolomites appear in the distance and when you arrive in the idyllic dipping hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, there are plenty of geometric vineyards and few tourists. The relaxed and trusting nature of the area becomes apparent at the Osteria senz’Oste, meaning osteria without an owner/host. In the cool lower floor of the stone farmhouse, picnickers can help themselves to bread, cheese, and salamis, and pay for their selections using a machine. The views are breathtaking on the terrace, but even better on the hill where bottles of Prosecco can be purchased from vending machines.
My guide in the area, Roberta Bozzato, who has a diploma from Italy’s first Oenology School which is in Conegliano, told me the young people in the area come up to the hill to enjoy wine and chat. She also told me the young men in the area help with the grape harvest by carrying the grapes cut by the older people (the grapes are hand harvested due to the steep slopes). After hearing about the local people, I was keen to meet them. Luckily, Roberta took me to Osteria Gallina.
The inconspicuous Osteria Gallina doesn’t even have a sign on the door, so this homely osteria is for the locals (and not the tourists, they told me). In spite of this, I received a warm welcome from owners, Giuseppa (Beppa) and Luigi Gallina, who cook for the osteria and make Prosecco. This establishment has been here since 1880 and I’m sure the generosity and hospitality has not changed in all that time.
In the Prosecco hills there are stylish tasting rooms, such as the one at Col Vetoraz, but even they offer good, old-fashioned hospitality. The history of the area and its future all culminate at Gregoletto winery where their family wine-making history dates back to 1600 and young Anna Gregoletto expertly shares her knowledge of the wines and winery with wine lovers from all over the world.
The people of Conegliano Valdobbiadene exude so much warmth that I recommend wine lovers visit this region; yet, at the same time, I’d like to keep it to myself.
Prosecco in a Wine Glass:
- Prosecco is a young, fresh wine, so drink it within 1-2 years of bottling (after 2-3 years it could apparently be used to cook risotto or pasta).
- Prosecco is best enjoyed from a tulip-shaped Prosecco glass.
- Prosecco bottles will be labelled as Prosecco DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or Prosecco DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) and may also detail where it is from, such as Prosecco DOCG Valdobbiadene or Prosecco DOC Treviso.
- The Glera grape was originally called Prosecco but (apparently after Paris Hilton was photographed with a can of a drink called Prosseco) the name of the Prosecco grape was changed to Glera and a DOC/DOCG was created to protect the name Prosecco so it could only be used on wine bottles containing wine from certain areas in north-eastern Italy.
- Most Prosecco is made using the Charmat (tank) method where the second fermentation occurs in stainless-steel tanks (which is different to the Champagne method where the second fermentation occurs in the bottle).
- Prosecco is a key component in the popular aperitif, the Aperol Spritz.
Feature image: Prosecco at Osteria Gallina
Note: A big thank you to Roberta Bozzato for taking some photos and letting me use her iPhone to take photos when mine died!
Note: All links correct at time of posting.