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Conegliano-Valdobbiadene is the best classical area for prosecco and was awarded with the DOCG Prosecco Superiore status, together with Colli Asolani, in 2009.
Location, climate & soil
The zone for Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG is limited to 15 communes between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. It’s a hilly landscape with ranging altitudes from 50 to 500 metres. The region has a warm continental climate and quite some rainfall – especially in the spring, which can affect flowering and increase the risk of fungal diseases. Conegliano tends to be a bit warmer, but is moderated by the Adriatic Sea to the east. Valdobbiadene is more alphine continental and a bit cooler.
The soils are composed of sandstone, schist, limestone and clay.
Prosecco must include at least 85% of prosecco also known as glera – an aromatic variety. Pinot bianco, pinot grigio, chardonnay, pinot noir and the indigenous trio of Perera, Verdiso, and Bianchetta Trevigiana can also be used (up to 15%).
Life can be easy on the plains of the Veneto, where the vineyards of DOC prosecco are located. The opposite is true in Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, where the steep vineyards can be extremely difficult to work (think Germany difficult). Harvest must be done by hand, because it’s practically impossible with a tractor. For Rive, the grapes must be hand harvested.
The permitted grape yield in the vineyards is 13.5 tonnes per hectare. Compared to 18 tonnes per hectare for DOC Prosecco.
The method for making prosecco sparkling wine is referred to as the charmat method, however, locally, it is known as the martinotti method. It is a simplified version of the traditional method by using a much larger vessel for the second fermentation. This is a lot less labour intensive and therefore more cost efficient. Riddling and disgorging is not part of the package, a big cost saver as well. Because the second fermentation takes place in an autoclave in quite a short period of time, there’s no autolysis taking place.
“Bellenda in Carpesica, just north of Conegliano, is one of a few producers devoting more research and production to traditional method Prosecco.” – Guildsomm – An introduction to prosecco
The wines from Conegliano are more fruiter and tropical than those from Valdobbiadene, which are more delicate and floral. It’s hard to detect, because most of the producers label the wine as Valdobbidene DOCG, regardless of where the fruit comes from. Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore may be enjoyed in Brut, Extra Dry and Dry versions, classified according to their level of residual sugar.
Conegliano-Valdobbiadene has 43 identified Rive, or crus. The Cartizze hill stands on top of the quality pyramid and have the highest and steepest slopes of Valdobbiadene. Usually in medium-sweet style, but there’s an increasing demand for Cartizze Brut. Wines labeled as Superiore di Cartizze cannot use the word ‘Prosecco’ on the label.
Other styles (taken from Guildsomm – An introduction to prosecco):
- Superiore: These wines must be spumante (minimum 3.5 bars) and can only be made in brut, extra dry, and dry styles.
- Rifermentazione in bottiglia: For these wines, the second fermentation happens in the bottle, in contrast to using the Charmat method.
- Col Fondo: A version of the above style in which yeast remains in the bottle. This is an old-school style only occasionally seen today.
And two more (taken from Prosecco.it):
- In quantities that are very much smaller compared to the sparkling wine, Conegliano Valdobbiadene is also produced in the Frizzante (semi-sparkling) and Tranquillo (still) styles. In these cases the term Prosecco is not followed by the adjective Superiore
Sources & suggested reading:
- Tom Stevenson & Essi Avalan – The World Encyclopedia of Champagne & Sparkling Wines
- Guildsomm – An introduction to prosecco
- Prosecco – Prosecco.it