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  Editorial Issue 99, September 2011   
Prosecco: The Price of SuccessProsecco: The Price of Success  Contents 
Issue 98, Summer 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 100, October 2011

Prosecco: The Price of Success


 In the beginning it was a wine produced in the countryside of Treviso, humble and simple to many, refermented in the bottle - a practice which produced a huge quantity of “lees” - and it was decanted before being served. Then it came the refermentation in closed tank - a method known as Charmat, invented by the Italian Federico Martinotti and later improved and patented by the French Eugène Charmat - changing the destiny of the wine from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. The new method allowed the production of a wine with bubbles in shorter times and with no lees, at a lesser cost, therefore ensuring the huge commercial success of Prosecco and many other wines produced with the same method. Many Prosecco producers adopted the new method, whereas others remained faithful to tradition and two products started to become common which differed one from the other by the type of cork used to seal the bottle.


 

 Wines produced with the Charmat method were characterized by the mushroom shaped cork, the one typically used for sparkling wines, whereas traditional Prosecco refermented in bottle was characterized by the so called tappo raso, that is a regular cork completely plunged into the bottle's neck and held in place with a string in order to avoid the cork to be expelled by internal pressure. Then, also Prosecco tappo raso lost this characteristic and suddenly became limpid and with no sediment, therefore completely leaving the scene to the only Prosecco style now renowned all over the world, the one produced with the Charmat method and with the mushroom shaped cork. A planetary success, a symbol identifying not only Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, but also Italian enology. Prosecco has therefore become an identifying mark for a wine style - there are many today who call “Prosecco” or, even worse, Prosecchino, every wine having bubbles - as to bring to an exponential increase of production in order to quench the thirst the world had for Valdobbiadene's bubbles.

 At this point, it is necessary to clear one point. The name could in effect cause a sort of confusion, it could make someone think about a slightly dry wine, without being so, a confusion caused by the name of the main grape with which this wine is produced. Prosecco is the name of the grape, a name which was fundamental for its success - maybe the success was also caused by this confusion - and today producers, and this is set by a law, call this grape with its “ancient” name, that is Glera. The consequences of this change, to tell the truth, are sometimes funny. Producers who have called for decades this grape Prosecco - and thanks to this name they obtained a planetary success - will promptly correct their interlocutor in case he or she mistakenly calls the grape with its most famous name: with a serious and solemn look will make the interlocutor notice the name is Glera, as if Prosecco grape never existed. Prosecco, a name probably originated from the homonymous town in the province of Trieste, a town where this grape is believed to be originated from, today seems to be a quite intrusive name. Prosecco does not exist anymore, welcome Glera.

 The need of changing the image of Prosecco is evident. It was - and continues to be - a striking success worldwide, however bringing countless examples of speculations and forgery. An almost unavoidable consequence: it is easier to take advantage of the success of others instead of getting it with one's own merit, in particular when there are no merits. This introduced deplorable attempts of speculations in the world, and - for the sake of truth - this also happened in Prosecco production area. An example is represented by the production of Prosecco of disputable quality, something which certainly did not honored the good name and the quality of this wine and of the producers who proved it with what they put in a bottle. It can also be for this reason the wine is frequently called with the detestable term Prosecchino, as if it was a lesser wine, something having no value, an ordinary bubble. This is also the result for not having worked on the image and the safeguarding of a product, by probably thinking to the excitement of success and profit only.

 What now? The success was so important for Prosecco and the whole area of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, as to become cumbersome and not very distinctive. They decided to start things over. Or better: to start from history and origins. Prosecco leaves the scene and welcomes Glera: the very same grape, however enough to give the sensation of something new or, maybe, to cause a new confusion. Meanwhile, in order to better safeguard the quality and image of a territory, they also received the Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin, DOCG), reserved to the Prosecco Superiore only, which, for the occasion, is now simply called Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOCG, also providing for the territorial expressions of Superiore di Cartizze and Rive. It seems Prosecco term has become inconvenient, as to give it a secondary and accessory role in the name of the wine, while leaving it to the Denominazione d'Origine Controllata wines (Denomination of Controlled Origin, DOC). The same thing happened in the neighboring Asolo, also in this case promoted to the DOCG rank, therefore abandoning the old name “Colli Asolani Prosecco” in favor of “Asolo DOCG”.

 Moreover, there are some producers who still believe in the old tradition of Prosecco - pardon, Glera - the one refermented in bottle and allowed to age on its lees. This technique produces the typical sediment that, as opposed to the classic method, is left inside the bottle. This sediment is an integral part of the wine itself and it is strongly suggested to pour it in the glasses in order to make the wine richer and with a stronger personality, although this will make the wine a little hazy. Rich in aromas and in flavors, no doubt about this, and even though it looks hazy, who cares. For many aspects, this wine is richer and more interesting than the Prosecco produced with the refermentation in closed tank. To tell the truth, in case I have to tell the style of Prosecco I like the most, or maybe, I have always liked the most, it is right this style refermented in bottle and served with the sediment of yeast, Sur Lie, how they sometimes call it. This is the style of Prosecco being more distant from the speculation which however gave it notoriety - as well as countless examples of anonymous and mediocre wines - and also because it is the style showing a more interesting personality. In other words, it is a wine staying away from homologation, something - frankly speaking - being not interesting at all, just like many fashions. And fashion in wine is no exception.

Antonello Biancalana






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  Editorial Issue 99, September 2011   
Prosecco: The Price of SuccessProsecco: The Price of Success  Contents 
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