Category Archives: Prosecco

Enjoying Vintage Prosecco with Primo Franco

Primo Franco of the Nino Franco Winery is the first man of Prosecco and I always enjoy hearing him speak about his wines. Though Michele and I had visited him in Valdobbiadene a few months ago and tasted a number of old Proseccos from the Primo Franco line, I was delighted when Tony DiDio of Tony Di Dio Selections invited me to a tasting which included a few older vintages I had not sampled before. For my visit to the winery seehttps://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/primo-franco-the-first-man-of-prosecco/

Primo Franco

Primo Franco

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the winery that was founded by Franco’s grandfather. Primo said in the past they made wine from many different grapes but starting in 1983 when he took over, all they make is sparkling wine

He said that he only uses the best grapes and does not like a wine with too much acidity. He leaves the wine on the lees for 5 to 6 months in order for the wine to develop more body. For the first fermentation, no sulfur is added. For the second fermentation in autoclave only a small amount is added to stabilize the wine. IMG_6873

Recently I read an article, which said that many places in England were serving Prosecco on tap. I asked Primo about this and he said that it is against EU rules and that it is not good for Prosecco’s image. He added in most cases it is not even Prosecco that they are pouring but any still white wine to which they add a fizz and call Prosecco because of the popularity of the wine. Last year the percentage of Prosecco imported into the US and Great Britain rose dramatically. For more on this, see

https://charlesscicolone.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/prosecco-on-tap/ IMG_6877

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Primo Franco made from 100% Glera grapes from vineyards in medium to high hills in the classic production zone with a harvest selection. Pressing, destemming and cooling of the must takes place. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The second fermentation takes place in autoclave. The wine remains in bottle for 30 days before release. It is classified as dry meaning it has 1g/l to 32g/l residual sugar and usually the range for these are 28g/l to 30g/l and the alcohol content is 10.5%. Malolactic fermentation does not take place.

We tasted the 2013 and the 2003 together because Primo felt that they were very similar vintages. 2003 was very warm and half of the harvest was in August and the other half in the beginning of September. He said that 2013 had very hot days and cold nights. The 2013 has a lingering peach aspect to it and still needs more time to develop.

Franco has a new young wine maker and when the computer told him the wine had reached 28g/l he shut down the autoclave. The yeast did not know this so the 2013 came in at 32g/l.IMG_6875

The first time I tasted the 2003 was at the winery with Primo in May of last year and it was a revelation for me. I always believed that Prosecco is a wine to be drunk young. It was even better this time. It is lively and fresh, complex with a depth of flavor and hints of ripe apple, almonds and lemon peel.IMG_6879

The 2000 is drinking very well. It was smooth and creamy with hints of caramel, a long finish and pleasing aftertaste. Franco said that that 2000 was a textbook vintage.IMG_6884

1997 If I had to choose a favorite of these exceptional Processo’s it would be the 1997. This was the first vintage where he used selected yeasts. Before this he used wild yeast and the wine fermented naturally but found that this caused to many problems. This is a wine with good fruit aromas and flavors with hints of brioche and a touch of creaminess.IMG_6880

1995 This was very much like the 1997 but more developed. IMG_6881

The 1992 is drinking very well with just a touch of oxidation, which did not distract from the wine. This was a very difficult vintage because there was a lot of rain even during the harvest. Yet once again Franco made an exceptional Prosecco.

1989 – as soon as the wine was poured in Franco’s glass he said it had turned.

The last three wines were from Magnums

For more on Primo Franco see

http://dobianchi.com/author/dobianchi/ A man who helped make Prosecco an international phenomenon and the challenges he facesby Do Bianchi

 

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Filed under Nino Franco, Primo Franco, Prosecco, Sparkling wine

First Look Series: The Barollo Brothers

Gary Grunner of Grapes on the Go invited me to the first event of his First Look Series. Held at the Manhattan Club, a private club in NYC, the First Look Series features wineries that Gary will be importing over the next year.

Barollo Brothers, Nicola and Marco

Barollo Brothers, Nicola and Marco

The wines for this first event were from the Società Agricola Barollo Marco e Nicola. Marco Barollo represented the winery. The winery is located in Preganziol, near Treviso in the Veneto. It is near the Adriatic Sea and the Dolomites are visible in the background.

Marco Barollo speaking at the tasting

Marco Barollo speaking at the tasting

Marco said that 45 hectares are planted with vines.The grapes are harvested by hand and it takes about 20 workers to pick the grapes from one hectare of vines in a day. The wine presses are located near the vineyards so that the grapes remain intact right up to the time they are pressed.

Marco said that his wines reflect the terroir and the grapes that they are made from and therefore go very well with food. All the wines are fermented in 300HL stainless steel tanks. There was only one wine that was in barriques which were made of Allier oak by a barrel maker in Burgundy.

The goal of the winery is to reduce their ecological footprint and CO2 emissions.IMG_6389

Sauvignon Blanc 2013 100% Sauvignon Blanc. There are 5,080 vines per hectare, the grapes are hand harvested. Soft pressing, settling, traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Three months in bottle before release. This is a subtle Sauvignon Blanc, with nuances of grapefruit, lime, current, citrus and herbal notes of grass and minerals. A slight trace of tomato leaf can be found in the finish. The wine was served with cold poached shrimp, yellow squash, baby kale, tomato confit and champagne vinaigrette. The wine and food matched very well, especially since kale can be very hard to match.IMG_6395

Pinot Bianco 2012 100% Pinot Bianco. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place in early September. Soft pressing takes place, settling and traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with daily batonnage. The wine remains in contact with the lees for an extended period of time. The wine is aged for 6 months in stainless steel and 6 months in bottle before release. This wine is fresh and elegant with a pale yellow color. The bouquet is fruity, with a dominant note of apple and tropical fruit. It has good acidity, a mineral character and a long-lasting finish. This was served with pumpkin risotto drizzled with pumpkinseed oil. $18 IMG_6394

Manzoni Bianco 2012 100% Manzoni Bianco. There are 5,000 vines per hectare and the harvest takes place in the middle of September. There is a soft pressing of the grapes, part is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and part is barrel fermented with daily batonnage. The wine is in bottle for 6 months before release. Marco said that this white wine is the exact replica of one of the most famous wines created and developed by Professor Luigi Manzoni, Dean of the Winemaking School in Conegliano. Manzoni conducted a series of experiments in the 1930s on genetic improvements to the grape through crossbreeding and hybridization. Manzoni Bianco, an indigenous grape from the province of Treviso, was created by the genetic crossbreeding of Riesling Renano and Pinot Bianco.

The wine has a golden yellow colour; it is fruity with floral notes and hints of apple with good acidity and a pleasant minerality. This was also served with the risotto and it worked very well with it but I gave a slight nod to the Pinot Bianco. $19

Frater Red 2013 100% Merlot (Frater means brother in Latin) The training system is spurred cordon, there are 3,700 vines per hectare and the grapes are hand harvested the last week of September. Maceration and fermentation lasts for 12 days in temperature controlled steel vats with daily pumping over, devatting and malolactic fermentation taking place. The wine is in bottle for 3 months before release. This is a balanced well-structured wine, with hints of ripe red cherries, a touch of spice and a nice fruity finish and aftertaste. This was served with grilled hanger steak caramelizes onion and oxtail marmalade. $17 IMG_6384

Frank 2010 100% Cabernet Franc There are 5,100 plants per hectare and the grapes are hand harvested the last week of September. Maceration and fermentation lasts for 15 days with daily pumping over, devatting and malolactic fermentation taking place. The wine is aged for 12 months in barriques, of Allier oak, 1/2 new and 1/2 second passage and in bottle for 6 months before release.
This wine is made with grapes from some of the world’s oldest vineyards. This is an elegant well-balanced wine with hints of ripe berries, coffee and a touch of tobacco. It has a very long finish. This was also served with the hanger steak. $30IMG_6393

Prosecco DOC Treviso NV made from100% Gela from manually selected grapes. The soil is medium grained with limestone and clay. Training system is the syloz, this is a trellising system where the canes bend downward a few weeks before the harvest. There are about 2,700 vines per hectare. Harvest takes place the first week of September. The Charmat method consisting of a natural fermentation in bulb tanks takes place and lasts for 90 days. Aging is for another 3 to 4 months. The wine has a light golden yellow color with hints of acacia flowers and fresh aromatic notes of yellow apple and peach. It has a nice fruity aftertaste. The Prosecco was served with a mini pastry platter consisting mostly of little bites of chocolate. It was unusual to serve the prosecco last but it made a very refreshing end to the meal and went very well with the chocolate.

This was an enjoyable tasting with wine and food pairings that were well thought out. I am looking forward to the next event.

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Filed under Cabernet Frank, Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Manzoni, Marco and Nicola Barollo winery, Merlot, Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc

Summer Wines for the Weekend

Here are a few wines I have been drinking and enjoying during the summer.IMG_5897

Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG “Millesimato” Spumante Extra Dry. Montelvini Venegazzu. This Prosecco comes from the hills of Montello and Asolo in the region of the Veneto. It is made from 100% Gela, a grape variety with large, wing shaped bunches that ripens late, near the end of September. The grapes are gently pressed, followed by static cold decanting. Selected yeasts are added to the clarified must and it is fermented in thermo-controlled containers for about 15 days. The first fermentation is monitored daily and before it reaches its conclusion the wine is transferred to pressurized vats for a second fermentation. The wine rests for about 20 days on the lees and is then bottled. It remains in the bottle three weeks before release. The wine is fresh and fruity with a hint of golden apples. $18

Bila–Haut was purchased by Michael Chapoutier in 1999 and is located in the best part of the Languedoc, the Cotes du Roussillon in France, an area which I have visited a number of times. Bila-Haut translates to Bila Heights and it was once a refuge for the Knights Templar. The cross featured on the bottle label is in their honor.IMG_5916

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut White Côtes Du Roussillon  2013 made from Grenache Gris, Grenache Blanc, Macabeo and Vermentino (Rolle in France). The 40-year-old plus vines are on the hills of the Agly Valley. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in the same tanks. After a long maceration of two to three weeks, the wine is aged on the fine lees and then racked from vat to vat which naturally clarifies the wines. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus aromas and flavors with tropical fruit and good minerality. $13IMG_5919

Les Vignes Rosé Bila Haut 2013 Pays D’Oc This is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. Mr. Chapoutier went outside the Roussillon area to find a Cinsault from the Gard district that, when blended with Grenache, would produce a delicate and elegant rosé. The grapes are vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and aged in those tanks. After a short maceration on the skins, the pink hue is attained and the wine is racked and vinified. The wine is then blended prior to bottling. The wine has hints of citrus and red fruit with a floral aroma. $13IMG_5920

Whispering Angel Rosé 2013 Caves D’Esclans made from Grenache, Rolle (Vermentino) Cinsault, Syrah and Tibouten from the surrounding area of Motte en Provence. Harvesting takes place from sunrise to noon. The grapes are destemmed and a slight crushing takes place at 7/8 degrees C grade to avoid oxidation. Both the free run juice and the pressed juices are vinfied in temperature controlled stainless steel vats. Bâtonnage takes place twice a week. The wine has a light salmon color with nice fruit and hints of peach and raspberries.

Maison Belle Claire 2013 Còtes de Provence Rosè made from 55% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 20% Cinsault. Direct pressing of the grapes. Temperature controlled fermentation in stainless steel and the wine matures in stainless steel. The wine has flavors and aromas of fresh red berries with hints of raspberries and peaches. $17IMG_5918

Bila –Haut Les Vignes Red 2012 Cotes du Roussillon Villages made from Syrah, Grenache and Carignan is perfect to accompany a barbecue. Each of the three grape varieties are carefully vinified at low even temperatures. The juice is fermented in cement vats and aged in the vats. After a long maceration of two to three weeks, the wine is racked from vat to vat, which naturally clarifies the wine. The wine is then blended and aged prior to bottling. The wine has hints of plum, blackberry, black cherry and a touch of spice. $13

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Filed under Asolo Prosecco Montelvini Venegazzu, Bila- Haut, French White Wine, Maison Belle Calire, Prosecco, Provence, Whispering Angel

Primo Franco: The First Man of Prosecco

 

Recently, I met with Primo Franco of the Prosecco house Nino Franco in New York. We were tasting and drinking his Prosecco and I mentioned that Michele and I would be in the town of Asolo in the Veneto the following week. Primo smiled and said that the town is less then 20 minutes from his winery and we must come and visit. It was an offer I could not refuse.

Primo Franco

Primo Franco

Primo picked us up at our hotel and on the way to the winery gave us a tour of the vineyards. He said there had been some heavy rain and hail damage but the vines were recovering.

When we arrived at the winery Primo showed us the tanks and explained that almost all Prosecco is made by the Charmat method. After the grapes are crushed and fermented, a secondary fermentation takes place. Sugar is added to the wine and as the yeast “eats” the sugar it produces the pressure, which creates the bubbles in the wine. The tanks have a double wall of heavy steel because of the pressure inside the tank. There is insulation between the walls. The wine remains on the lees at 8°C under pressure and is kept there until it is ready to be bottled. IMG_5538

Primo said that in the past the winery made wine from many different grapes but starting in 1983 when he took over all they now make is sparkling wine.

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The Vineyards

Primo explained the new laws for Prosecco that went into effect from the 2009 harvest. He said that the historical area around the two towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene would now become DOCG. The zones that were IGT would now become DOC, and the rest IGT. This DOC would include the 9 provinces of Treviso: Vicenza, Padova, Belluno, Venezia, Pordenone, Udine, Gorizia and Trieste.   Only the producers in the DOC and DOCG zones will be allowed to call their wine Prosecco, while those in the IGT zone will have to call it Glera. The term Prosecco will be used to identify the region that the wine comes from and the grape will be Glera. The historic area of the appellation remains the same.

Under the new law, a producer cannot make a “Rose Prosecco” (which I always saw as a contradiction in terms), nor have the words “Prosecco Blend” on the label. Prosecco is now produced all over the world, even in Brazil. Primo hoped that the new laws would preserve Prosecco’s identify and integrity and that the new regulations will help people to understand that true Prosecco only comes from the DOC/DOCG zone.

Primo told us of going into a store in NYC that sold only Italian wines. He spotted a Rose Prosecco on the shelf, and could hardly believe it! Primo feels that these new laws are necessary to protect the true Prosecco and it was important that everyone should know them.

At the winery, we tasted vintage Primo Franco Prosecco going back to 1992, which was first produced in 1983 when Primo took over the winery. Primo started us off with a glass of wine that he took from the tank. He wanted us to taste the wine that he starts with before it becomes sparkling. Primo made a point of saying that you must start with a good white wine in order to make good sparkling wine.IMG_5546

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Primo Franco made from 100% Glera grapes. It is classified as dry meaning it has 17 to 32 g/l residual sugar and the alcohol content is 10.5%. Malolactic fermentation does not take place.

We tasted the 2013 and the 2003 together because Primo felt that they were very similar vintages. 2003 was very warm and half of the harvest was in August and the other half in the beginning of September. He said that 2013 had very hot days and cold nights. The 2013 has a lingering peach aspect to it.

The 2003 was a revelation for me. I always believed that Prosecco is a wine to be drunk young. This Prosecco was lively and fresh, complex with a depth of flavor and hints of ripe apple, almonds and lemon peel.

The 2000 was drinking very well. It was smooth and creamy with hints of honey, a long finish and pleasing after taste.IMG_5544

The 1992 — I could not believe how well this wine was drinking.

Primo showed us a bottle of 1956 Prosecco that he had in the cellar buy it was only for display.IMG_5548

Last but not least was a bottle of 1985 Prosecco di Valdobbadene Superiore di Cartizze, “Dry” 100% Glera from the Cartizze hills. Grapes grown on the 1,000 ft high Cartizze are the most expensive in the zone and make the highest price wines. There are 140 producers that share the vineyards. Made by the Charmat method. This wine was showing some age but is still quite drinkable.IMG_5558

We were fortunate to be invited to Primo’s home for lunch. With lunch we had the Grave di Stecca Brut sparkling wine. The vineyard is of ancient origin “Grave di Stecca” a clos on the slopes at the foot of the Pre-Alps, not far from the square of Valdobbiadene. It has a southern exposure and is partly shielded by a huge garden and has a special microclimate. Made from 100% Glera grapes. The alcohol is 12%.IMG_5553

This was a perfect combination with the Risotto with Peas prepared by Primo’s wife AnnaLisa.

Valdobbiadene Porsecco Superiore “Brut” DOCG 1 to 12% g/l residual sugar from the Valdobbiadene and Conegliano production area.

Valbdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore “Brut”DOCG  DOCG from the Riva di San Floriano vineyard in Valdobbiadene

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore “Dry” DOCG “Rustico”. All of the above are 100% Glera and are made by the Charmat method.

He also makes a sparkling wine “Faîve,” a brut made from 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc also by the Charmat method.

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Filed under Nino Franco, Primo Franco, Prosecco, Sparkling wine

First Look at a New Import!

Tasting wines from a producer that I do not know is always very interesting.  Two brothers own the winery and it bears their name:  Società Agricola Marco & Nicolass Barollo.

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Marco Barollo

Located in the Veneto near the town of Treviso, it was purchased by the brothers in 2001. There are 45 hectares of vines and they produce 300,000 bottles annually. These wines will not be imported in the U.S until January, so this is a first review of a new winery that has joined the Grapes on the Go fine wine portfolio for 2014.

I was invited to a tasting and lunch at SD 26 in NYC by Gary Grunner, president of Grapes on the Go.  Representing the winery was Marco Barollo, an owner and the export manager.

The WinesIMG_4269

Prosecco Brut DOC Treviso NV 100% Glera. The soil is medium-grained, limestone and clay, the training is by the sylvoz system (horizontal shoot from which fruit branches curve downward) and there are 2,700 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes takes place the last week in September. The Charmat method is used, consisting of a natural fermentation in bulb-tanks for 90 days. Aging is 3 to 4 months. Marco said that the Charmat method produces smaller longer-lasting bubbles. The wine is kept at a low temperature and they only use as much as they need so the Prosecco is always fresh and is bottled all year round.

Marco said that it could have been labeled Extra Dry because the residual sugar falls exactly between the two classifications (12 grams). This is an elegant Prosecco, with small bubbles, citrus aromas and flavors, hints of apple and white peach and good acidity. The bottle is wrapped in yellow cellophane, which makes for a sophisticated presentation.  $16IMG_4267

Pinot Bianco 2012 IGT Venezie 100% Pinot Bianco. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 3,000 vines per hectare. Harvesting of the grapes is by hand in early September. Soft pressing of the grapes is followed by a settling, traditional fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. There is daily batonnage. Marco said that the wine remains on the lees for 6 months and 6 more months in bottle before release. Wines made in Italy from the Pinot Bianco grape have not gotten the attention they deserve in this country. They are excellent white wines and are very reasonably priced. This one is crisp and dry with citrus fruit aromas and flavors, a hint of apple, a floral characteristic and very good acidity that makes it an excellent wine with food.   $16IMG_4268

Frater 2012 Doc Piave 100% Merlot The training is low-spurred cordon with 3,570 vines per hectare. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration lasts for 12 days. Daily pumpovers, devatting and malolactic fermentation take place. The wine is aged for 3 months in bottle before release. Marco said that this wine showed the true character of Merlot from the Veneto. This is a medium bodied soft and velvety wine that has the aromas of the grape that it is made from. There is good fruit with hints of cherry, currants and a touch of blueberry. I was very impressed with this wine and it just kept on getting better and better in the glass.  $16IMG_4266

Frank IGT Veneto 2010 100% Cabernet Franc. The training system is spurred cordon and there are 5,100 vines per hectare. Harvest is by hand at the end of September. Temperature controlled fermentation and maceration, followed by devatting and malolactic fermentation. The wine is aged in Allier barriques 50% new and 50% one year old and 6 months in bottle before release. Marco pointed out that the wine did not have any of those ‘green’ flavors and aromas often found in Cabernet Franc from Italy. The wine has hints of vanilla, raspberry and cassis with a touch of pepper, it is international in style but not over the top.  $18

I believe that all of these wines are an excellent value for the money!

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Filed under Italian Red Wine, Italian Sparkling Wine, Italian White Wine, Italian Wine, Prosecco, Societa Agricola Marco&Nicolass Barollo, Veneto

Sparkling New Year

There is a sparkling wine for every occasion.  Here is a list of sparkling wines that I have tried over the last 12 months for you to enjoy in the New Year. The prices range from $300 for a Rose Champagne to $18 for Prosecco, and everything in between.Donnaachiara 006
Spumante Santé Brut IGT 100% Falanghina (Campania) Donna Chiara. The soil is chalky clay.  There are 2,500 plants per hectare and the harvest takes place the first week of October.  Fermentation lasts for 40 days. Illaria Petitto, owner of the winery, always refers to the vinification system used as the Martinotti method. (The Charmat method, as it is more popularly known, was invented by Federico Martinotti in Asti in the 1920’s.) Refermentation takes place at low temperatures in autoclaves for about 6 months. Then the wine matures on the dregs for another 2 months. The wine had very good bubbles; it is fresh, delicate with floral and citrus aromas and flavors. It is great as an aperitif and with fried foods. $20i_vini_03Prosecco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG Nino Franco. 100% Glera (traditionally called Prosecco) from classic production area hillside vineyards situated at medium to high altitude. Pressing, destemming, cooling of the must and fermentation takes place in steel tanks at controlled temperature. Second fermentation is in “cuvee close” (Charmat method). Other good producers are Bisol,  Mionetto and Bocelli $18

Franciacorta Gran Cuveé Saten Brut Bellavista, a special cuvee made from 100% Chardonnay selected from the best vineyard. It is made in the cremant style resulting in lower CO2 pressure, the defining feature of all Saten wines. It is produced in limited quantities using old small barrels as was once done in the past.  Saten is a blanc de blancs and can be made from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco up to 50%  $50Ferrari 2011 001Giulio Ferrari Riserva Del Fondatore 2001 Ferrari 100% Chardonnay This is a single vineyard reserve aged wine. The grapes are picked at the end of September in the Maso Pianizza, a vineyard owned by the Lunelli family who also own the winery. The vineyard is in the commune of Trento and is between 500 and 600 meters above sea level with a southwesterly exposure. They use selected yeasts from their own cultures. The wine spends at least 10 years on the lees.  They do not make this wine in every vintage. The first vintage was 1972. This may be the best Method Classico made in Italy.

Ferrari Perlé 2006 Brut, Method Classico, DOC Trento, Italy Vintage Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay.  The grapes are harvested by hand in the middle of September from a hillside owned by the Lunelli family (owners of Ferrari) around the Trento vineyards.  The vineyards are 300 to 700 meters above sea level with a southeasterly or southwesterly exposure. The wine remains for about 5 years on the lees. It is a crisp dry wine with hints of apple, almonds and a touch of toast. It is showing very well and in my opinion a bargain at $38.IMG_2471Perrier Jouët Cuvee Belle Epoque Rosé 2004. After vinification the wine is preserved separately, cru by cru, until blending. Chardonnay from the Grand Cruz Cramant  and Avize dominate the blend. The Pinot Noir comes from the Grand Crus Marlly and Verze. Still red wine makes up 9% of the blend. The wine is aged for 6 years before release.  This is the most expensive wine and in my opinion may be worth the money. It is an elegant full-bodied wine with great fruit and hints of strawberries and raspberries and a lot more going on. $300IMG_2467
Louis Roederer Brut Rosé 2007 NV 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. 20% of the wine is matured in oak barrels with weekly batonnage, there is no malolactic fermentation. The sangée method is used following skin contact, which lasts 5 to 8 days in the liquid phase. The wine ages for an average of 4 years in the cellar and another 6 months resting after disgorging to complete its maturity. Dosage varies between 8 to 10 g/l depending on the vintage. There are citrus aromas and hints of strawberry and peach. There was also a toasty spice aroma, which reminded me of gingerbread, and I was told that it was typical of the Roederer Rose.   $65

Champagne “Grand Siècle” Crand Cuvèe NV Laurent-Perrier (Trous-sur Marne) made from 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir.  12 of the most prestigious villages supply the grapes and only the best plots are selected, as are the finest musts from the pressings. I believe this is a blend of three different vintages. The blended wine is aged during the second fermentation on the yeast for about five years. It has tiny bubbles and complex aromas and flavors that make it go very well with food.IMG_2469
Pol Roger Rosé is based on their Brut Vintage, 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay to which is added before bottling and second fermentation about 15% still red wine (Pinot Noir) from the best crus of the Montagne de Remis. Dosage 9g/L. The wine is aged 7 years in the cellar before release. The wine has citrus aromas and flavors with hints of blood oranges and red fruit berries. $110

Paul Roger Cuvée “Sir Winston Churchill” 1999 Champagne Pol Roger created their Prestige Cuvée in homage to Sir Winston IMG_2540Churchill mindful of the qualities that he sought in his champagne: robustness, a full-bodied character and relative maturity. The exact blend is a closely guarded family secret.  It is a blend of Pinot Noir, which dominates, and Chardonnay.  Composed exclusively of grapes sourced from Grand Cru Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vineyards, which were already under vine during Churchill’s lifetime.
The must undergoes two débourbages (settlings), one at the press house immediately after pressing and the second, a débourbage à froid, takes place in stainless steel tanks at 6°C over a 24 hour period. Fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks kept to temperatures not exceeding 18°C, with each variety and each village kept separate until final blending. The wine undergoes a full malolactic fermentation. Secondary fermentation takes place in bottle at 9°C in the lowest Pol Roger cellars (33 meters below street level) where the wine is kept until it undergoes remuage (riddling) by hand, a rarity in Champagne nowadays. The very fine and
persistent mousse for which Pol Roger is renowned owes much to these deep, cool and damp cellars.  $200

Asti DOCG (formally know as Asti Spumante) is made from the Moscato Bianco grape, also known as Moscato Canelli.  It is a sparkling wine produced by using the Charmat method. It is low in alcohol, about 7%, and has aromas and flavors of peach, honey and tropical fruits. It should be drunk young because the wine is at its best when it is fresh.  From $14 to $20.  Producers include Bera, Gancia, Cinzano, and Martini and Rossi.
Some producers also make a Metodo Classico.02_vietti_moscato_dAsti
Moscato D’Asti DOCG is made from the same grape as Asti and has many of the same flavors and aromas. It is also low in alcohol around 6%. The difference is that this wine is only slightly sparkling (frizzante) and it is vintage dated while Asti is not. It should be drunk as close to the vintage date as possible. The two wines share the same DOCG. From $15 t0 $20
Producers: Michele Chiarlo, Fontanafredda, Elio Perrone, La Spinetta and Viettirosa_regale_vrBrachetto D’Acqui DOCG is a sweet wine and it is most famous as a red sparkling wine. Made by the Charmat method. It is made from the Brachetto grape. It has intense berry flavors and aromas, especially strawberry, and goes very well with chocolate and all kinds of chocolate desserts.
Producers include Braida $30 and Banfi-Rosa Regale $20

HAPPY  HOLIDAYS!

 

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Prosecco: A Wine for all Seasons

I’ve been thinking about and enjoying Prosecco a lot lately.  Over the last few months I have had the chance to meet several producers of Prosecco and taste their wines.  First there was a lunch with the marketing director of Mionetto, Enore Ceola.  A few weeks later I enjoyed lunch with Primo Franco of Nino Franco.  Then the region of the Veneto hired me to act as sommelier for a wine tasting in Grand Central Station, and Matteo Bisol was pouring his Bisol prosecco for visitors at the booth next to mine.  After these enc ounters, I wrote about the new DOC/DOCG laws for Prosecco on this blog.  Then Michele and I taught a wine and food class at De Gustibus at Macy’s – the first wine of the evening was Prosecco.  Most recently, I have just returned from the Veneto were I visited a few producers whose wine I had never tasted before.  It dawned on me that I drink a lot of Prosecco both here and in Italy.  Especially during the holiday season,  Michele serves dates stuffed with Grana Padano as an appetizer and we serve it with Prosecco. It seems to put everyone in a festive mood.  

 Prosecco is the largest selling sparkling (spumante) wine in Italy.  Italians drink it as an aperitif (no self- respecting Roman or Venetian goes out to dinner without having a glass of Prosecco first), with food, and to celebrate. When I am in Rome the first meal I have is at Da Giggetto in the Jewish Quarter. I always order the same dish, fried zucchini flowers stuffed with anchovies and mozzarella with a bottle of Prosecco. I think it goes great with any type of fried food and shellfish. 

Prosciutto di San Daniele

 In the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area of the Veneto we visited producers Bellenda and Le Vigne di Alice and drank Prosecco with Prosciutto di San Daniele, locally made salame, and Grana Padano cheese. It was a perfect combination and all you need is some bread for a great lunch!  

Cinzia Canzian of Vigna di Alice

 Both the Prosecco Spumante Brut from Bellenda and the Vigna di Alice Extra Dry are made from 100% Prosecco grapes (with the new laws Prosecco becomes a type of wine).   I had long conversations with Signor Cosmo of Bellenda  and Signora Cinzia Canzian of Vigna di Alice and enjoyed their wines.  We also visited the Bortolotti winery where Signor Bortolotti told us about their plans for expanding the winery and increasing their production.  He poured us a selection of his Prosecco, which I enjoyed very much. 

Many changes are taking place under Prosecco’s new DOC/DOCG designation which includes  a numbered label system. There will be a salmon-colored numbered label on the top of every bottle of prosecco DOCG. This seal has an identification number which makes each bottle traceable so that every phase of the production of a specific bottle is known. The producers I met also clarified for me the Rive. Rive are very special and defined hillside areas used in the production of specific wines. Each Rive carries the name of its local area and is subject to even more stringent production regulations.  The highest quality prosecco still comes from the very limited Cartizze area. 

Hillside Vineyard in Valdobbiadene

  It is interesting to note that all the producers I spoke to both here and in Conegliano-Valdobbiadene felt the same about the new DOC/DOCG regulations. They all agreed that it was very good and that they would protect Prosecco and improve the quality. 

 For more information on Prosecco and  the new DOC/DOCG laws see the following two articles. 

 Prosecco DOC/DOCG with Primo Franco and Matteo Bisol. 

www.charlesscicolone.wordpress.com 

 New DOC/DOCG Designation for Prosecco 

www.i-italy.org/blog/wine-and-food 

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Prosecco DOC/DOCG with Primo Franco and Matteo Bisol

Now that Prosecco has become DOC/DOCG, I wanted to find out what the producers thought about the new laws for Italy’s largest selling sparkling wine.  As luck would have it, within the space of two weeks, I was able to meet two top producers of prosecco and ask them all my questions and then compare their answers.

 Primo Franco, owner and wine maker for Nino Franco, one of the oldest and most respected Prosecco firms, and Tony Di Dio of Tony Di Dio Selections invited me to lunch to taste Primo’s wines.  I have known Primo for almost 20 years and have always found him very interesting and knowledgeable on the subject of prosecco.

Then, the region of the Veneto asked me to act as their sommelier at the Veneto exhibit in the Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Station.  Working at the stand next to mine was Matteo Bisol of the famous prosecco family. When we were not pouring wine we talked about prosecco in general and Bisol prosecco in particular.

It was fascinating to me that while Matteo Bisol is in his early twenties and Primo Franco who has been making prosecco for many years and come from different generations, their ideas on prosecco and the new laws were almost the same. They both had the same passion when they spoke about prosecco. 

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Matteo Bisol

Bisol makes a range of prosecco but my favorite is the “Cru Crede”.  I asked Matteo what made his prosecco special. He said that the average vineyard holding in the prosecco area is very small, about one hectare. Because of this many of the large producers purchase most of their grapes. Bisol owns 50 hectares of DOCG vineyards including three hectares in the Cartizze zone with the highest and most expensive vineyards. Owning their own vineyards he felt gave them quality control over the whole wine making process and therefore a better prosecco.

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Bisol Prosecco

             I asked Primo Franco to explain the new DOC/DOCG laws. He said that the Conegliano/Valdobbiadene zone, the historical area around these two towns, would now become DOCG. The zones that were IGT would now become DOC, and the rest IGT. This DOC would include the 9 provinces of Treviso: Vicenza, Padova, Belluno, Venezia, Pordenone, Udine, Gorizia and Trieste.   Only the producers in the DOC and DOCG zones will be allowed to call their wine Prosecco, while those in the IGT zone will have to call it Glera. The term Prosecco will be used to identify the region that the wine comes from and the grape will be Glera. This would all take place with the 2009 harvest.

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Diego Cusumano and Primo Franco after lunch

Bringing more production zones under the DOC/DOCG regulations should make the quality of Prosecco improve.  Many producers in the IGT zones have not followed traditional methods leading to an inferior product that confused the consumer. The new laws will protect the producers who have worked honestly and respectfully following the traditions of the terroir, and the winemaking heritage that comes from this wine area.

Under the new law, a producer cannot make a “Rose Prosecco” (which I always saw as a contradiction in terms) nor have the words Prosecco Blend on the label. Prosecco is now produced all over the world, even in Brazil. Both Primo and Matteo hoped that the new laws would preserve Prosecco’s identify and integrity and that the new regulations will help people to understand that true Prosecco only comes from the DOC/DOCG zone

They both believed that the best Prosecco is produced in the Conegliano/Valdobbiadene zone.  However, they feel that there is a difference in the Prosecco produced in Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Valdobbiadene produces lighter, more elegant wines with a mineral character. It gets more sun as it faces southwest and the soil is chalk and limestone so the wines must go deeper to get water. This area makes the best spumante.   In Conegliano, the soil is clay and much heavier which gives the wine more body and makes it more rustic. It is closer to the Dolomites in the north and makes better frizzante wines. Both own vineyards in Valdobbiadene.  I tend to agree with them.

.           It is interesting to note that 2009 has seen a dramatic fall in the price of grapes in Italy. Prices have decreased between 10% and 50%. The only variety that has not dropped in price is the prosecco grape from the new DOCG, Conegliand/Valdobbiadene! Even with the price of grapes remaining high and the lower yields from the new laws they did not think the price of prosecco would go up. They also did not feel that the lower yields would have an effect on the type of prosecco produced. Both felt that prosecco would keep its traditional character.

I also noted that both served their prosecco in a white wine glass and not in a flute. A flute is used for champagne not for prosecco!

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Prosecco: Great Year-Round

This post has been adapted from an article I wrote for the Italian/American Project. The full article entitled “Prosecco and Panetone: A Perfect Combination” can be found here.

When I visit Rome, the first restaurant I go to is either Da Giggetto in the Jewish Quarter or Il Matriciano on the via Gracchi near he Vatican. I do not need a menu and always order the same appetizer, Fiori di zucchine ripiene con mozzarella e acciughe (fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella and anchovies). This goes perfectly with a bottle of sparkling Prosecco, a wine I enjoy with fried foods and with a variety of snacks.

Prosecco is the largest selling sparkling wine in Italy and Italians drink it all the time. They have it in the afternoon at the cafes, before dinner, and at celebrations such as weddings and birthdays. In fact, no self-respecting Roman or Venetian would go out to dinner without first having a glass of Prosecco.

Prosecco is made in the Veneto about an hour by car from Venice to the south of Cortina D’Ampezzo (the famous ski resort) in the Dolomites, to the north in the province of Treviso. The two towns that form the DOC limits for Prosecco production are Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Prosecco can be made in others areas, but the best come from here.

In addition to the sparkling variety, it can also be made secco, as a dry, still wine. It is difficult to find still Prosecco because there is such a large demand for the sparkling that there are not enough grapes for the still variety. The first time I was in Valdobbiadene, the producers called still Prosecco tranquillo (tranquil) to distinguish it from the sparkling. There is amabile (sweetish) Prosecco and dolce (sweet). The sparking can be produced in two types: frizzante (slightly sparkling) or spumante (sparkling). It can be Brut or Extra Dry. Brut is dryer than Extra Dry. It is made from the Prosecco grapes (85- 100%) with the addition of Verdiso, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio,and Chardonnay up to 15%. Most Prosecco is non-vintage.

Sparkling Prosecco is made by the Charmat method, meaning that they are given their second fermentation in a temperature controlled stainless steel tank rather than in the bottle.

The average vineyard holdings in the DOC area are very small and most large producers have to buy their grapes from many different vineyard owners. The Cartizze is a sub-zone in the heart the DOC area: 106 hectares of vineyards in the municipality of Valdobbiadene among the steepest slopes of San Pietro di Barbozzo, Santa Stefano and Saccol. This is a Super Cru and it is divided into very small plots with many different owners. Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze will cost two to three times as much as regular Prosecco.

Recently I went to a Prosecco tasting in the Time Warner Center in Manhattan and was able to taste a number sparkling Prosecco’s. Here are a couple of the producers whose wines I enjoyed:

Bisol has over 50 hectares of vineyards, including 3 in the prize Cartizze zone. Their Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Spumante Brute “Crede” ($24) is a special Cru which gets its name from the clayey soils and subsoils known as crede. It is made from Prosecco, Verdiso and Pinot Bianco grapes. Their Prosecco di Cartizze is also good ($48).

Mionetto‘s Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumente Extra Dry ($20) and their Vadobbiadene Spumante Superiore di Cartizze Dry ($40).

I was invited a few days later to a seminar: Sergio Component Tasting and Luncheon (at Remi Restaurant). The speaker was Sergio Mionetto, one of the owners of this family-operated winery. We tasted Mionetto Sergio, a sparkling wine that can not be called Prosecco because it only has 70% Prosecco di Valdobbiadene and such grapes as Verdiso, Bianchetta, Perera and Chardonnay. All of these grapes come from the Veneto.

Signor Mionetto is a knowledgable and entertaining speaker. He spoke about both Prosecco in general and his own wines. One of the most interesting parts for me was the component tasting. Each one of the grapes that go into Mionetto Sergio ($24) was tasted as a still wine. Then we tasted them all combined: the Sergio base wine in its tranquil state and finally, the Sparkling Sergio Cuvee. It was very informed to see how each grape is necessary to make the final blend. We were also served a Mionetto Sergio Rose’ ($27)

Mionetto’s production is more than 1,000,000 bottles.

Mionetto also uses a crown cap closure (like the ones on beer bottles) on its Prosecco. We were informed that this was the closure used in the Italian market for Prosecco. It also is used in Champagne before disgorging. It keeps the wine fresher and prevents it from becoming corked. I do not see anything wrong with the crown cap for this type of wine.

Here are some more Prosecco producers and wines I enjoy drinking:

Adami – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumante Dry “Vigneto Giardino” 2007 ($21)

Cantine Maschio – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Brut “Maschio del Cavalieri”($18)

Zardetto – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Spumante Dry “Zeta” 2007 ($22).

Cantina Colli Del Soligo – Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbianene Spumante Brut ($18 ).

TIP: For a perfect summer drink, blend white peach juice with Prosecco for that famous drink invented at Harry’s Bar in Venice: The Bellini.

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