Above: Until the 1970s, before pressurized “autoclave” tanks were introduced into the appellation, most Prosecco was double-fermented in bottle “on its lees.” The resulting wine was gently sparkling, cloudy, and still had the “fondo” (sediment) in the bottom of the bottle. Even when I lived and worked in the Veneto in the 1990s, it was a lot easier to find Prosecco “col fondo” (with sediment) than it is today. The traditional glass for Prosecco is the one pictured above.
Tracie P and I got to experience so many great tastings on our recent trip to Italy but none was more thrilling than our appointment with the Colfondisti, a loosely gathered group of Prosecco producers who have returned to the fondo (i.e., the bottom, pun intended) of their tradition, producing bottle-fermented, lees-aged Prosecco — the way their grandfathers did it and the salty, crunchy, utterly delicious way that Tracie P and I like it. The event was organized by an old friend of mine and colfondo bottler, Riccardo Zanotto (who knows me from my coverband days, when I spent three summers playing 6 nights a week in a zone that some call the “Sinistra Piave,” the left bank of the Piave river).
Above: The village of Rolle (not Passo Rolle, the mountain pass, btw) lies at the epicenter of the Prosecco appellation. Nearly equidistant from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Most locals would argue that Conegliano is where Prosecco was born as an appellation, even though Valdobbiadene has eclipsed its sister village. Our tasting was held in a home in the center of the village.
We tasted five bottlings of sparkling Prosecco, from different vintages. And then we tasted the new Prosecco (still), by one of the producers, from the 2010 vintage — in other words, wine that had yet to be double-fermented.
Bele Casel 2009 Prosecco
Luca Ferraro’s wine is made in Asolo (a more recently authorized Prosecco appellation, not far from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene series of valleys). Among the colfondisti, some serve their wines torbido (literally, turbid or cloudy), while others serve theirs limpido (limpid or clear). Luca is a torbidista, who prefers the sediment in the wine. Very fresh nose, clean, and with some savory notes. Some yeasty notes in the mouth, dominated by good white fruit. Balanced acidity. (Luca is extremely active in social media, he speaks English well, and his wines are present in the U.S. market.)
Cantina Gatti 2009 Prosecco
Carolina Gatti’s wine was the one that reminded me the most of the Prosecco I used to drink in the late 80s and early 90s: it was super salty and crunchy. Some citrus notes and lots of savory on the rich nose. Lighter in the mouth with salty and strong citrus notes. Bright, bright acidity the way I like it! Carolina is also very active in social media and she authors a wonderful blog called Rabosando.
Above: “Zuel” denotes “sella” or “saddle” in local dialectal inflection and it is a topographic designation that applies to the many “saddles” or gentle hills that shape the appellation. In case you were confused, there’s a saddle “di qua” (over here) and another saddle “di là” (over there).
Costadilà 2008 Prosecco
Ernesto Cattel is perhaps the most savvy marketer of the colfondisti and his wine has good representation in some of the bigger U.S. markets. He is of the limpido persuasion (although we always mix up his wines when we drink them at home). If you follow along here, you’ve seen his wine on my blog before. His wine was perhaps the most balanced, very clean on the nose and the mouth, good acidity and good saltiness balanced by honest fruit. He’s done a lot to document the origins of Prosecco Colfòndo but unfortunately his work is not available online. According to Ernesto, it was the legendary Venetian oste (tavern-keeper) Mauro Lorenzon who popularized the term colfòndo (with sediment), giving producers their battle cry in the face of the industrial and commercial autoclave production that now dominates the appellation and brand. Ernesto will be releasing an orange-wine, skin-contact Prosecco from the 2009 vintage.
La Basseta Casa Belfi 2009 Prosecco
Maurizio Donadi is a locally based enologist who makes Prosecco Colfòndo as a labor amoris. He currently experimenting with Effective Microorganism ceramic chips (above) as a means of controlling unwanted aromas and flavors in unsulfured wines. I liked his wine a lot but it may not be for everyone (you have to be careful not to ingest the chip!). Very nice citrus and white fruit nose and mouth. Very clean and with good acidity. Very interesting to talk to Maurizio and taste his wines with him. As you can see above, he is of the torbido persuasion.
Zanotto 2009 Prosecco
I’m so glad to have reconnected with Riccardo and I love his wines. A highly successful businessman (in the furniture business), he makes this wine out of passion and he’s just one of those folks whose generosity of heart and happy spirit can’t help but rub off on you. He bottles wine that his uncle grows in family-owned vineyards and his wine — served limpido — was probably the most elegant of all the wines we tasted. Beautiful nose, very fresh and very clean, fantastic balance of white fruit and savory notes. I could drink this wine every day.
And the still 2010 Prosecco, you ask?
You’ll just have to be like Tracie P and me and go to Rolle to taste it!
Special thanks to Enrico who hosted the tasting in his home in Rolle.