Above: My friend and client Luca Ferraro (left, with Montello and Colli Asolani consortium president Franco Dalla Rosa) was indoctrinated last week into the brotherhood of Montello and Colli Asolani wines. Watching the video of the ceremony and admiring its solemnity and ritualistic grab, I couldn’t help but be moved by these hillside growers’ passion for their wines and traditions. Here’s a link for the video on his blog.
“Seventy million bottles are made in the [Prosecco] DOCG each year, compared with around 230 million in the DOC region,” wrote Rosie Davenport last week in offlicense news, a wine trade publication that covers the wine and spirits retail industry in Britain.
“With such vast differences in production between the DOC and DOCG tiers, it’s easy to see why the UK and other markets have been flooded with products of varying quality. And despite its staggering success, there are concerns that poorly made, volume-grabbing wines, coupled with the kind of kamikaze pricing that drove cava’s reputation to the bargain basement, could put the brakes on a category currently proving it can outpace much of the competition on shelf.”
My friend and client Luca Ferraro (above) brought the article to my attention this morning. Luca, who makes Prosecco in Asolo, is one of the many small-production hillside growers who produce premium bottles of Prosecco. Over the last four years, he — like his counterparts in Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, have watched growers in the flatlands of the Piave river plains expand their Prosecco production to record levels.
When the Prosecco DOCG was created in 2009, it was intended to protect growers and bottlers in the historic hillside growing areas. With their steep slopes, maritime ventilation, and Morainic subsoils, they deliver the highest quality Prosecco. The rationale — and I remember distinctly discussing this with a top grower in 2009 — was that the DOCG would help the consumer to distinguish the best products from the mediocre wines grown in the flatlands where farm crops were once grown and have now all but disappeared.
But anecdotally (as evidenced by the interviews with leading British retailers), it seems that consumers are being drawn to the lower-priced labels they find in the super market, more often than not produced outside the DOCG and also labeled as Prosecco thanks to the sweeping DOC created when the DOCG went into effect (the DOC, btw, also allows Friulian growers to label their wine as Prosecco).
On my recent visit to Valdobbiadene, I spoke with one of the appellation’s top growers about this very issue. And he literally hung his head and said that the situation is dismal.
The Prosecco DOCG consortium hasn’t done much to help the situation either. When I met earlier this year in Houston with consortium president Giancarlo Vettorello, I asked him to describe the association’s mission. When he answered that its mission was to disseminate information about the higher quality of the DOCG, I then asked him what English-language media the consortium planned to use to achieve its mission. He said that none were currently in place.
As we head into the holiday season, when sparkling wine sales see their biggest numbers, fine wine retailers on both sides of the Atlantic will surely be watching the pricing and availability of Prosecco DOC wine at super market chains.
Was the Prosecco DOCG a mistake?