Late spring freeze adds to Italian winemakers’ woes.

Above: a farm in Montalcino burns hay to protect vineyards during a late spring freeze this week across central and northern Italy (image via the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium Facebook).

According to a widely disseminated blog post by the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium, temperatures in the appellation have dropped to nearly 15° F. this week. In order to protect their vineyards from frost damage, many growers have been burning hay to warm the vines (as in the photo above, published this week by the consortium).

This late spring freeze comes at a delicate time for winemakers across central Italy as well as the northern regions, where there have also been widespread reports of damage. Once the plants have begun to bud, an extreme freeze can arrest formation of the clusters.

According to mainstream media reports, this year’s freeze is the latest in a string of three consecutive vegetative cycles that have been affected by frost damage. But the latest extreme weather event appears to be the worst.

The freeze couldn’t have come at a worse time for winemakers. Nearly all of Italy is still on complete lockdown and restaurants and cafés remained closed except for take-away orders. To give you a sense of the restrictions for private citizens living in small towns, most are not allowed to travel beyond a five-kilometer radius from their homes. (Earlier this week, restaurateurs in Rome clashed with police as they protested the continued restrictions.)

“In the middle of the night,” wrote the editors of the Brunello Consortium’s social media, “producers banded together in an effort to keep the temperatures from dipping too low in the vineyards. This is an important period [for grape growing] because the vines are at the beginning of their vegetative [productive] phase.”

The Prosecco ColFondo “10 Commandments.” A new Prosecco ColFondo farmers union takes shape.

Last month, a new consortium of Prosecco ColFondo producers was born in Treviso province, Prosecco’s spiritual homeland: ColFondo Agricolo or the ColFondo Farmers Union.

The project, spearheaded by ColFondo advocate and Italian wine authority Gianpaolo Giacobbo, includes “the 10 ColFondo Agricolo Commandments,” production requirements and guidelines for members (below).

For those of you who missed the ColFondo movement that began to take shape in the late 2000s, ColFondo is a pseudo-historic designation for a style of Prosecco that has been re-fermented in bottle and released without disgorgement. The name means con il fondo or with its sediment. (Most Prosecco is made using the tank method whereby the wines are re-fermented in pressurized tanks and then disgorged before bottling.)

The genre represents a link to the not so distant past before the international Prosecco boom of the 1990s. These were the wines that were produced and drunk by the grandparents of the current generation of Prosecco ColFondo producers. Over the last 15 years or so, the style has been embraced by growing legion of small family-owned estates and Italian wine enthusiasts.

“Farmers ColFondo,” wrote Gianpaolo, the group’s tasting committee chairperson, on the Slow Wine blog, “is a slow wine, a wine that respects time and history. It’s a wine that requires patience to be born and patience to be enjoyed. It’s not a drink but rather a sublimation of a human being’s life — the life of a grape grower. It’s the bottle that’s never missing on the table. Without filters, it tells the story of experience and hard work, honesty and sweat, freshness and simplicity.”

The following family farms currently belong to the new group of growers and winemakers: Bastia, Bele Casel, Ceotto Vini, Fratelli Collavo, Leo Vanin, Malibran, Martignago Vignaioli, Masot, Miotto, Mongarda, Moro Sergio, Ruge, Siro Merotto, and Terre Boscaratto.

All members must adhere to the union’s precepts in the form of “10 Commandments” (below, translation mine).

The 10 ColFondo Agricolo Commandments

  1. Your grapes must be grown in the Treviso hills where hillside vines have always ripened in the sun.
  2. You must produce your sparkling wine by refermenting it in bottle without disgorgement.
  3. The wine must be bottled between March and June in the year following harvest and it must be released for sale the following year.
  4. You must use a crown cap.
  5. You must use the following grape varieties: a minimum of 70 percent Glera blended with other historic varieties — like Perera, Verdiso, Bianchetta, Boschera, and Rabbiosa — making up a maximum of 30 percent in the blend.
  6. You must use grapes you have grown on your own property. And you must personally select the fruit for the wine.
  7. You mustn’t fear time: these wines deliver pleasant surprises after years of bottle aging.
  8. You must indicate the vintage of the wine with a colored paper strip on the bottle [see below]. The color of the strip will be changed for each harvest.
  9. You must drink Colfondo the way you like it. Cloudy or clear, the choice is yours alone.
  10. You must serve the wines to your friends together with a sopressa [a classic salame of Treviso province], the perfect pairing.

As Gianpaolo notes in his post for Slow Wine, ColFondo wines must be “artisanal with a little bit of rock ‘n’ roll” in the mix.
Photos by Arcangelo Piai via the Slow Wine blog.

Happy Easter from the Parzen family.

Happy Easter, everyone! That’s a photo, above, from the girls’ Easter in 2019.

This year, we’ll be back at their grandparents house in Orange, Texas for the holiday. We can’t wait!

And no Easter would be complete without a song from my favorite Easter movie, Easter Parade (1948) with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire (below).

And btw, Passover is still on so Parzen family also wishes you a happy Passover! Chag sameach!