@ZanottoColFondo at Spicy House, best pairing for Asian imho

Move over Josmeyer, Prosecco Col Fondo (in this case, Zanotto) is the new Riesling when it comes to pairing with Asian cuisine imho. Its refreshing saltiness and crunchy mouthfeel just take it over the top… Dinner last night at the excellent Spicy House in San Diego…

dan dan noodle

eggplant and green beans

twice cooked pork with leeks

beef rool

thanks again, Mary, for taking such good care of us! :)

What is Prosecco Col Fondo (Colfòndo) @biondivino?

We’ll be tasting Riccardo Zanotto’s Prosecco Colfondo in San Francisco on Friday, August 17 at the amazing Ceri Smith’s Biondivino from 6-8 p.m.

The following post was originally published in March 2011 and provides some background on what exactly Prosecco Col Fondo is…

I’ll be at Sotto in Los Angeles tomorrow and Wednesday nights (August 14-15). Hope to see you in SF or LA! Thanks for reading…

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.

The Union of Authentic Grape Growers and Winemakers (and the best soppressa I’ve ever tasted)

Alfonso and I were dinner guests last night in the home of Stefano and Katerina Menti who live just above the village of Gambellara (Vicenza). They were hosting the first-ever meeting of the new Unione Viticoltori Autentici — Union of Authentic Grape Growers and Winemakers. The acronym UVA spells grape in Italian.

From left, clockwise: Eleonora Costa and her husband Luigi Armanino of Crealto (Monferrato); Nicola Ferrari of Monte Santoccio (Valpolicella); Stefano and Katerina Menti of Menti (Gambellara); Francesco Cirelli of Cirelli (Abruzzo); Alfonso; and my good friend Riccardo Zanotto, producer and distributor (Treviso).

Although Riccardo kept joking that the get-together felt like a meeting of Freemasons, you couldn’t help feeling that these young winemakers shared a sense of esotericism. After all, in a world dominated by the Zonins (literally down the road) and the Gajas (at the upper end of the scale), there’s not much place for authentic wine.

Everyone was showing their best wines and there wasn’t a loser in the bunch. But the star of the evening was Riccardo’s soppressa from Tuscany. It was easy to slice, like a conventionally made soppressa, but once on your knife, it was more like a chunky pâté — hands down the best soppressa I’ve ever had. “Pig. All it has in it,” said Riccardo, “is pig.”

I loved all the wines and wish I had time this morning to post my notes on each one but I’ve got to head over the fair now.

Two highlights were…

Stefano Menti’s gently sparkling lees-aged Garganega was the type of wine I wish Tracie P and I could drink every day. A balance of salty and bright citrus and white stone fruit, chewy and fresh… fanfriggin’ delicious.

And the old-vine Grignolino by Crealto was fantastic… Fresh and bright on the nose, tannic but sill very light in the mouth, definitely one of the top 5 expressions of Grignolino that I’ve ever tasted (and if you’ve only tasted commercial Grignolino this is a good benchmark for what traditional Grignolino can be).

Of course, you can’t have a meeting of a new secret society without a secret society dog…

I’m off to my first day at the Italian wine industry fair Vinitaly… stay tuned!

A new Prosecco category emerges: colfòndo

Above: Costadilà is a member of new group of winemakers who make “Prosecco colfòndo.” Note the sediment at the bottom of the bottle (photo taken on our dining room table).

Thrilling news of a new group of Prosecco producers who make their wines colfòndo (con il fondo, i.e., aged on their lees and thus with sediment) came to my attention via Mr. Franco Ziliani’s brand spanking new blog devoted to the world of Italian sparkling wines, Le Mille Bolle (A Thousand Bubbles).

In many ways, Prosecco is the wine that started it all for me so many years ago when I started writing about wine. Back in 1998 when I got my first gig as an enojournalist, it was with a feature story on Prosecco. I know the appellation well because I spent three summers touring the provinces of Treviso and Belluno with a cover band.

To my palate, lees-aged Prosecco is the real Prosecco (not the yeasted banana candy crap that we see too often in this country). Lees-aging gives the wine the saltiness that makes Prosecco raised in Valdobbiadene stand apart from the crowd. I love it and am dying to taste more.

Above: That’s me in the middle rehearsing in the famous Birreria at Pedavena where we played 4 sets a night, 3 nights a week (no kidding). I was in my 20s and the music and beer (often unpasteurized, btw) flowed all night long. How do you like the hair?

Dulcis in fundo (pun intended): one of the producers, Riccardo Zanotto, used to come hear us play back in the day and we shared more than one beer together…

Che bei ricordi! What great memories of rock ‘n’ roll with the Dolomites as our stage and salty, gritty, utterly delicious Prosecco!