Just over ten years ago, in 2007, the Cru Bourgeois ranking system was in tatters. The system brought in to give consumers a better view of the great and the good of the red wines of the Médoc (outside the 1855 classifications) was at breaking point. Legal battles, rumours of nepotism by ruling councils, and even bribery had some Châteaux crying foul and walking away. How did it get to that?
What a brand Prosecco is, eh? You can’t move a muscle in a wine aisle without seeing all these labels and discounts and offers flying at you. The UK loves its bubbles and the boom in Prosecco in the last 10 years has been as unprecedented as it is quite clearly unsustainable. Huge swathes of industrial land in North East Italy has now been signed off as “Prosecco” territory, with most producing bog standard paint stripper that’s got some bubbles in it, so job done I guess.
But a recent trip I took to the small DOCG of Asolo in the heartland of old Prosecco proved to me there’s still a beating heart of producers making the quality of wines that will keep this quintessential Italian bubbles in the hearts of wine lovers for many years to come.
WHAT’S ITALIAN FOR TERROIR?
The producers I met here are genuinely enthusiastic about showing the world their product. While their industrial, bulk-producing neighbours in the flats and valleys would prefer you didn’t see what they’re doing, the producers of Asolo are keen to show of the terroir, the gorgeous rolling hills, and the…shock…old vine Glera!!!
My first trip with Bele Casel had me bumping down the road to the vineyards in an old school Fiat 500. My time at Villa Sandi had me saddled up and cycling through the vineyards to get a closer look. It’s the land here that gives them the edge over the generic fizz, and they can’t wait to show it off.
TOURIST BOARD ITALY
It’s also picture-postcard beautiful round here. Sounds a bit ropey, but when the plague used to hit Venice, all the rich buggers would head inland to their country retreats….in and around Asolo. So you can’t move for stately villas and gorgeous town squares.
I did a cheeky tasting on the second morning at the trade associations headquarters. Not a terrible view of the UNESCO town of Asolo from the window, I think you’ll agree J
WINE AT THE FRONT LINE
I’m an incredibly amateur history buff. So when I hear historical related facts about and area, I near as damn it lose my shit if I’m honest. And what a place Asolo is for that.
Asolo is separated from the other (larger) DOCG of Prosecco, Conegliano-Valdobiaddene, by the Piave River. During World War One it was the front line, with the Italians dug into Asolo, and the Austro-Hungarians on the other side. Wandering round the cellars of Villa Sandi and hearing how the wine got cleared out for the Italian Army to use as an HQ was magical for me. I am that weird, but I don’t care.
Wonder if all the wine made it back into the cellars after the Italian victory in the 1918 Battle of Piave? Doubt it! 😉
I visited Asolo in mid September 2018. A full trade-focused write up of the trip will be arriving shortly on The Buyer.