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.
My first love in wine is always Piemonte. It’s where, about 15 years ago, I first stood in a vineyard and thought; “this is a bit of alright, isn’t it?” Over the years I’ve made my way through countless bottles of Barbera, Dolcetto, and Arneis, even the occasional Barolo or Barbaresco when the wallet stretched that far!
Grappa has to be one of the most infamous spirits in the world. So many people scrunch their face up at the mere mention of the stuff. I used to do exactly the same. My first experiences of it were bottles of moonshine distilled by mates who were big into their Moscato D’Asti production, and not so much into picking their heads and tails properly. It was rank stuff really, and was the main cause of quite a few hurried trips to the bathroom. But, as I found out during a recent tasting, the good stuff (as with so much in the spirit world) is where it all makes sense.
So last, but not least, in the winemaker profiles for the Lazenne WineCheck Giveaway is a very good friend of mine. I first met Gianni Doglia about 12 years ago, when my mum and dad first started making trips out to Piemonte. Not sure if he knows this, but it was actually him and his family that first inspired me to get more involved with wine as a hobby. Infectious passion and enthusiasm, always smiling (except when it hails!), and the most glorious view from a cellar I’d ever seen. I’m so glad he’s a part of this.
My sister, in marrying an Italian bloke, set us all up for two weddings. The first, a few weeks back at the York and Albany in London, was a lovely day, with beautiful food and drink and rather tame and sketchy brother-of-the-bride speech. Last weekend we flew out to Northern Italy for the Italian do.
Before I went away to Piemonte for the summer, a fella called Rob had been in touch with me about meeting up and talking about his wine business and the very distinct products he sells. There are funny laws in Europe so I’m not sure whether to call it Cherry Wine, or Cherry-Infused Wine, or whatever. All I know for certain is we met up last week in Camden, had a taste, and a good natter.
Where the bloody hell has the time gone? The wife and I have to drive home next week, back to Blighty and start real life all over again! Time has 100% got away from me since I’ve been here and, as per bloody usual, I’m rushing to do everything I need to do in the last few days. There was no way I could have left here without seeing my mate, Pier.