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.
For years and years the word “Champagne” was used as a synonym for sparkling wine in the UK. Any sparkling wine, and that was testament to the fame and marketing prowess of the Champagne producers. It’s an aspirational product that everyone wanted to be drinking. Then Prosecco kicked open the doors with its shiny Italian leather size 9s and gave the UK public what they wanted; fresh, easy going bubbles for half the price.
For nearly a decade now, the sales figures of sparkling wine have soared over 10% per year on the back of the Venetian juggernaut. But this year that growth slowed up a touch, leading a few wine industry commentators to question whether this is the year the bubble will burst.
I’d argue that’s been happening for a while now.
I saw this one in the press this last week just gone, and I reminded myself about it today as I was chatting with a winemaker from Friuli, the spiritual home of top drawer Pinot Grigio. Asda, one of the big four supermarkets in the UK, have devised an interesting way of getting around the rising price of the UK’s tipple of the decade, Prosecco…
I’m assuming that most of you will have watched Pulp Fiction before. Probably still up there as one of my favourite films going. The dialogue is what carries it, as it’s almost impossible to think of a scene that isn’t instantly quotable. One of the most iconic though is when Samuel L Jackson character, Jules, is asking a (soon to be dead) interviewee what Marsellus Wallace looks like. He’s so nervous that he keeps on saying “What?!”, which is pisses off Jules somewhat, and he gets dared, at gunpoint, to “say ‘what’ one more time, I dare you, I double dare you motherfucker!”. Well recently I’ve felt Jules pain a bit…
So I’ve had a week off writing the blog as I ate far too much and drank…nah actually…I drank exactly the right amount! But as everyone seems to be throwing out pieces on which Champagnes to waste your money on, I thought I’d chip in with a couple of tips on what to have at all your parties.
Had an absolutely fantastic guest round this weekend to join us for the Prosecco tasting. Our mate Alessandro, winemaker from Roca Neira winery in Piemonte, is over for a couple of months and we caught up over a couple of beers at Belgo’s, and then back home to risotto and Prosecco. Genuinely professional touch this week!
Prosecco is usually used as that perfect “start of the evening” drink. It’s tasty, clean, crisp, a great palate cleanser, and most of all, completely inoffensive. I can’t work out there’s much you can dislike about the taste of it. Feel free to comment if you disagree, but I think you’re being horribly picky if you do!