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The DOCG zone of Prosecco Superiore is on a hilly strip of land beside the Piave river between the small towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, that sits between the Dolomites and the Adriatic. Valdobbiadene is the heart of prosecco production with a concentration of hill slopes up to 500 metres, including the top prosecco, Cartizze.
The area is set like a jewel amidst the steepest hills around San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano and Saccol. The area supplies the best grapes in the Appellation. The hill of Cartizze is a 300-meters-high vineyard of 107 hectares of vines, owned by 140 growers. The Prosecco from its grapes, of which comparatively little is produced, is widely considered to be of the highest quality, or even the “Grand Cru“ of Prosecco. Accordingly, a hectare of Cartizze grape land was estimated to be worth in excess of one million US dollars in 2008, and its value was estimated to have increased to 1.5–2 million euros in 2015, the most for a vineyard in Italy. The sparkling wine produced here has recently been named by producers as Superiore di Cartizze, without mentioning Prosecco on the front label to further emphasize its territory.
According to a local legend, Cartizze grapes traditionally were harvested last, as the vines were situated on steep slopes and hard to reach, which led to vintners discovering that this extended ripening period improved the flavour. Nonetheless, in a blind tasting at the 2006 Vinitaly trade fair, Cartizze were ranked consistently behind “normal” Prosecco.
Pliny the Elder and Leonardo di Vinci both wrote about the “powerful” wines from Valtellina, a 50km alpine hillside northeast of Lake Como.
Here, an impressive 2500km of stone walls terrace the slopes so that viticulture can occur, and the vines are almost all Nebbiolo, the most terroir-expressive red grape in Italy. While a lot has changed in terms of winemaking method, the simple fact remains: these steep, sun-baked slopes were excellent for wine in Roman times, and they’re excellent for wine now. Never heard of Valtellina? You’re not alone. What it lacks in name recognition, it more than delivers in uniqueness, elegance and aromatics.*
The sub-zones of Valtellina Superiore are:
Maturity only after 3/5 years. It is ruby red tending to garnet, with an intense aroma that is enhanced with ageing. Harmonious, dry taste, slightly tannic, it is aged for at least 24 months. Reaches optimal maturity after four to five years and if kept well in the winery it can be stored in bottles for a long time. It goes particularly well with red meats, game, cheeses and typical Valtellina cold cuts.**
Ruby red tending to garnet, this wine has an intense and particular bouquet that improves with age. The prevalent use of Rossola and Pignola grape varieties gives it the distinctive fragrance of almonds. It is suitable for ageing in the bottle, like all Valtellina wines. This is the classic red wine for savoury dishes, including “risotto”, “polenta taragna”, “sciatt”, stews and local cheeses.**
Ruby red tending to garnet, it is stronger than other wines that, with ageing, tend to soften. As a young wine it is pleasantly tart and lively, but over the years acquires softness and elegance. It is considered the most austere of Valtellina Superiore wines. It goes well with roasted red meats, game and mature cheeses.**
this differs from other Valtellina wines due to its lighter colour, but this does not prevent it from improving with ageing. A nice fragrance, dry flavour, harmonious and round. Fresh floral sensations make this wine appreciable even when it is young. It goes well with red meats and mature cheeses, and is mainly proposed in combination with the valley’s famous dishes: “pizzoccheri”, “bresaola”, “violino di capra”.**
ruby red tending to garnet. The taste is harmonious, dry and velvety. Produced in limited quantities (25 hectares of vineyards), the Maroggia is linked to the figure of Benigno De ‘Medici who in the mid-fifteenth century stayed in this area where he found welcoming hospitality and refreshment, particularly appreciating the local wine, calling it “dulce et firmum” i.e. full-bodied and sweet. Like all Valtellina Superiore wines, it goes well with local savoury dishes, particularly meats and cheese.**
Sforzato di Valtellina (locally known as Sfursat di Valtellina) is the second DOCG appellation in Valtellina. It can be produced in all the Valtellina Superiore sub-zones and the difference is that it is a dry passito wine (made from partially dried grapes). This brings it very much in line with Veneto’s Amarone della Valpolicella. The classic Sforzato di Valtellina wine is full-bodied, high in alcohol and rich in flavor.
Sforzato di Valtellina offers complex aromas of sweet spices (licorice, cloves and cinnamon), stewed plums, prunes, raisins, and the tell-tale hint of tar and roses which gives away its base ingredient, Chiavennasca (the Valtellinese name for Nebbiolo).
A minimum alcohol of 14%. Can’t be vinified until December the first.
The wine’s name (which can be written as either Sforzato or Sfursat on labels) is derived from the traditional method of (s)forzatura delle uve , literally the ‘forcing of the grapes’. This refers to obtaining a higher alcohol level and sugar concentration in the grapes via the process of drying.
Only the best grapes are selected for Sforzato production, any rotten or damaged berries must be removed as the drying process will only serve to concentrate their imperfections. The whole bunches are laid out on straw mats in well-ventilated cellars (aided by the region’s breva wind), where they remain for three or four months. During this time the fruit loses about 40% of its weight, mostly from water evaporation, which concentrates the berries’ natural sugars and effectively turns juice into sweet grapey syrup.
After fermentation, the wine spends two years maturing between barrel and bottle. The result is a rich, full-bodied red with intense concentration and an alcohol content of around 14.5%. Some winemakers have recently introduced smaller oak barrels to the process, leading to even more depth and complexity in these wines.
Prosecco Superiore Producers
Appellations Prosecco Superiore di Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG and Superiore di Cartizze DOCG are:
Valtellina Superiore Producers
The DOCG zone of Prosecco Superiore is on a hilly strip of land. Valdobbiadene is the heart of prosecco production with a concentration of hill slopes up to 500 metres, including the top prosecco, Cartizze.
Pliny the Elder and Leonardo di Vinci both wrote about the “powerful” wines from Valtellina, a 50km alpine hillside northeast of Lake Como. The vines are almost all Nebbiolo, the most terroir-expressive red grape in Italy.