in the book "conversations with god", there is a quote i come back to over and over again: "expectations kill relationships".
as i have learned in my wine studies, this piece of wisdom certainly applies when it comes to wine tasting. all too often, expectations make us miss the fine pleasures that a wine can give just because we expect so much or so little from it. sometimes, we think we know what it is, when in fact it is something completely different. at the worst of times, we stop ourselves from entering into a relationship with it altogether because we think we know how it will end. a pity... and such a waste of opportunites...
thankfully though, there are times when those expectations are blown out of the window and when that happens, a whole new world opens up for us to enjoy its many pleasures.
this is exactly what happened last saturday at our tasting of sparkling wines from the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG appellation of north-east Italy. quoting one participant: "I had not rated prosecco at all, thinking that it was a very simple wine. truly my eyes were opened. i look forward to another session"...
even though all 8 wines had a common tread, each were completely different from the other reflecting clearly their respective origin and wine making in beautiful ways.
the Prosecco sparkling wine has come to be associated with the region of Conegliano Valdobiadenne for a good reason. it is where we can find its best expression. since 2010, the region rightly earned the DOCG status, confirming its position as the highest quality Prosecco.
below, i describe the wines as they appeared to me during our tasting.
our first wine of the tasting. its color was pale lemon green with a slightly frothy mousse from medium size bubbles. the aromas were clear & fresh: apple flesh, acacia, with delicate citrus fruits, slightly candied. quite intense & expressive. the palate, light & fresh with an abundant mousse. a little explosive, but acceptable. the finish was certainly expressive but moderate in lenght. a good wine. as expected in fact. ticking all the boxes. exactly what a prosecco superiore wine should give in terms of pleasures.
here was a typical example of a wine made from the "tank" method, a.k.a. "charmat" or " martinotti", or "metodo italiano". whatever you call it, the wine undergoes 2nd fermentation in a pressurized tank in cold temperature. this results in a wine that focuses on lightness, freshness & vibrancy. a wine to enjoy young mostly without complications.
this wine showed slight gold reflections into its otherwise lemon color. a little deeper than the 1st wine. the mousse was also a little frothy just like the 1st. the nose, intense & fresh, quite candied & riper in character, with more exotic fruits. here, notes of melon, a touch of guava, & thinned pineapple completed the typical aromas of apples & acacia. however, it is on the palate that it really stood out. not only because the sugar level was only 5 g/l (as opposed 15 g/l in the 1st) but mainly because it was broader in feel & heavier in weight. it was rounded & velvety but the mousse was explosive & a little dominant. the finish fruity & moderate. a very good wine.
here, the weight & exotic fruit character reflected the presence of 15% chardonnay in its blend. yes, chardonnay. in the appellation, this grape as well as the pinot grape are authorized for a maximum of 15%. glera (the "new" name of the prosecco grape) must compose at least 85% of the blend. other grapes allowed are (max 15%): verdiso (minerality), bianchetta (alcohol), perera (perfume), and gleraunga.
a fascinating wine at the outset. firstly its color was more golden than the previous 2 but with a very delicate shade. the mousse was finer & less frothy. the nose very subtle & delicate. here, the expression of the typical fruit was evident with apples & acacia but in a very delicate & understated way. a touch of biscuit & bread came about. very complex & elegant. the palate very dry but harmonious with its fresh acidity. delicate & creamy mousse complementing. lovely mid-palate, textured & succulent. the finish was long but very delicate & subtle. a very good wine.
certainly a wine not so typical of the region as it undergoes its 2nd fermentation in bottle, just like in franciacorta or champagne. this wine spent 16 months on lees giving it that biscuity & bready character. biodynamic philosophy & natural wine making guiding them, the follador brothers produce each year a very small amount of wine.
a very interesting wine. in fact, i have come to learn that each time an experienced wine taster describe a wine as "interesting" it is because it is exactly that: "interesting".
this wine was engaging intellectually in many ways. as claimed by the producer, it was entirely made without the antioxidant & anti bacterial properties of added so2. so, one could describe it as completely "natural".
pale green in color with frothy mousse it gave the impression that this was a completely typical prosecco one should expect in the style of the ruggeri. it is on the nose that is completely stood out. very interesting. with an extremely rapid glass evolution, changing completely each time we took a sniff. at first fresh & floral, then evolving towards something maderized, and nutty. then suddenly with an "animal" expression which then led to something more caramel like & a touch of blond tobacco. fascinating evolution. frankly, it would have been easy to dismiss it at first so unlike the others it was. yet, there was something that kept us coming back to it. a certain personality that is at once fascinating, a little shocking, but certainly enthralling... the palate was succulent & complex. the length long & engaging. frankly to me, a wine to experience rather than to enjoy for sheer pleasure. a very good wine nonetheless.
here is where we introduce the concept of "rive". in the local dialect, it means a "steep hill". this is a new quality category (can come from only 12 recognized municipalities & 31 hamlets) introduced in 2010 with the establishment of the DOCG appellation. it refers to a wine that comes from a single hill, harvested by hand from lower yield, and issued from a single vintage.
the sorelle bronca owners decided that not only the hill of colbertaldo (a recognized "rive") was special, but the plot #68 where this wine comes from more specifically was worthy of its own label. they decided therefore to forego the term "rive" and call it simply "particella 68". in other words, a "cru" in a " cru".
perhaps they were right. one thing is for sure, this was my favourite of the tasting...
in apearance, the wine was moderate lemon green auguring its freshness & zestiness. the bubbles fine & very delicately frothy, but just. the nose incredibly expressive but in a very delicate & elegant manner. a wine with class & understated yet vibrant & hyper complex. fesh apple flesh, acacia, lime & lemon zest. a touch of white bread. a clear & a certain "minerality". lovely. the palate with a certain tension, a refreshing acidity extremely well balanced by its residual sugar & light acohol. delicate & creamy mousse. lovely nervosity giving it a long mid palate as well as long & scintillating finish. an outstanding wine.
in fact, decanter magazine selected it as one of the best prosecco & gave it a 91 points not long ago (i learned that after the tasting, while researching for this post...)
this personality might come from the fact that this wine was made without the typical 2nd fermentation in tank. here, the sparkle comes from a single fermentation directly from the must. this is believed to preserve the integrity of the grapes' primary aromas and to maintain an extra long freshness & vivacity to the wine.
here, the wine was a little deeper in color than the others. lemon with a hint of gold. delicate & persitant bubbles. on the nose, ripe fruits. with a touch of stone fruits & figs in the mix. lovely & complex nose. the palate showed a lovely creamy mousse. mouthfilling but harmonious & giving the wine a certain velvetiness. refreshing with a good weight on the mid palate. this was a wine calling for food and it was easy to imagine it with oysters actually. lovely finish with a good length. a very good wine.
the character reflected its origin very well. from conegliano, the terrain is more rolling hills than the rather more steep and complex terrain around valdobbiadene. the "ogliano"rive is well exposed to the south favouring a good ripeness of the grapes.
Cartizze is considered in the region to be the ""mother of all rive". this is the ultimate "crus" of the conegliano valdobbiadenerosecco superiore docg appellation. with only 106 hectares, the hills of the cartizze plot are very steep with a perfect exposure to the south. here it is possible to get the very best expression of the glera grape.
this wine was superb. deep lemon with fine bubbles. the nose was deep, ripe, and expressive in a very elegant way. apples & pears. lime & lemon, white peach & a touch of apricot. it reminded me of a white wine more than a sparkling wine. it begged for an elegant dish. certainly not a wine to drink simply as aperitif. the palate showed a fine & creamy mousse. delicate & velvety. a lovely weight & concentration making the mid palate succulent & slightly chewy. lovely freshness supporting. beautifuly long & expressive finish. an outstanding wine. i bet this one has ageing potential of 3-5 years and develop lovely complexity.
interestingly, this wine was brut with only 12 g/l of residual sugar. about 90% of the cartizze made today have more than 17 g/l (around 25-32 actually) which positions them in the "dry" category which really means they are sort of sweet. this is mainly because here in cartizze, the altitude, steepness of the hills, and proximity of the alps allows maximum preservation of the acidity, while developing high intensity of aromas and maximum ripeness of the fruit.
this wine was made in a dry style with 27 g/l. here, it shows that it comes from a grape with long ripeness on the vine. the deepest color of all 8 wines. deep lemon & a touch of gold. lovely medium size bubbles & a little frothy. the nose stands apart in that it is vibrant but dominated by stone fruits, with ripe peaches & a touch of apricot. apple flesh with a note of honey & the tell-tale acacia.. lovely. the palate is velvety with creamy & abundant mousse. here the acidity supports the sweetness very well but it is clearly the sweetest wine of the flight. the finish is expressive but the length moderate. a good wine.
in all, a very interesting tasting. certainly expectations shattering clearly revealing that prosecco superiore wines can be complex & interesting and very much pleasure giving!