Bottle-fermented Prosecco Colfóndo opens up a new front…


ValdobbiadeneOne reason I find my job compelling is the way one gets to learn from history, geology, and from the local people in building a context, like colours on a canvas, against which to identify a truly fine wine that offers customers authenticity, high quality and good value.

I’m just back from a brief sortie to the northern Venetian region of Conegliano, home to the now fashionable spumante Prosecco. It’s an area that has witnessed many battles. If you go into the stunning pre-Alpi mountains that rise up over the plain of the river Piave you can still find the bunkers – like grouse butts on a misty moor – that once housed gleaming Austrian howitzers during the 1915/18 War;  these monsters rained down shells onto the Italian villages below, inflicting devastating losses on the Italian army.

Today there’s a new campaign being waged as Prosecco spumante producers try to cash in on the region’s newly-awarded DOCG status while battling with the higher cost of fruit (don’t think the growers/vignaioli were born yesterday!). Relief it seems is on its way for the ‘big guns’ as the authorities have permitted a sea of vines to be planted on the plains between Treviso and Venezia; just look at how annual plantings have risen from approximately 350 ha/annum to 3900ha last year, with bottles produced forecast to rise from 185 million in 2004 to 416 million in 2013!

ValdobbiadeneIn the meantime many artisan growers are reflecting on whether this is the moment to fight their own corner and bottle their fruit rather than see it blended away. It’s happened in Champagne to stunning effect, producing a two-speed market: one of large brands producing ‘Champagne’, the other small making ‘fine wine with bubbles’ (that the large brands are now trying to emulate).

So here in the northern Veneto among small, quality conscious producers there’s a revival of the original way of making Prosecco, harking back to a time before the introduction of the industrial Charmat method during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Small artisan cantine don’t have the deep pockets to equip themselves with zeppelin-shaped autoclave tanks for producing millions of bottles; nor is it in their blood. They are more suited to producing a finer, 100% estate fruit, lees-aged wine – a style called Colfóndo- whose secondary ferment occurs in bottle (having had grape must added prior to bottling) leaving a rich layer of sediment to give the drinker a truer, earthier taste of the territorio that combines better with food and isn’t quite so gassy! (1.5 atmospheres of frizzante Colfóndo plays 3.5 of spumante  Prosecco). Producers making Colfóndo Prosecco of note include: Casa Coste Piane, Cristian De Lucchi, Gatti Lorenzo, Costadila, Frozza and Belecasel.

All being well this Colfóndo style looks set to raise the profile of Prosecco, providing the industrial-sized brands don’t spoil the party by trying to churn out this more authentic wine at rock-bottom prices. So for now the artisans are not talking up Colfóndo for fear the bubble might well burst…

Watch this space as Berrys is set to introduce a Colfóndo Prosecco this autumn!