Prosecco is having a tremendous success at the moment. There is no stopping this Italian sparkling wine from the beautiful North-East part of Italy, close to both Venice and Verona. But there is regular Prosecco and there is high-quality Prosecco. I recently met Vittorio Dalle Ore who makes Prosecco Asolo DOCG but also red and still white wine. He has his own ideas why his Prosecco belongs in the quality category.
Villa di Maser is a unique villa built by the famous architect Andrea Palladio in the 16th century. In 1934 the grandfather of Vittorio’s wife bought the villa. Already when it was built, wine was made here. The estate now has 81 acres (33 hectares) of high-density plantations that give, for Prosecco, very low yields per vine.
Vittorio Dalle Ore works with Donato Lanati, an oenologist and consultant and a well-known name from the Piedmont region. Donato collaborates closely with the University of Torino and, says Vittorio, he has one of the best research laboratories in Europe. “His knowledge is very valuable to us. He comes here twice a year, but I send him samples of my wine all the time.”
With the Prosecco boom, the production of these sparkling wines is, of course, important for Vittorio. But he is proud also of his prize-winning red wines. “In our style of Prosecco you can feel that we also make still wines”, he says. “For us, Prosecco is also a wine, made with the same care.”
His Prosecco Superiore Brut Asolo DOCG is a delicious wine with fine bubbles, quite full-bodied with ripe apples on the nose, perfectly dry on the palate and with a refreshing acidity. The base wine has structure, says Vittorio, which is important. “We harvest with good maturity, later than is usual for sparkling wines. People are afraid of losing the acidity [ed.: when harvesting later] but it is also less risky to harvest early. We take the risk. We don’t want to add sugar (so-called chaptalisation) to obtain a higher alcohol level.”
What is also important when making a prosecco, according to Vittorio, is to allow the production process to take time. The still wine is kept on its lees until late spring. He then filters the wine and puts it in a new tank for the second fermentation. The wine will stay on its lees longer than what most other producers do. “The law says a minimum of 45 days; we leave it for 60 days. The result is more elegance and complexity.” The residual sugar is between 8 and 10 grams per litre and the pressure in the bottle between 4 and 5 kilos, slightly less than e.g. Champagne. The wines never go through the malolactic fermentation, a process that changes the acidities in the wine and makes it softer.
Vittorio also makes a Prosecco Extra Dry which is totally different from the Brut. It has around 17 gram of sugar. Extra dry, curiously, for sparkling wines mean semi-dry, with a touch of sweetness. I’m usually not a fan of extra dry sparkling, but this one is good. There is some bitter almond on the palate that gives it a good backbone. It could be paired with goose liver or smoked salmon.
If you come across wines from Villa di Maser, also look out for his white wine made from the very unusual grape variety Verduzzo. It has a very dark, golden colour. It feels like it has been fermented with the skins but it hasn’t. But is has been kept on the lees for 10 months and the grapes are harvested late. Some of them are dried and some of them are even affected by frost. There are tannins here and a nice mouthfeel with apricots, floral and honey aromas.
For the reds, I particularly like the Carmenère Montello-Colli Asolani DOC. Carmenère is an unusual grape in Italy, more famous from Chile. Here it is harvested very ripe to avoid green aromas. The wine spends around a year in barrels, big and small. “We don’t want too much oak”, says Vittorio. The wine is structured with intense aromas. It is spicy, the fruit is ripe but still with a good freshness, as carmenère often has. It has a lovely rounded finish.
Prosecco is made in the eastern part of Veneto and in Friuli Venezia Giulia, not far away from Venice. Prosecco DOC has the biggest production. Two smaller separate regions make Prosecco Superiore DOCG: Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG and Asolo Superiore DOCG. All Proseccos are made from a minimum of 85 % of the grape variety called Glera.