The world of Prosecco

Prosecco is a wine with controlled denomination of origin, produced exclusively in the North-East of Italy in nine Provinces of the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia Regions. It may be D.O.C. or D.O.C.G., depending on the zone of production. The quality of Prosecco may be conceived of as a pyramid. At the base there is Prosecco D.O.C., produced in all nine Provinces of the two Regions. At the intermediate level there are two D.O.C.G.s: Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore and Asolo. At the summit of the pyramid is Superiore di Cartizze D.O.C.G., the Grand Cru of Conegliano Valdobbiadene. For Italian wines, D.O.C.G. status for a denomination is the highest level of quality recognition: every bottle bears a special strip with a consecutive number that makes it unique and traceable, thus providing an extra guarantee for the consumer.

Prosecco: a bit of history

Prosecco is today one of the best-known and most popular sparkling wines in the world: it has become an icon of Italian style.
Its history began in the hills lying between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, in the Veneto Region of north-eastern Italy, some 50 km from Venice and 100 km from the Dolomites: it is here that the best quality is still obtained, identified with the D.O.C.G. (denominazione di origine controllata e garantita). Wine has been produced in this area since time immemorial and over the centuries man, thanks to his ongoing labours, has modified the morphology of the landscape by planting more vineyards, creating an environment that is so unique that it has been put forward to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Prosecco’s success story began in 1876, the year of the foundation in Conegliano of Italy’s first School of Oenology, followed in 1923 by that of the Research Institute for Viticulture, also in Conegliano. Thanks to these centres for study and research the local growers learned how to plant their vineyards high up in the hills, where cultivating vines is difficult and laborious because of the steep slopes and where work in the vineyard is carried out almost entirely by hand. In the winery, on the other hand, the process for making sparkling wine by the Italian Method - which calls for a second fermentation in autoclaves (large pressurized tanks) in order to preserve and heighten the aromas – was perfected. In 1969 the Prosecco produced in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area obtained D.O.C. status and in 2009 the D.O.C.G., the highest recognition of quality for Italian wines, which called for a change of name to “Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore”. Bravely, in fact, the producers decided to put the entire accent on their region, putting the name of the two major towns of the area in front of that of Prosecco.

A small region for a wine that has conquered the world

The Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone includes 15 communes that are dotted around the hills that lie at the foot of the Treviso Prealps. The vineyards of the denomination cover over 6000 hectares. The climate is pleasant, mild and temperate, to the extent that in times past the aristocracy of Venice liked to spend its summers here in order to get away from the sultriness of the Lagoon.
Winters are not excessively cold and summers are hot but not too humid. The growing area for Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is entirely on hillsides and viticulture is carried out almost exclusively by hand. One only has to bear in mind that here up to 600 hours are required per hectare of vineyard compared to 150 on the plain. The various soils, exposures, gradients and altitudes give rise to marked differences of taste in the wines, which are to be found in particular in the Rive category, made exclusively from vineyards in specific micro-zones.
Cartizze, the Grand Cru of the denomination - where the wine of the same name comes from - deserves a separate mention. It is a zone of very high hills lying between the hamlets of Santo Stefano, Saccol and San Pietro di Barbozza, in the commune of Valdobbiadene. The vineyards of Cartizze cover a mere 107 hectares and the vines here are often very old. The value of the vineyards is extremely high, even reaching estimates of 1 million Euros per hectare.
One of the aspects of the zone’s uniqueness is the beauty of the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, which have been defined as a “cultural landscape”. In 2008, with the aim of safeguarding them, a project was set in motion for the area to be recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the zone has now been inserted in the Tentative List for Italy.

Its success in figures

The Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore denomination includes over 6000 hectares of vineyards, cultivated by around 3.200 vine-growers. There are 170 wineries in the area, producing over 70 million bottles. Overall, 5000 people are employed in the wine sector. These numbers led to this area being recognized in 2003 as Italy’s first Sparkling Wine District. In recent years Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore has experienced a real boom in sales. Between 2003 and today, turnover has risen from 250 million to 470 million Euros. Today around 45% of the entire production (28,3 million bottles) is exported to 80 countries all over the world. The leading market is Germany, followed by Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States.

The Producers’ Consortium

The Consorzio di Tutela del Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore is an association founded in 1962 that today groups together virtually all the producers in the area. The role of the Consortium is above all to protect (“tutelare”) Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore and provide technical assistance to producers both in the vineyard and in the winery in order to ensure constant improvements in overall quality. The Consortium also promotes knowledge about the product in Italy and abroad through educational activities, the organization of events and fairs, and relations with the press.