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Posted: Wednesday, July 01 2009. 18:10

Prosecco Elevated to DOCG Status

The process for obtaining Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita(DOCG) recognition for the hillsides of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene for its popular bubbly Prosecco has officially  reached its logical  conclusion, with the Ministerial Decree formalizing the status of the existing DOC wine to be published soon.

It was granted the DOC status in 1969 and thus has taken 40 years to reach this status. The DOCG laws require a wine to remain a DOC wine for at least five years and also then demonstrate that it would be able to maintain the quality standards and adherence to the specifications and rigour of the DOCG status.

The change is expected from August 1 when the EU reforms come into effect. Thus, starting the next vendemmia (vintage) onwards, the sparkling wines produced from the Prosecco grape and from the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone, will be allowed to write “Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore” on the label. The use of its pink coloured numbered logo obligatory on the Italian State strips that are applied on the bottles of all DOCG wines like Barolo, Barbaresco, Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, and Brunello di Montalcino will be mandatory.

The wines will continue to be made by the existing Charmat method (second fermentation in the tank)  

Apparently, the producers wanted, to highlight the name of their area as the above-mentioned names suggest but at least for now, will continue to use the word Prosecco  (like Brunello) along with the additional ‘Superiore’. A majority of people around the world are familiar with Prosecco as the grape varietal and the namesake wine but not Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. The 22 km stretch between the two small towns north of Venice have not only beautiful winding, tight roads and rolling hills but also the Terroir to make a good quality bubbly- a money-conscious, value-for-money seeker’s Champagne for all seasons.

Franciacorta from Lombardi and Asti Spumante from Piemonte are two bubblies that already adorn the DOCG list. But as Franco Adami, President of  Consorzio Tutela del Vino Prosecco DOC di Conegliano e Valdobbiadene, the Producers' Consortium of the region, said, "The change to using just the name of the zone, which is our ultimate objective, has to be a gradual one. In many countries around the world, Prosecco has become synonymous with a highly successful wine from Italy, and getting rid of this name altogether would be risky. The term Superiore, however, helps the consumer to understand right away that this is an example of the original Prosecco, the one from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene".

Cartizze, a hilly area near Valdobbiadene has already been using ‘Superiore’ for quite some time for its wines which are higher in the sugar content. Besides, many Italian Appellations allow the use of ‘Superiore’ for wines with .5-1% higher alcoholic content. Therefore, this labeling might be confusing in the minds if international consumers. To avoid this, the Consorzio is planning a large-scale promotional plan for communicating the new regulations. For the 160 producers of sparkling wine and more than 3000 vine growers, the D.O.C.G. status should result in higher sales provided the producers don’t get too greedy and increase the price. Many consumers now know that the DOCG status may be the highest standard in eh appellation hierarchy in Italy but does not guarantee higher quality automatically.

The ‘Prosecco’ hills north of Treviso in the Conegliano-Valdobbiadene stretch have very steep slopes, where every vineyard operation is carried out by hand and  Prosecco has been the grape variety of choice for over three centuries. It is thanks to these demanding vineyards with exquisite beauty that has made the government apply to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Conegliano-Valdobbiadene zone is made up of 15 communes with lots of different nuances, and these will be indicated in the new D.O.C.G. regulations by the term “Rive”. In local parlance, this refers to the finest vineyards, with the best exposure to sunlight.  

DOC Prosecco being made from grapes made from Prosecco grapes within the specified  fifteen communes lying between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene has become phenomenally successful during the last few years and its cultivation has gradually spread, first throughout the Province of Treviso, and then to the neighbouring ones as well. There has been the fear that in the absence of clear regulations the wine may not guarantee a minimum level of quality and specifications.

‘The case of a shiny can bearing the name Prosecco, which really debased the product, made us see that we had to put an end to all the confusion,’ says Franco. ‘Perhaps it was that product which convinced the producers that they had to take their destiny into their own hands once again.’ He was apparently referring to the label ‘Rich Prosecco’ which socialite Paris Hilton tried to promote by posing nude(it was reported in delWine). It did not help promote the product, but made the serious producers of the region very mad.

Starting next vintage, therefore, there will be rules and controlled quality for all Prosecco and excellence and absolute guarantees for those from Conegliano-Valdobbiadene. Understandably, certain exceptions will be made to enable producers based outside the region to continue making Prosecco provided they prove that they have been involved in the process for a substantial period of time and all grapes come from the designated DOCG area.

For producers in areas that are already producing I.G.T. Prosecco and who have joined together under the aegis of the Treviso Chamber of Commerce, it has been possible to give the grape variety a territorial identity in the North-East of Italy, defined in the new D.O.C. appellation. There will now be 9 Provinces that will be part of the D.O.C. Outside this area no one will be able to make a wine bearing the name “Prosecco” any longer. The grape variety will in fact be renamed here as Glera (an ancestor of Prosecco).

       

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