Prosecco, straight up or dirty?

One of my go-to Italian wine (plus food and culture) bloggers, the erudite Jeremy Parzen at Do Bianchi, this week wrote about “the most talked about wine in Texas”. The wine he was referring to is Ca’ dei Zago Prosecco, a “doubled-fermented-in-bottle, lees-aged, and undisgorged Prosecco” that we think will become the most talked about wine in Australia as well, with our first shipment already on the way.

ca dei zago

Ca’ dei Zago is the estate of the Zago family, established in 1924 and now run by Christian Zago. Christian is besotted with naturalness and manages the property as if it is a self-contained biosphere. All processes, whether it be composting, manure application (from their own cows), pruning, leaf plucking or application of biodynamic preparations, are by hand, with the intention of producing the most natural end product. Grapes are fermented plot by plot, using natural yeasts without temperature control and they remain on their lees until Spring. To finish the wine, Christian bottles it with a little remaining sugar and some fine lees, col fondo, a process practised by the family since 1956 which gives this completely dry Prosecco its fine and long lasting sparkle. The wine remains undisgorged and deposits a fine sediment so the wine can be enjoyed straight up (by a careful pour or gently decanting) or dirty (with the lees mixed in).

The 2012 vintage has 10.5% alc/vol, 0 g/l residual sugar, a total SO2 level of 28ppm and is bottled under crown seal – so it can only be labelled as DOC Prosecco despite coming from the DOCG area of Valdobbiadene. The wine shows stonefruit, straw and wild flowers – millefiori – and is bone dry but generous on the palate with a creamy fruit richness.

Prosecco’s rise has been meteoric. Eight years ago, you couldn’t give the stuff away and now its floor stacked at Aldi. We are being swamped by oceans of it from both Italy and Australia and the prices and quality keep dropping as Prosecco has become the brand. In Italy, the traditional growing areas of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene were promoted to DOCG status, but large parts of Veneto and Friuli were added to the Prosecco DOC. There’s a big difference between the two, but its hard enough explaining that to our customers let alone that filtering through to the consumer who just wants a cheap bubbly that reminds them of their holiday in Venice. At the same time, the Italians sought to change the name of the grape, Prosecco, to Glera to protect their made in Italy versions. Australia continues to make Prosecco (rather than Glera) although a recent launch by Yellowglen of a Prosecco containing both Australian and Italian juice might be the last straw as Italian authorities consider legal proceedings over the use of the name Prosecco.

Wines such as Ca’ dei Zago are the game breakers for Prosecco. Its not for supermarkets, indeed it might not be for everybody, but then there is so little to go around it doesn’t matter. Ca’ dei Zago Prosecco Col Fondo is going to be a very popular drink around my house this summer. And rememeber, NO FLUTES!