I’ve been drinking, tasting and deliriously enjoying Italian Prosecco for my long, storied drinking history, but had yet to make the mental connection between Prosecco and the specific region of Conegliano Valdobbiadene until I experienced it first-hand on my honeymoon. While we were married in a beautiful little Tuscan town of Montespertoli, we celebrated our mini-honeymoon in Venice for a few days of relaxation and shopping before heading back home to New York.
While curating our mini-moon, I was urged by my wine industry friends to take the few hour journey from just outside of Venice to visit the wine region where Prosecco comes from. The region’s name, a downright tongue twister for a non-Italian native speaker, is Conegliano Valdobbiadene. While it’s not around the corner from Venice, it’s close enough to warrant the trip, particularly if you have a hankering for Prosecco, which I find I often do.
We took a boat from our hotel in Venice, then on to the train station where we met our tour guide and driver Roberta Bozzato who would take us by car to the region that is situated in between Venice and the Dolomites. The area has ancient routes, dating back to 1772 when Prosecco was first written about, and has displayed extremely particular microclimates. Given its location near both the sea and the Alps, the atmosphere provides a constant breeze for the grapes to grow and prosper.
The overall region produces the grapes that create Prosecco Superiore DOCG–a production area that covers 15 communes. The area is so steeped in history that we were urged by Roberta to begin our day by visiting Italy’s first School of Winemaking in the region.
The school started it all for Italian winemaking and has been in operation since 1876. Today, it continues to teach the next generation of not only Italians, but Europeans at large, how to make, produce and nurture Italian sparkling wine. The production of this type of Prosecco came from the experimentation of Antonio Carpene, which was later improved in the 20th century by his company, and then through the School of Winemaking itself.
It had been a long time since I was in the halls of a high school, but perhaps because wine was in the air (literally, and figuratively), I found myself imagining what it would have been like if I had studied winemaking at such a young age. Perhaps I wouldn’t have become a food, wine, finance, travel journalist–perhaps, I would’ve been on the other side of the industry. Perhaps I was caught up in my dreamy and timely revere, but I would venture to say that I was just overjoyed to see that this type of education is being offered in such a fantastic fashion to the next generation of European wine industry professionals.
After having that academic overview of the region and seeing first-hand the complexities of the terroir and winemaking practices, I was ready to visit a Prosecco-producing winery in the flesh to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the method itself and to complete a tasting with a traditional Italian aperitivo. This I find, arguably, is the best type of meal to enjoy with a glass of beautiful Prosecco.
We found ourselves at family-run and operated Bortolomiol Winery whose day to day operations are overseen by Ottavia Bortolomiol, alongside her daughters Maria Elena, Elvira, Luisa and Giuliana, who today is at the helm running the day to day operations.
Under Guiliana’s tutelage, the winery has committed to grow organic grapes and run a sustainable business. Her passion for the organic process is evident and she believes it is her duty to pass along the business to future generations, to leave it better than how she found it.
As we strolled through their production sight, seeing everything from their facilities, land and beautiful tasting room, we were itching to taste the very best of the region, given it was almost time for our daily aperitivo.
A short introduction led the way to an in-depth tasting experience of the best their portfolio has to offer. We witnessed the complexities and nuances from one wine to the next and discussed the best food pairing for each option. Where some paired best with normal aperitivo items like parmesan cheese, olives or crackers, others were created to stand up to a hearty fish dish.
A personal favorite of mine was the “Bandarossa” collection of sparkling wines (which roughly translates to a ‘good sign’) which is often accompanied by a red banner to assure the drinker that they are drinking the very best extra dry sparkling wine in such bottles. Another wine I found myself gravitating towards was the Grande Cuvee Del Fondatore, that has the Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G. Prosecco Superiore distinction, is perfect for every day drinking or pairing with a dish as spectacular or as bold as suckling pig.
After ensuring that we were shipping a few cases home to have a few bubbly mementos of our time in Italy, we were on our way back to Venice. On the drive home, I felt quite reflective. I had been given the chance to learn more about an Italian wine region that up until then, I knew next to nothing about. I especially appreciated this visit during a time in my life that I felt most grateful for. My husband and I were able to explore Conegliano Valdobbiadene together, which will forever be a place we hold dear to our hearts.