Champagne might be seen as the crème de la crème but it’s Prosecco that has captured the hearts of Londoners and most of the female population. What else would we drink at brunch? What else would we drink to celebrate, to commiserate or just because? Yes, there are other drinks, let’s not be pedantic, but are they as versatile? The answer you’re looking for is ‘no’.
When we heard, then, that there might be a new sort of Prosecco taking over our bars we were all ears. There’s a revolution happening in the Prosecco region, just as natural and biodynamic wines are becoming increasingly popular, producers in Italy are returning to a more traditional way of making Prosecco, a way that makes the produce cloudy. It is, if you will, what scrumpy is to a Strongbow – a Prosecco renaissance.
Being ones to follow the mantra, ‘go hard or go home’ (why have one doughnut when you can eat the whole box?) we set off to the Prosecco region.
Our guides were Head Chef Maurilio Molteni and Stefano Meloni from the famous Italian cichetti restaurant, Tozi and Luca Dusi and Frederico Bruschetta from London’s Passione Vino. Both Tozi and Passion Vino sell cloudy Prosecco and all four men are big fans. In fact, it was Passione Vino that first brought cloudy Prosecco to London and we can only imagine it won’t be long until other places start picking up on it.
Unlike ‘normal’ Prosecco, cloudy Prosecco is fermented in concrete tanks before continuing its secondary fermentation in bottles without filtering. The result of this fermentation in the bottle, is a sparkling wine with a cloudy appearance, yeasty sediment, less gas and less sugar than the filtered Prosecco you’re probably use to. You might also hear it being called Col Fondo, which literally translates as with the bottom, referring to the sediment at the bottom.However, its lack of sugar and bubbles means that it’s extremely drinkable, a fact that we discovered several bottles down when we visited Maurizio Favrel the owner of the award-winning Malibran vineyards.
Favrel, a third-generation wine producer, makes 120,000 bottles a year on his 27-acres vineyard including 20,000 bottles of Sottoriva. Manually harvested, the semi-sparkling wine worked excellently with the feast that was cooked for us – a highlight being slowed cooked skewers of lardo, pork and sage. Of course, if you can’t make it to the Prosecco region then you’ll find it at Tozi. As Head Chef Maurilio says, he looks for Proseccos that work well with food, because Prosecco isn’t just an aperitif (one bar owner we met said with some sadness that people were no longer drinking as much Prosecco in the mornings) it’s a drink to have throughout the meal and seemingly throughout the day.
Our travels through the mountainous Prosecco region also took us to meet producer Carolina Gatti -a fourth-generation producer. While her father made cloudy Prosecco just for the family, when Carolina took on the vineyard she started producing it to be sold. Her ‘Bolle Bandite’ Prosecco Colfondo, uses grapes grown on vines that are trained to grow in the traditional system called Bellussera. The wine is then fermented in a steel tank and is aged for three years before undergoing fermentation in its bottle. It’s heavier than Sottoriva with more of a punch, keep an eye out because we’re told it’ll soon be available at Tozi.
The cloudy prosecco revolution might still be small, but with the likes of Tozi and Passione Vino championing it, we predict it’s going to be big.
Visiting the Prosecco Region?
Situated between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, Casa de Sergio is a rural B&B surrounded by vineyards and looking out over the mountains. Wonderfully charming, the house has recently been restored in accordance with the criteria for bio-architecture and energy saving. You’ll wake up to the sound of geese and cockerels, make friends with Luna the dog and eat the produce grown in the garden for breakfast.
It may look like a rambling old 19th century farmhouse, but Osteria senz’Oste is actually a bartenderless bar with one heck of a view out across the mountainous vineyards. You won’t see ever see the bartender, you’ll just find the cold bottles of wine, the cheese and meat he leaves each day and a box for you to leave your money in at the end.
Osteria senz’Oste Str. delle Treziese, 31049 Valdobbiadene TV, Italy
Pillonetto Silmava in the village of Sernaglia della Battaglia, owned by Silmava, is a small bar only sells cloudy Prosecco. Having been a butcher, a chemist and a bar owned by the family for the last seventy years, it’s like stepping into a museum rather than a bar.
Via Roma, 1, 31020 Sernaglia della Battaglia TV, Italy