A Sip of Something Traditional
In addition to being produced in an autoclave, Conegliano Valdobbiadene offers another type of sparkling wine, which is fermented in the bottle and stored on the lees. This is a testament to local tradition, which has been the custom in the Treviso hills for generations
by Marina Grasso \ pictures by Francisco Marques
You could use the French, “sur lie” (“on the lees”) to describe it, or a more modern expression would be “re-fermented in the bottle.” But in the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg, it is traditionally known as “vin col fondo” (“wine with sediment”), where “sediment” stands for yeasts which have fallen to the the bottom of the bottle and fermented, using a method which is a forerunner to that used for making sparkling wine and which has been recently rediscovered and is increasingly sought after by more discerning descerning wine lovers.
It is a lively, opaque wine, with very fine bubbles. In general, it possesses the characteristic apple tones of the Superiore sparkling wine, but to a much lesser degree. These give way to stronger, more complex olfactory sensations, supported by the classic scent of bread crust provided by the yeast, which in the mouth is full-bodied, lively, fresh and persistent. Thus it lacks some of the elegance of Prosecco Superiore, but does display its primary characteristics, coupled with a certain ‘roughness’ which makes it quite appealing.
It has a little of the “grandad’s wine” about it, made without using modern autoclaves (the pressurized tanks used to make sparkling wine). This means that each bottle is unique, since yeast fermentation is influenced by many factors. This is further enhanced by the fact that when drinking it, one notices that upon coming into contact with the air, the flavour changes, such that the first glass will be different from those consumed some minutes later.
These unique features make it difficult to identify homogeneous oenological characters. The product specification of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg describes it as follows: “in the type of product traditionally produced using fermentation in the bottle, the wine might appear slightly cloudy. In this case it is necessary to include the phrase ‘refermentation in the bottle’ on the label”. And bottles with this phrase are becoming increasingly sought after. It is often found on bottles whose caps include a string tie. It is a wine to be drunk by choosing between two methods, which are dictated by the peculiarity of the wine itself. Each method creates very different flavors and fragrances. The first method is to pour the wine into a carafe, after first letting the bottle rest for a few minutes, in order to allow the sediment to completely settle to the bottom; the resulting wine is thus drunk without the sediment. The second method is to gently agitate the bottle so that the sediment is thoroughly mixed in and the wine is drunk cloudy. In both cases, it serves as an ideal accompaniment with cold meats such as salame and soppressa, mature cheeses or fish dishes from the traditional Venetian cuisine, such as baccalà (salted codfish) or sarde in saôr (sardines in a sweet and sour sauce). Because the wine “with the sediment” is “a sip of something traditional”.
DALLA CIMA AL FONDO
August 3-4-5 Colle di San Gallo, Soligo
An unmissable event to discover both the traditional version of the wine produced “on the lees”, with sediment left in the bottle, as well as the different styles of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Docg Prosecco. An exciting and atmospheric wine-tasting event to be held by the light of lanterns, on top of the San Gallo hill in Soligo, with food stands containing traditional meats, cheeses and local dishes and live music. Thanks to Vittorio Veneto Amateur Astronomers Association it will also be possible to observe the stars and planets if the sky is clear.
[This article was originally published in the Visit Conegliano Valdobbiadene magazine, issue Spring Summer 2017. The magazine is available here]