In 2009 Prosecco was re-mapped in sweeping changes that created an extensive new zone for the production of Prosecco DOC and elevated the traditional growing areas of Valdobbiadene-Conegliano to DOCG, Italy’s top denomination. At that time, one might have overlooked the fact that the new legislation also created a small, independent DOCG for Asolo Prosecco to the west of the river Piave. The sparkling wines of the area had low visibility, producers were few and production was limited. However the legislators recognised the area’s potential and historical credentials, sowing an important seed with the new DOCG. Today, Asolo is rapidly securing a place at the top end of the Prosecco quality landscape, with a strong sense of identity and production growing apace.
The DOCG zone stretches east to west for around 35km to the north of the provincial capital of Treviso. It is an area of unspoilt natural beauty in which vineyards are immersed in a landscape dominated by woods and pastures and crowned by the splendidly preserved Medieval village that gives its name to the denomination. Olive groves attest to the temperate climate determined by the protection of the mountains to the north and the influence of the Adriatic to the south, and brisk night-day temperature variations help to preserve acidity and develop aroma in the late ripening grape varieties. Geologically the DOCG zone comprises two distinct sets of hills. To the west the Colli Asolani are formed by a series of steep-sided ridges and deep valleys of calcareous marl while to the east, ancient red ferrous soils characterise the more rounded contours of Montello.
The Romans grew vines on the hills of Asolo and under the Serenissima Republic of Venice the wines were so prized that they attracted taxes double those of the surrounding regions. The area has always been famous for its white wines. We know from Antonio Carpenè’s viticultural survey of the province of Treviso published in 1874, that, unlike the hills of Montello to the east where red grapes predominated, Asolo and the surrounding villages were planted almost exclusively to local white varieties, including one Carpenè lists as ‘Prosecco’, known officially today as Glera.
Asolare – a literary education in the art of living
If you amble up the hill and pass under the arch in the Medieval walls into the town of Asolo, the first street you find is Via Roberto (with an”o”) Browning. The poet Robert Browning (1812-1889) first visited Asolo in 1836 at the age of 26 and fell in love with the place which he would return to many times during his life. His dramatic poem Pippa Passes (1841), which contains the famous line “God’s in his heaven and all’s well with the world”, is set in the town and was inspired by his first visit. In Asolo he found the peace and tranquility which prompted him to coin the Italian verb ‘asolare’ (‘to disport in the open air, amuse oneself at random’) and in memory of the town he named his last collection of poems Asolando (1889). Browning was not the only famous literary figure to become enamoured of Asolo. Further down the street is the house of Freya Stark (1893-1993) the intrepid travel writer who spent her childhood here and later returned to live in the town where Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, was her guest. The cultural life and the charm of the town also attracted an American circle and in Asolo’s main square you can sit on the terrace of the Caffé Centrale, where Henry James and, later, Ernest Hemingway were habitués.
Although the production norms of the DOCG allow for blending with Bianchetta, Perera, Verdiso and Glera Lunga, these and other local varieties have been almost entirely replaced in the vineyards by Glera. Today, Asolo Prosecco is fundamentally a monovarietal wine. It comes in styles which range from the very dry Extra Brut (Asolo was the first Prosecco denomination to include the category) through Brut and Extra Dry to the sweet and little-exploited Dry. The popular Extra Dry accounts for three- quarters of the total production, but in line with current international trends, recent vintages have seen an increase in the number of Brut and Extra Brut wines. Second fermentation is conventionally done in vat by the Charmat/Martinotti method. The length of the refermentation makes a defining contribution to the style of the wine: the shorter period of up to 40 days typically used for Extra Dry wines privileges primary aromas, giving these wines their characteristic aromatic charm. Brut and Extra Brut styles, on the other hand, benefit from much longer, slower refermentation during which extended contact with the fine lees gives the wines breadth and complexity. There is also a cult following for a small but growing production of Sui Lieviti (‘on the lees’) wines made according to the local artisan method of bottle refermention, without “dégorgement”. Bone dry with complex autolysis aromas, Sui Lieviti is a style with intriguing potential.
One of the fascinating features of the denomination is the emergence of cru areas within the DOCG. Wines from the calcareous marl of the Asolo hills show Glera’s aromatic side, with its floral and yellow fruit characters to the fore. Montello wines on the other hand are more linear, and the firm structure and minerally nuances which derive from the ferrous soils make them ideally suited to Brut and Extra Brut styles.
“Asolo is a young denomination” says Angelo Peretti, Communication Strategist for the producers’ Consorzio “but it is developing rapidly”. A new, young generation of winemakers is emerging, the range of wines is increasing and production is booming. In 2014 Asolo released just under three million bottles; last year that number grew to over 21 million and projections are for production to cap at 30 million bottles in the next few years. Despite the growth, Asolo remains an area of predominantly small-to-medium size, independent estates, which in the vast panorama of modern day Prosecco continue to cultivate the ethos of a specialised boutique DOCG.
Asolo Prosecco – 12 Flagship Wines
Loredan Gasparini, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Cuvée Indigena Extra Brut 2020
This low yield, single vineyard selection is made by long fermentation of the must without the use of selected yeasts to create a wine with an elegant autolysis character of great complexity and a finely textured palate with depth, breadth and length. A wine of outstanding personality and finesse. Alc 11.5%
Bele Casel, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry
Luca Ferraro makes wines which combine technical precision with the natural expression of terroir at this small, family- owned estate in the hills of Asolo. Long ageing on the fine lees and slow refermentation give this floral Extra Dry a lovely creamy texture and a deliciously juicy finish. Absolutely irresistible. Alc 11%
Bresolin, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Sior Lino Extra Dry
This young organic estate at Maser in the east of the DOCG zone makes a range of Prosecco which capture Glera’s delicate aromatics in wines of benchmark local character. Rose petals and sweet almonds on the nose and a soft, round palate with a peachy finish make for a wine of great charm. Alc 11.5%
Montelliana, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Brut
This excellent cooperative brings together around 400 small scale growers for a range of reds and whites in which Prosecco plays an increasingly leading role. Wines from Montello have a tangy mineral quality which emerges to the full in this flinty Extra Brut with a fine texture and long, savoury, green apple finish. A great food wine. Alc 11%
Villa Sandi, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Nero Extra Brut
Sourced from their estate on the eastern border of the denomination, this Extra Brut has lime blossom and savoury herbs with a hint of citrus on the nose and a palate with crisp intensity and lingering mineral finish. An exemplary Prosecco in line with the high quality range of this well-known house. Alc 11%
Case Paolin, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Sui Lieviti Brut Nature
This excellent example of the Sui Lieviti style comes from old vines at Volpago. After a short maceration the wine ferments with its own yeasts and is bottled with the lees for a tirage of four months. Slightly cloudy, with a crusty nose and notes of salted lemons, it is bone dry with a delicate perlage and a delicious long savoury finish. Alc 11.5%
Vigneti Mazzarolo, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Brut Millesimato 2020
Vigneti Mazzarolo is a third generation, family-owned estate at Maser. This highly refined Extra Brut from the excellent 2020 vintage comes from old vines on south-east facing slopes. Acacia with hints of green pear and lemon pith on the nose prelude a fresh, light palate with a crisp dry finish. Alc 11.5%
Giusti Wine Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Brut
Crafted in collaboration with Sassicaia oenologist Graziana Grassini and made in Giusti’s spectacular new cellars at Nervesa della Battaglia, this elegantly austere dry Extra Brut has notes of ripe apple and pear on the nose and a palate of breadth and substance, with a savoury mineral finish. Alc 11.5%
Vigna Rampante, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Baccanuda Millesimato Brut 2021
Long-time growers, the Gobbo family began vinification and bottling in new cellars in 2013. The house style is fresh, dry and delicately aromatic. This Brut from the new 2021 vintage has notes of spring hedgerows on the nose and a crisp palate with white fruit intensity and a fine perlage. Alc 11.5%
Pat del Colmel, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry
The Forner family are long established growers who own vineyards on the steep calcareous marl slopes of the west of the DOCG zone. Their stylish Extra Dry has the typical floral-fruity character of Glera from the Colli Asolani and an invitingly fresh and juicy palate with a super-fine perlage. Alc 11.5%
Bedin, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Brut Collina 48
“Collina 48” refers to the estate’s first vineyard, planted at Cornuda in the east of the DOCG zone in 1948 by the great grandfather of the current owners. Forty-day refermentation by the Charmat method preserves the delicate floral character of the grape variety and gives freshness to this very attractive Brut. Alc 11%
Montelvini, Asolo Prosecco Superiore Sui Lieviti Il Brutto Colfondo
The Serena family makes this bottle- refermented Prosecco at their estate in the top cru village of Venegazzù. The deep straw shade, slight cloudiness and fine perlage testify to a very authentic “Sui Lieviti” wine with complex evolved aromas and a bone dry palate with a long tangy finish of salted lemons. Alc 11%
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