Not long ago as I stood browsing the sparkling wines section of an upmarket store, I overheard a young couple exclaim- “this Champagne looks good for the gift”! Even though not inclined to eavesdrop, being within listening distance meant that I was party to their immediately following conversation. It revealed that they were looking for a wine gift for their close friend’s anniversary. Reflexively, I hovered my eyes on the wine bottle and it turned out to be a Prosecco!
Paying the price for fame has been Champagne’s old predicament and for now we leave the subject at that. The real issue highlighted by the above incident is the average Indian consumer’s knowledge deficit of wine. Hardly surprising, since India at best is considered in the first quadrant of the learning curve of wine. What’s encouraging though is that the climb on this curve has been rapid, a major reason for which has been consumer engagement initiatives being undertaken by wine importers and producers.A recent such engagement was “an evening with Carpenè Malvolti” the winery that is accredited with evolving Prosecco as a sparkling wine. Antonio Carpenè – the founder of Carpenè Malvolti in 1868 – and later his son Etile, gave an important contribution to the development of the so called Charmat Method (or Metodo Martinotti) in pursuance of his dream of producing a sparkling wine from Conegliano Valdobbiadene. The rest is history as Prosecco is now virtually a synonym for sparkling wines from North Eastern Italy. In 1876, Antonio also founded the Oenological School in Conegliano that was instrumental in perfecting the method.
But is defining Prosecco as simple as putting the sparkle in a still wine? Absolutely not- as you would expect from any wine with a depth of history. Prosecco has clearly demarcated regions and regulations that define the various levels of its quality. Let has have a brief look at them:
- The overall Prosecco region stretches between Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
- In the earlier day, “Prosecco” referred to the grape varietal, which is now called “Glera”. Since 2009, Prosecco has been protected under DOCG and DOC disciplinaries, ensuring that wines labelled with the name come only from the specified quality areas of Italy.
- As per regulations, Prosecco should be made from minimum 85% Glera grapes with the remaining 15% permissible from other varietals such as Verdiso, Bianchetta Trevigiana, Perera, Glera Lunga, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Nero.
- Prosecco can be made as Spumante (fully sparkling), Frizzante (semi sparkling) or the now very niche Tranquillo (still). However only the Spumante version can qualify as Prosecco Superiore.
- The Charmat method, which involves secondary fermentation of wine in large tanks called autoclaves, makes the production of Prosecco more economical than the traditional method of secondary fermentation in individual bottles, hence more affordable to the consumer. However it doesn’t imply that the the resultant wine is necessarily inferior. The Charmat method has its distinct advantage in preserving the primary aromas of grapes, making the resultant wines highly aromatic and lightly frothy on the palate.
The Prosecco Quality Pyramid
Prosecco DOC (556 Municipalities): Spread all over Veneto (except for Rovigo Province) and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Prosecco DOC Treviso (95 communes): Higher quality DOCs contained within the province of Treviso.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG : (15 Communes): Produced exclusively in the hills of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene zone. There is also a smaller Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG to the south west of Conegliano Valdobbiadene (see map above).
DOCG Rive: The term “Rive” indicates steep hills that are characteristic of a particular subzone enclosed in only one Municipality or Village, within Conegliano Valdobbiadene area. 43 such Rives, produce wines of high quality with distinct characteristics.
DOCG Superiore di Cartizze: The top of Prosecco quality pyramid, Cartizze comes from a sub-zone that covers just 107 hectares of vineyards, in the shape of a pentagon, lying amidst the steepest hillsides of San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano and Saccol, in the Municipality of Valdobbiadene.
About Carpenè Malvolti
The Carpenè Malvolti winery is located in Conegliano, in the heart of the DOCG. The company exports 55% of its production with its largest markets being Switzerland, Canada, Germany, USA and UK. 95 % of its production is Sparkling Wines with the rest 5% being distillates, viz. Grappa and Brandy .
The current (fifth) generation at the helm is Rosanna Carpenè , who represents the entrepreneurial future of the family and is also the President and Founder of the “Institute for New Technologies for the Made in Italy of the Food and Beverage sector” (I.T.S.). Her father, the fourth generation Etile Jr Carpenè is a guiding force, affecting the company’s restructuring of its national and international distribution and as well as furthering their research and innovation initiatives.
From the time that Antonio Carpenè startedthe first significant production of Prosecco, each generation of the Carpenè family has made significant contribution towards the legacy that stands today. Significant among those is resurrecting the winery after the two world wars, further refining of the Charmat method, setting up vital institutions to protect the Prosecco heritage and making forays in the global marketplace.
In India the brand is being imported by Aspri Spirits Private limited- a notable wine and spirits importer in the country. They are presently importing 1868 Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG , priced in retail at approx. Rs. 2400.
One wine – several courses
The New Delhi consumer connect of Carpenè Malvolti saw the company’s Global Sales and Marketing Director Demenico Scimone and Paolo de Matteis Larivera (Rosanna Carpenè’s husband) arrive to share a dinner with wine aficionados. The event was organized by Aspri in collaboration with Artusi Ristorante and Delhi Wine Club.
It is rare that a single wine can pull through an eight course dinner entirely on its own strength. Carpenè Malvolti 1868 Brut Prosecco Superiore DOCG did so with ease, given its dexterity of character. Significant credit for the pleasant pairings also goes to the hosts’ careful curation of the menu where the creamy and savoury hors dœuvres set the initial mood followed by the main courses of salads, pastas and meats. The dinner demonstrated another important aspect of wine and food pairings, i.e. affinity of regional cuisine with wines from the same land.
Towards the end of the dinner I asked Arun about any immediate plans of importing more labels from Carpenè Malvolti. His response was pragmatic:
Our current focus is to consolidate the brand before looking at expanding its portfolio. This label is intended for the consumer who is a little evolved in his discovery of wines and wants to experience one of the finest Proseccos.
With consumer connect endeavours like these, such evolution is likely to happen sooner than later.
Images of the Soirée