The Villa Sandi USA blog recently sat down with the estate’s owner and CEO Giancarlo Moretti Polegato to talk about the legacy and future of Prosecco in Italy and throughout the world.
It was a fascinating conversation with many significant takeaways.
But one of the most interesting was hearing his insights into the reasons behind Prosecco’s immense success across the globe during the last 20 years.
“Prosecco taught the world to drink sparkling wine during and throughout the meal,” he told the Villa Sandi USA blogger.
Today, to the ears of 21st-century wine lovers, it sounds very simple, doesn’t it?
But back in the 1990s, when few English-speakers had even heard of Prosecco let alone tasted it, the idea was profoundly revolutionary.
In the decades that led up to the turn of the century, there were basically two types of sparkling wine consumed outside of Italy. One was relatively dry and it came from France (you don’t need us to tell you what it was). The other was very sweet and it came from Italy (again, it’s easy to surmise the wine we’re talking about). The former was exclusive and expensive, reserved for the elite among wine drinkers and served only for special occasions and at the beginning of a meal. The latter was inexpensive and approachable but it was only served in celebration or with dessert.
As Mr. Polegato pointed out over the course of our chat, Prosecco was the world’s first “international” wine that was a) dry in style; b) affordable enough for everyday consumption; and c) traditionally consumed at mealtimes.
In a way, Prosecco taught the world what the Veneti (the people of the Veneto region) and the Venetians (the residents of Venice) already knew: Prosecco is one of the most food-friendly wines in the world and it’s also one of the world’s most versatile.
The famous wine from France, he noted, is price-prohibitive and its unique flavor profile makes it challenging to pair with a wide range of foods and dishes.
The equally famous wine from (another part of) Italy is inexpensive but its sweetness limits the options for pairing.
Prosecco, which some would call the official wine of Venice, filled a gap that wine lovers were increasingly wanting to fill.
There are other reasons why Prosecco became such a popular wine across the world. And we will have ample time to examine the appellation’s arc to success.
As Villa Sandi’s CEO and owner Giancarlo Moretti Polegato pointed out to me when we met a few weeks ago and I interviewed him at the winery, the Prosecco DOCG is one of the world’s only appellations where people actually live among the vines.
In most of the world’s greatest wine producing regions, the vineyards are located in the countryside, in other words, in sparsely populated farmland. The people live in the town and they go out to the vineyards to grow the grapes away from the population centers.
In the land of Prosecco, one of the world’s most parcelized appellations where the majority of the grapes are grown by small-scale family-owned farms, the people who grow and make the wine literally live in the vineyards. In some cases, there are even schools and other public spaces that stand adjacent to the vineyards.
As Giancarlo noted, it’s all the more reason that grape growers and winemakers in the Prosecco DOCG like Villa Sandi need to be extra careful about the environment.
Villa Sandi has been a pioneer of environmentally conscious farming and winemaking and has been among the first there to receive Biodiversity Friend certification for its vineyards where Prosecco DOCG is grown.
Here are some of the ways that Villa Sandi helps to protect the environment and minimize its carbon footprint.
In the vineyard: Villa Sandi’s vineyards are Biodiversity Friend certified by the World Biodiversity Association (WBA). Farming practices include conservation of soil fertility and weed and pest control through environmentally friendly methods using organic products. The estate also maintains wooded areas around its vineyards to support the presence of wild life. The vineyards are home to more than 90 types of insects and beekeepers manage hives at each site.
In the winery: Villa Sandi uses a number of alternative energy sources in the winery including hydroelectric power (thanks to its proximity to the Piave River) and solar panels which account for 40% of the total electricity consumed. It also has stringent protocols in place to ensure the sustainable use of water resources and to strictly limit CO2 emissions.
Packaging: All of Villa Sandi’s wines are bottled using lightweight glass to reduce their carbon footprint. Its labels are printed exclusively on biodegradable paper so as not to adversely effect the environment.
Welcome to the new Villa Sandi Prosecco DOCG blog!
This new project, the Villa Sandi USA blog, will feature content focused on the Villa Sandi estate and winery, its wines and farming practices, its winemaking philosophy and techniques, and — perhaps most importantly — the culture behind Prosecco and the people who produce it.
In the last 10 years or so, Prosecco has taken the world by storm. A generation ago, it would have been practically unthinkable. But today, Prosecco is the most popular sparkling wine in the world.
There are a number of reasons for this phenomenon. Chief among them is that the world thirsts more than ever for sparkling wine. But even more significantly, there has been a shift among the wine-loving public toward dry- as opposed to sweet-style wines. Back in the 1990s, when interest in Italian wine was beginning to grow with breakneck speed, it seemed that Prosecco was in the right place at the right time. As more and more consumers across the globe (and especially in English-speaking countries like the United States and the United Kingdom) became more and more interested in Italian wine (for the first time in two generations) and more and more wine lovers were asking for dry-style wines, Prosecco was just the right thing to fill that void.
Historically, Villa Sandi and its wines have been among the highly successful leaders in creating the new demand for Prosecco beyond Italy’s borders (more on that in a future post). Today, as part of its marketing efforts, it wanted to expand its efforts to share not just the joy and quality of the wines but also the culture behind the people who make the wines and the places where they are made.
That’s where I came into the picture. As a more than 10-year-veteran of the wine bloggins scene and a former professor of Italian literature and language, I have just the right background to dive into the “culture” of Prosecco. And what’s more is that I studied Italian at the University of Padua, just a stone’s throw from the hills of Prosecco. I’m just a fan of the Veneto (the region where these wines are raised and vinified) that I called my own blog Do Bianchi, a Venetian dialectal expression that means “two glasses of white wine.” I’ve been thinking about changing it to Do Prosecchi! Two Proseccos, please!
Thanks for being here and stay tuned for some great content about where and how these wines are made and how they can be served with both local and international cuisine.