“Top-Class Prosecco.” Will Lyons (Times) recommends Villa Sandi for Valentine’s Day

“The trick to really enjoying Valentine’s Day: do it yourself,” writes Will Lyons for the London Sunday Times (February 10, 2019). “Stay in, tackle that ambitious recipe you’ve had your eye on since January and share a bottle of something special. There are plenty of options. I’m thinking of a gentle glass of Prosecco, produced in the shadow of Venice.”

“If there’s one night you can indulge in a top-class Prosecco, this is it. Villa Sandi [Prosecco DOCG Millesimato 2017], from grapes grown on hillsides in Veneto — an hour’s drive from the world’s most romantic city — is delicate and pale, with notes of acacia, white flowers and crunchy apples.”

Click here for fact sheet.

Click here for Lyons’ recommendations for Valentine’s Day 2019 (subscribers only).

Carnevale: The famous Carnival of Venice, February 16-March 5

The annual Carnevale di Venezia (Carnival of Venice) takes place this year from February 16 through martedì grasso (Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras) on March 5.

CLICK HERE FOR THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE, including information on ticket sales, events, and travel tips.

The Carnevale di Venezia is an ancient tradition that stretches back to the Middle Ages when the city of Venice was first founded.

It always takes place over the two weeks (or so) that lead up to Lent. The last day is always the day before Ash Wednesday.

Some believe that its origins lie in a desire to indulge in food and drink before the “lean” days of Lent leading up to the Easter Holiday.

Others speculate that it was intended as a festival to mark the end of winter and the beginning of spring.

Today, thousands of people descend on Venice during the gathering, many of them dressed in traditional commedia dell’arte masks and costumes as well as creative costumes.

Essentially, it’s a huge party that takes over the city: Tens of thousands of people will visit Venice during Carnevale and attend the countless parties and happenings that occur across town.

There are many official Carnevale events but some would contend that the best part of Carnevale is just wandering the streets enjoying the masks, costumes, and pageantry.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a couple of posts about Carnevale, its history, and why it’s such a big part of Veneto culture.

And of course, the unofficial wine of Carnevale is Prosecco, a year-round favorite of the Venetians and the perfect wine to share during the revelry that takes place each year during the colorful festival.

Image via the official Facebook of the Carnevale di Venezia.

Prosecco DOCG: The ultimate seafood pairing…

There’s an old adage that food and wine experts are often fond of repeating: If it grows with it, it goes with it.

In other words, when you are planning a food and wine pairing, consider what wines the growers pair with their foods. And find inspiration in foods and wines that are traditionally paired together.

Most Italian food and wine experts agree that Prosecco DOCG is one of the best — if not the best — pairing for classic Italian seafood.

Prosecco DOCG is widely considered to be the official wine of Venice, for example. And there’s good reason for that.

Proximity: Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, the two primary townships where Prosecco DOCG is grown and vinified, are only an hour away from Venice by car. On a clear day, you can literally see the famous bell tower of St. Marks square (Piazza San Marco) from the hills of Prosecco DOCG country.

Geography has played a historically fundamental role in Prosecco’s relationship with the “lagoon city.” The Piave River literally runs through Prosecco DOCG country and it leads to Venice where it empties out into the Adriatic Sea. The flow of water toward the city made it easy to transport demijohns filled with sparkling Prosecco to the city in a time before modern transportation. It was only natural that Prosecco would become a favorite wine of the Venetians because they had easy access to it.

But Venetians also loved and continue to love Prosecco because they are a seafaring people and they consume a lot of seafood every day.

When farmed and vinified correctly, Glera (the main grape in Prosecco DOCG) always has a characteristic mineral-salty note to it. And that savory character is complemented by its natural citrus (think gently bitter grapefruit) flavor.

If you’ve ever had fish dressed with a touch of freshly squeezed lemon juice, you know that citrus and saltiness go perfectly together. The acidity of the lemon is the ideal accompaniment to the saltiness of the dish. Similarly, Prosecco DOCG makes for a fantastic match for nearly any kind of seafood, like pasta with clams or fried gobies (a favorite snack of the Venetians).

Here on the Villa Sandi USA blog, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite classic Prosecco DOCG pairings as well as creative pairings with international foods.

Prosecco DOCG and fish tacos, anyone? Stay tuned…

EU proposes compromise on Australian “Prosecco” labeling rights

In August of last year, Italy’s agricultural ministry contacted its counterpart in Australia and expressed its interest in protecting naming rights for Prosecco DOCG and Prosecco DOC wines throughout the world.

For years now, Australia grape growers and winemakers have labeled sparkling wines as “Prosecco” despite the fact Prosecco originated in Italy and is protected by European Union trademark laws. But because Australia is not an EU member and because it’s not subject to EU regulation, there was no recourse for Italian Prosecco producers.

Last year, the Italian ministry argued that because the grape name has been officially changed to Glera (formerly known as Prosecco) and because Prosecco is a place name (a village in northeastern Italy not far from Valdobbiadene-Conegliano, the heart of Prosecco country), Italian wine growers should be entitled under international law to exclusive use of the trade mark.

The story was first reported by Queensland University of Technology.

According to a report published this week by Drinks Business, the EU has proposed a compromise whereby Austrlians could call their wines “Australian Prosecco,” thus differentiating it from Italian-grown Prosecco and eliminating confusion in the market place.

Prosecco isn’t the only EU food product that would be affected by the current proposal: According to Drinks Business, the Australian agricultural ministry is currently negotiating with the EU over more than 1,500 products (cheese labeled “feta” is one of them, for example).

It’s not clear what the Australian response will be to the EU proposed compromise.

But we will be following the story closely and reporting on it here on the Villa Sandi USA blog.

Image via the Villa Sandi Facebook.

In an interview with Slow Food UK, Giancarlo Moretti Polegato explains Villa Sandi’s unique vinification approach

“Villa Sandi relies on a special production technique to get the very best Prosecco,” said owner Giancarlo Moretti Polegato (above) in a recent interview with Slow Food UK.

    To enhance and preserve freshness, floral and fruity aromas of Prosecco, our winemakers chill the must and store it. For any sparkling production, they start the sparkling process from the chilled must instead of starting it from wine. The chilled must has maintained the freshness and the floral and fruity notes of Prosecco at their best (as if the grapes had just been harvested and pressed). The resulting sparkling Prosecco enhances these typical features, making Villa Sandi Prosecco different.

Because of his standing in the Italian and European business community, his patronage of Italian art and culture, and his myriad charitable works, Giancarlo and his family are often featured in both wine trade and mainstream media. You’ll find countless interviews with Giancarlo across the internet. But his Slow Food UK conversation is, by far, one of the best.

Click here to read the complete interview.

90 points Robert Parker for Villa Sandi Cartizze: “Soft, luscious sparkler” (Monica Larner)

The slopes of the Cartizze cru in the Prosecco DOCG (above) are so steep that they have to be worked by hand. Villa Sandi makes its Prosecco DOCG Cartizze using fruit sourced from its own rows in the designation together with grapes it obtains thanks to its longstanding, generational relationships with family growers there.

Here’s what Monica Larner had to say about Villa Sandi’s Prosecco DOCG Cartizze in her latest review of the winery for Robert Parker (Wine Advocate). Technical info for the wine follows below.

I remember how excited the folks at Villa Sandi were when they finally bought a tiny parcel of land in the precious Cartizze cru a few years back. These vineyard parcels almost never come on the market. The NV Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry is a soft and luscious sparkler with sweet, foamy effervescence that fills the palate. The wine is made in a Dry style and there is a noticeable touch of sweetness that comes forward as honeydew melon and passion fruit. This Cartizze is feathery light and weightless in texture.

Monica Larner
Robert Parker/Wine Advocate

*****

VALDOBBIADENE SUPERIORE DI CARTIZZE D.O.C.G.

This wine is light hay yellow in color, with fine and lingering bubbles. On the nose, it’s intensely fruity with marked notes of ripe golden apple, tropical fruit salad, and citrus. On the nose, the wine delivers lingering notes of acacia flower. On the palate, it’s fresh and delicately sweet, with fine bubbles that release smooth, fruity notes.

CLASSIFICATION Sparkling wine (spumante), controlled origin designation, Dry.

PRODUCTION AREA A small hilltop area in the D.O.C.G. covering 106 hectares of vineyard in the hamlets of Santo Stefano and San Pietro di Barbozza (both in Valdobbiadene township). A genuine single-vineyard bottling (cru) that is born thanks to the perfect combination of ideal microclimate and ancient morainic, sandstone, and clay subsoils.

TRAINING SYSTEM Double-arched Guyot with 2,500 vines per hectare.

MAXIMUM YIELD 12 tons per hectare.

HARVEST PERIOD Second ten days of September.

VINIFICATION The whole berries are transferred to a pneumatic press and the must is obtained using soft pressing. After initial racking, the must is transferred into temperature-controlled tanks where it remains until it will be transformed into sparkling wine.

PRODUCTION Once Villa Sandi’s selected yeasts have been added to the must, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks at 15-16° C. This allows the winemaker to focus all of the harvest’s aromas. Once the desired alcohol and residual sugar levels have been obtained, fermentation is arrested by lowering the temperature. After a short aging period, the sparkling wine is ready to be bottled.

PAIRINGS A versatile sparkling wine that can be served at the beginning and end of the meal with equal success. Ideal with marinated reef fish or with salmon tartare. It can also be served with moderately sweet leavened desserts.

IDEAL SERVING TEMPERATURE 6-8° C.

TECHNICAL INFO alcohol 11% residual sugar 31 grams/liter acidity 5.7 grams/liter

Bigoli with hare ragù and a glass of Prosecco DOCG, a match made in heaven!

I know that for the uninitiated the above photo may not seem immediately appealing.

But for those familiar with the joys of country cooking in the land of Prosecco, the dish above might as well be a painting by Renaissance master Titian!

Those are bigoli, hand-rolled noodles and a classic of Veneto gastronomy, tossed with hare ragù. This pasta shape, a long noodle similar to the spaghetto but with a much more coarse surface because of the ingredients and production process (which I’ll address in a moment), are renowned for their absorption of the sauces used to dress them. Whatever the dressing, the flavors of the pasta and the topping blend together, thus resulting in a particularly satisfying and rewarding culinary experience.

When I visited the Villa Sandi winery, estate, and villa in early December, official hunting season was well under way. And the hare used to make this sauce was not farmed. It was a hunter’s bounty, making it all the more flavorful and redolent of the aromas of the woods.

Being on the road and not wanting to overdo it that night, I didn’t indulge in the rotisserie-fired meats that glistened over the hearth at the Locanda Sandi (Sandi Inn) where I was staying. But the delicious aromas filled up the dining room, adding to the rustic setting and ambiance.

Bigoli are made using just flour, water, and salt (Tuscan travelers will immediately recognize their counterparts in Tuscany’s pici). Today, they are formed using a extruder die. But especially when it comes to places like the restaurant at the Locanda Sandi, the pasta is still worked by hand. And this is what gives the noodles their wonderful texture and consistency, making them the ideal receptacle for the savory sauce.

This dish would have been well served by a Piave Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. But the night I was at the locanda, we paired with a Prosecco DOCG. It was a brilliant pairing: The freshness of the wine worked gorgeously against the richly savory pasta and the wine’s fruit was a wonderful counterpoint to its fattiness and saltiness.

If you make to Valdobbiadene in Prosecco DOCG country before the end of hunting season, I can’t recommend it highly enough!

What does the G in Prosecco DOCG mean?

On the face of it, the acronym DOCG is relatively straightforward.

DOCG stands for Denominazione d’Origine Controllata e Garantita.

Literally translated, it means designation of controlled and guaranteed origin. More precisely, it means monitored and guaranteed appellation. In other words, it’s a classification for wines for which grapes have been grown and monitored in a highly specific geographic area; made using specific vinification techniques and standards, also monitored; and guaranteed inasmuch as a team of appellation-sanctioned tasters and technicians have randomly sampled the product once it has been bottled but before its commercial release.

The designation stands apart from the Italian DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata or designation of controlled origin) in that the wines are monitored throughout the growing cycle and the vinfication process. And they are most likely tasted by a specially appointed tasting panel. But they are not necessarily guaranteed.

For all intents and purposes, the DOCG represents the highest tier in the Italian wine appellation classification system. And it is reserved for the country’s top wines (like Barolo and Brunello among many other notable appellations).

But in the land of Prosecco the difference between the DOC wines and DOCG wines is extremely important. And it’s important to note that Prosecco is one of those rare appellations for which a DOC and a DOCG exist.

The main difference is that Prosecco DOCG can only be grown in three townships: Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo (Villa Sandi, for the record, makes wines using fruit mostly from Valdobbiadene but also the other two townships as well).

And those three townships are located and spread across the hills of Treviso province — and not the valley.

When you drink Prosecco DOCG like that produced by Villa Sandi, you are assured that you are drinking a wine that was grown exclusively in the best growing zones: Hilltops with subsoils comprised mostly of morainic stones (glacial debris).

Because of the steep slopes of those hills, much of the vineyard work has to be done by hand (whereas the valley floor fruit can be farmed and harvested mechanically).

There are other important differences as well, like the many regulations regarding production etc. But this is the most significant one.

We’ll look at other reasons why the DOCG is so important in upcoming posts as well.

VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE D.O.C.G. MILLESIMATO BRUT

VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE D.O.C.G. MILLESIMATO BRUT

This wine is light hay yellow in color, with fine and lingering bubbles. On the nose, it’s intensely fruity with marked notes of ripe golden apple. The approachable and elegant nose delivers notes of acacia flower. Fresh but dry on the palate with savory flavors and an approachable and balanced fruity finish.

CLASSIFICATION Sparkling wine (spumante), controlled origin designation, Brut.

PRODUCTION AREA Vineyards located in Conegliano and Valdobbiadene townships. The grapes are grown on morainic hills with mixed calcareous subsoils, including marl and in some cases calcareous clay.

TRAINING SYSTEM Simple double-arched espalier with 2,500 vines per hectare.

MAXIMUM YIELD 13.5 tons per hectare.

HARVEST PERIOD Second ten days of September.

VINIFICATION The whole berries are transferred to a pneumatic press and the must is obtained using soft pressing. After initial racking, the must is transferred into temperature-controlled tanks where it remains until it will be transformed into sparkling wine.

PRODUCTION Once Villa Sandi’s selected yeasts have been added to the must, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks at 15-16° C. This allows the winemaker to focus all of the harvest’s aromas. Once the desired alcohol and residual sugar levels have been obtained, fermentation is arrested by lowering the temperature. After a short aging period, the sparkling wine is ready to be bottled.

PAIRINGS An excellent aperitif wine. Fish marinated with delicate aromatic herbs and first courses prepared with wild herbs. This wine is also excellent when served throughout the meal.

IDEAL SERVING TEMPERATURE 6-8° C.

TECHNICAL INFO alcohol 11% residual sugar 12 grams/liter acidity 5.6 grams/liter

CAMPAGNA FINANZIATA AI SENSI DEL REG. CE N. 1308/2013
CAMPAIGN FINANCED ACCORDING TO EC REG. N. 1308/2013

VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE D.O.C.G. EXTRA DRY

VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE D.O.C.G. EXTRA DRY

This wine is light hay yellow in color, with fine and lingering bubbles. On the nose, it’s intensely fruity with marked notes of ripe golden apple. The approachable and elegant nose delivers notes of acacia flower. Fresh on the palate and delicately sweet, with smooth texture set against savory notes and a deliciously fruity and balanced finish.

CLASSIFICATION Sparkling wine (spumante), controlled origin designation, Extra Dry.

PRODUCTION AREA Vineyards located in Conegliano and Valdobbiadene townships. The grapes are grown on morainic hills with mixed calcareous subsoils, including marl and in some cases calcareous clay.

TRAINING SYSTEM Simple double-arched espalier with 2,500 vines per hectare.

MAXIMUM YIELD 13.5 tons per hectare.

HARVEST PERIOD Second ten days of September.

VINIFICATION The whole berries are transferred to a pneumatic press and the must is obtained using soft pressing. After initial racking, the must is transferred into temperature-controlled tanks where it remains until it will be transformed into sparkling wine.

PRODUCTION Once Villa Sandi’s selected yeasts have been added to the must, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks at 15-16° C. This allows the winemaker to focus all of the harvest’s aromas. Once the desired alcohol and residual sugar levels have been obtained, fermentation is arrested by lowering the temperature. After a short aging period, the sparkling wine is ready to be bottled.

PAIRINGS An excellent aperitif wine. Fish marinated with delicate aromatic herbs and first courses prepared with wild herbs.

IDEAL SERVING TEMPERATURE 6-8° C.

TECHNICAL INFO alcohol 11% residual sugar 17 grams/liter acidity 5.7 grams/liter

CAMPAGNA FINANZIATA AI SENSI DEL REG. CE N. 1308/2013
CAMPAIGN FINANCED ACCORDING TO EC REG. N. 1308/2013

VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE DI CARTIZZE LA RIVETTA

VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE DI CARTIZZE LA RIVETTA

This wine is light hay yellow in color, with fine and lingering bubbles. On the nose, it’s intensely fruity with marked notes of ripe golden apple, tropical fruit salad, and citrus. On the nose, the wine delivers lingering and smooth notes of acacia flower and wisteria. On the palate, its fine bubbles release smooth, fruity notes.

CLASSIFICATION Sparkling wine (spumante), controlled origin designation, Brut.

PRODUCTION AREA A small hilltop area in the D.O.C.G. covering 106 hectares of vineyard in the hamlets of Santo Stefano and San Pietro di Barbozza (both in Valdobbiadene township). A genuine single-vineyard bottling (cru) that is born thanks to the perfect combination of ideal microclimate and ancient morainic, sandstone, and clay subsoils.

TRAINING SYSTEM Doubled-arched Guyot with 2,500 vines per hectare.

MAXIMUM YIELD 12 tons per hectare.

HARVEST PERIOD Second ten days of September.

VINIFICATION The whole berries are transferred to a pneumatic press and the must is obtained using soft pressing. After initial racking, the must is transferred into temperature-controlled tanks where it remains until it will be transformed into sparkling wine.

PRODUCTION Once Villa Sandi’s selected yeasts have been added to the must, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks at 15-16° C. This allows the winemaker to focus all of the harvest’s aromas. Once the desired alcohol and residual sugar levels have been obtained, fermentation is arrested by lowering the temperature. After a short aging period, the sparkling wine is ready to be bottled.

PAIRINGS A sparkling wine that can be served at the beginning and end of the meal with equal success. Ideal with marinated reef fish or with salmon tartare.

IDEAL SERVING TEMPERATURE 6-8° C.

TECHNICAL INFO alcohol 11.5% residual sugar 12 grams/liter acidity 5.7 grams/liter

CAMPAGNA FINANZIATA AI SENSI DEL REG. CE N. 1308/2013
CAMPAIGN FINANCED ACCORDING TO EC REG. N. 1308/2013

VALDOBBIADENE SUPERIORE DI CARTIZZE D.O.C.G.

VALDOBBIADENE SUPERIORE DI CARTIZZE D.O.C.G.

This wine is light hay yellow in color, with fine and lingering bubbles. On the nose, it’s intensely fruity with marked notes of ripe golden apple, tropical fruit salad, and citrus. On the nose, the wine delivers lingering notes of acacia flower. On the palate, it’s fresh and delicately sweet, with fine bubbles that release smooth, fruity notes.

CLASSIFICATION Sparkling wine (spumante), controlled origin designation, Dry.

PRODUCTION AREA A small hilltop area in the D.O.C.G. covering 106 hectares of vineyard in the hamlets of Santo Stefano and San Pietro di Barbozza (both in Valdobbiadene township). A genuine single-vineyard bottling (cru) that is born thanks to the perfect combination of ideal microclimate and ancient morainic, sandstone, and clay subsoils.

TRAINING SYSTEM Double-arched Guyot with 2,500 vines per hectare.

MAXIMUM YIELD 12 tons per hectare.

HARVEST PERIOD Second ten days of September.

VINIFICATION The whole berries are transferred to a pneumatic press and the must is obtained using soft pressing. After initial racking, the must is transferred into temperature-controlled tanks where it remains until it will be transformed into sparkling wine.

PRODUCTION Once Villa Sandi’s selected yeasts have been added to the must, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled tanks at 15-16° C. This allows the winemaker to focus all of the harvest’s aromas. Once the desired alcohol and residual sugar levels have been obtained, fermentation is arrested by lowering the temperature. After a short aging period, the sparkling wine is ready to be bottled.

PAIRINGS A versatile sparkling wine that can be served at the beginning and end of the meal with equal success. Ideal with marinated reef fish or with salmon tartare. It can also be served with moderately sweet leavened desserts.

IDEAL SERVING TEMPERATURE 6-8° C.

TECHNICAL INFO alcohol 11% residual sugar 31 grams/liter acidity 5.7 grams/liter

CAMPAGNA FINANZIATA AI SENSI DEL REG. CE N. 1308/2013
CAMPAIGN FINANCED ACCORDING TO EC REG. N. 1308/2013