Cantine Umberto Bortolotti - a day among the luxuriant hills of Valdobbiadene

Some info on the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG appellation

The production zone is located within the province of Treviso (in north-eastern Italy) and within the area of 15 municipalities between the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, 50 kilometres from Venice and equally distant from the Dolomites and from the Adriatic sea, which makes the climate in this area particularly mild (as it is protected by the Prealpi, the mountain range before the Alps and it benefits from the sea breezes).

The area is hilly and approximately 30% of the hills are extremely steep (the gradient can be up to 40%!) of a typical “pyramid” shape  and here the cultivation of vines can definitely be called “heroic”!

The soils are made up of sandstone and marl, with morainic and conglomerate rocks, but the composition varies in the vineyards which, together with the exposure and altitude, makes the wines very different one from the other, although minerality and sapidity are a distinctive feature of the wines of Valdobbiadene.

Furthermore, the night-day temperature range make this area ideal for the production of white wines and for sparkling wines in particular.

The wines are made mainly with Glera (previously called Prosecco) grapes. Small quantities of other autochthonous grapes such as Verdiso, Perera and Bianchetta and Pinot and Chardonnay can be added to the blend.

In 1976 the first Italian Oenology School was established in Conegliano and it is still active today. At the school the most suitable viticulture techniques were studied, the most suitable grape varieties were identified for this area and a procedure (the Conegliano Valdobbiadene method) for the production of sparkling wines in autoclave was elaborated from the Martinotti/Charmat method by the well known Professor Tullio de Rosa in mid 1900s.

The appellation acquired the DOCG status in 2009, it had previously been DOC since 1969. The total vineyard extension is 5.000 hectares of which 106 hectares are in the Cartizze zone, within the municipality of Valdobbiadene, from the vineyards of which Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze is made. Bear in mind that the market value of 1 hectare in the Cartizze zone is now approximately 2 million Euro!

In 2009 the production regulation of the Conegliano Valdobbiadene appellation identified 43 subzones called “Rive” (“Riva” in the local dialect means “extremely steep vineyard”) with unique soil and climate characteristics.  The wines made from the vineyards standing in these subzones must be exclusively sparkling, the maximum grape yield is 13 tons/hectare, the harvest must be carried out by hand and the label must bear the indication of the specific subzone.

This area is a candidate to be part of the UNESCO World Heritage.

 

The history and the staff

The Cantine were established in 1947 by Umberto Bortolotti who had a real passion for Prosecco: together with a group of friends he founded the “Consorzio di Tutela del Prosecco” (Consortium for the safeguarding of Prosecco), the Prosecco brotherhood and he also set up the National Fair of sparkling wines in 1963. The cellars have been at their present location since 1954 and have been completely renovated.

The son of Umberto, Bruno and his nephew, Daniele D’Anna, are now at the helm together with a staff of 10 people including an oenologist, Enrico Baratto, and an apprentice oenologist, Marika Zanatta. They also supervise the work of the viticulturists who supply grapes and wine to the Cantine.

Daniele, a trained economist, is the production manager and he follows the marketing of the wines. Speaking with the Bortolotti family members one has the perception of their great passion, of their dedication and of their great love for the Valdobbiadene area. Bruno and Daniele are indefatigable, very knowledgeable and up to date, their pristine winery a perfect blend of extremely modern technique and a great respect for tradition and also for the environment.

 

The vineyards

A characteristic of this area is that the wineries rely on viticulturists who supply grapes and wine.

Cantine Bortolotti works with a group of 17 viticulturists (who have been carefully selected over the years) who own a total of 60 hectares of vineyards and who supply grapes and wine. 40 hectares are within the Valdobbiadene DOCG area of which 1 hectare is in the subzone of Cartizze, 0,97 hectares are in the Rive di S. Stefano “Montagnole” subzone, 2.65 hectares are in the Rive di Rolle “Piai Alto” subzone and 0,96 hectares are in the Rive Col San Martino “Castel de Donà” subzone.  

The Rive are really impressive: the vineyards are so steep one can hardly stand up!

The vines are not planted on terraces, but are planted following the contour lines of the hills. The deep roots of the vines protect these hills from erosion. The hills of Montagnole (literally “small mountains”) are shaped like two pyramids, Cantine Bortolotti has the “monopoly” of this cru. Vigneto Altena is technically a “Riva”, although for bureaucratic reasons it cannot be so defined, this vineyard extends for 0.60 hectares.

The vineyards are mainly planted with Glera grapes. One viticulturist also supplies Lagrein, Traminer, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay grapes. The viticulturists are closely supervised by Enrico Baratto and by Marika Zanatta. They all follow environmental friendly practices. The vine training systems are “doppio capovolto” (double inverted training system) and Sylvoz.

 

The Glera grape variety

Glera is a semi-aromatic grape variety that is very vigorous from May till July. It is very influenced by the type of soil so that it can give wines with very different characteristics depending on the vineyard. It fears humidity and drought so that it has to be closely followed with careful agronomic practices throughout the whole vegetative cycle. Some vines up to 100 years old can be found in the steeper vineyards.

 

The cellar

The extremely modern cellar has a surface of 540 square meters and was completed in 2012.

Energy is partially supplied with solar panels. It is equipped with stainless steel vats with temperature control and with autoclaves of a capacity of 40-60-100-150 hectolitres. It is also equipped with a bottling plant. As of May 2011 the winery has obtained the UNI ENO ISO 22000:2005 certification that indicates that it complies with all the hygienic and sanitary issues foreseen by the HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points).

 

The Charmat/Martinotti method

All the wines are made with the Charmat/Martinotti, which consists in re-fermenting the “base” wine in autoclaves (large, sealed pressure tanks) with the addition of sugar and selected yeasts. These tanks have the same function of the bottle where the second fermentation takes place in the Champenoise method. The yeast metabolizes the sugar and produces CO2 which results in the fine perlage typical of the Valdobbiadene Superiore wines. The duration of the second fermentation is approximately 30 days, after which the wine is filtered with a centrifuge filter (removing the dead yeasts and the lees) and sterile bottled. Some of the wines (for example the Brut di Pinot coupage) are produced with the long Charmat method, where the second fermentation lasts for 120-150 days.

 

The philosophy of Cantine Bortolotti

Our philosophy is the research of harmony and of elegance,” Daniele D’Anna tells us. “We were born in Valdobbiadene, we work in Valdobbiadene and we promote Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG also in the facets of “Rive”. We promote Valdobbiadene in Italy and abroad trying to differentiate our wines from the great production of Prosecco DOC. We also make a small quantity of Prosecco DOC, but this will never be our main activity. The “Rive” wines are the proof of the amount of energy that is required. During the last three years we are making the viticulturists who work with us aware of the necessity to carry out environment friendly practices. The vineyard of Piai Alto is in the conversion phase to be certified organic and also the vineyard of Castel de Donà will also probably be soon in the conversion phase…”

 

The food matches

The Conegliano Valdobbiadene wines, due to their different styles and to the different amount of residual sugar (there are three versions: Brut with residual sugar for 0 to 12 grams/litre, Extra Dry with residual sugar from 12 to 17 grams/litre and Dry with residual sugar from 17 to 32 grams/litre) are extremely versatile. They are famous for being a perfect aperitif, but they can be drunk throughout a whole meal. They are a perfect match with vegetable dishes (such as the delicious grilled radicchio trevigiano or even asparagus), but they can be matched with grilled meat, with cheese, with cured meats and salame. A traditional match is with the local “soppressa” a fantastic fresh salame served with polenta. But Conegliano Valdobbiadene wines are also very international: they are a perfect match with oriental cuisine, Chinese, Japanese, south-east Asian and Indian.

 

The wines

The total production is 920,000 bottles and there are two main lines of wines: the Linea UB where the Valdobbiadene Prosecco DOCG is predominant along with a few other grape varieties and the Linea Astralis that includes 3 vintage sparkling wines.

 

The “Rive” wines

In 2012 Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry Rive di Rolle “Piai Alto” and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Rive di S. Stefano “Montagnole” were released. In 2014 two more wines were released: Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut Rive di Col S. Martino “Castel de Donà” and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry “Vigneto Àltena” (this wine, although it is technically a “Rive” cannot be so labelled due to bureaucratic problems).

All of the wines are made by the Charmat/Martinotti production method.

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut N.V.

Average production: 128,000 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry N.V.

Average production: 218,000 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Dry N.V.

Average production: 14,000 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry “47” N.V.

Average production: 39,500 bottles

Grape varieties: 90% Glera, 10% Pinot Bianco

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry Rive di Rolle “Piai Alto” 2012

Vineyard extension: 2,65 hectares

Average production: 15,500 bottles

Grape varieties: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Rive di S. Stefano “Montagnole” 2012

Vineyard extension: 0,97 hectares

Average production: 12,500 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut Rive di Col S. Martino ”Castel de Donà”  2013

Vineyard extension: 0,96 hectares

Average production: 9,950 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Extra Dry “Vigneto Àltena” 2013

Vineyard extension: 0,60 hectares

Average production: 7,200 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Dry 2012

Vineyard extension: 1,5 hectares

Average production: 14,500 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50% vol

 

Chardonnay Brut VSQ (Vino Spumante di Qualità – Quality Sparkling Wine) 2008

Average production: 18,000 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Chardonnay

Alcohol strength: 12 % vol

 

Brut Pinot Coupage VSQ (Vino Spumante di Qualità – Quality Sparkling Wine) 2006

Average production: 7,800 bottles

Grape varieties: 80% Pinot Bianco, 20% Pinot Nero

Alcohol strength: 12 % vol

 

Moscato Dolce VSQ (Vino Spumante di Qualità – Quality Sparkling Wine)

Average production: 12,000 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Moscato Giallo

Alcohol strength: 8 % vol

 

Prosecco Treviso DOC Extra Dry N.V.

Average production: 110,000 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Glera

Alcohol strength: 11,50 % vol

 

Rosato Lagrein Brut VSQ (Vino Spumante di Qualità – Quality Sparkling Wine) N.V.

Average production: 24,000 bottles

Grape variety: 100% Lagrein

Alcohol strength: 12 % vol

 

Traminer Brut VSQ (Vino Spumante di Qualità – Quality Sparkling Wine) N.V.

Average production: 14,000 bottles

Grape variety: 65% Chardonnay, 35% Traminer Aromatico

Alcohol strength: 12,50 % vol