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Prosecco or not Prosecco, in the future of the Docg of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene? Producers speak

The positions of the wineries Carpenè Malvolti, Nino Franco, Bortolomiol, Adami, Bisol and Col Vetoraz, and of the Consortia of Docg and Docg

The controversy over the name “Prosecco” has split opinions, as well as its use or not, or better yet its possible future abandonment, by the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg, the historical territory of the Prosecco galaxy, where some players believe that, after the birth of the DOC in 2009, and after the worldwide success of this sparkling wine, the term “Prosecco” as such flattens the differences between the sparkling wine produced in the hills, the DOCG (90 million bottles), and that of the plain, or that of the DOC (450.000 million bottles). The discussion began with the Col Vetoraz winery, which for years has chosen not to put Prosecco on the label of its bottles of Valdobbiadene Docg, as the regulations already allow, and which now wants to communicate more clearly, as the enologist Loris Dall’Acqua explains to WineNews.
“We believe that the current situation of the Prosecco system is oppressing the denomination of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, and so, as Col Vetoraz, we made this choice allowed by the regulations to make it clear to consumers, and to focus exclusively on Valdobbiadene, which, in our opinion, is the only true territorial expression”.
So far a company position, but Dall’Acqua is also “Grand Master” of the Confraternity of Valdobbiadene (which, according to the website, “has as its mission the development and promotion of Valdobbiadene Docg. Composed of wine technicians and personalities from the world of wine, the Confraternity is now an authentic University of Prosecco and works for the development of a partnership between people, wineries, territory and its main product, ed), and from here the hypothesis of a gradual abandonment of the term Prosecco, at the level of denomination: “we sent an application to the 2.640 subjects of the chain of 15 municipalities of the DOCG, to understand if the base of the territory Conegliano Valdobbiadene feels the need to take an independent path outside the great Prosecco system, because we are verifying the loss of perception, by consumers, of the distinctions between the various origins, and we want to understand what they think of the territory”. The beginning of a journey that, as an “extreme ratio” could lead, among the hypotheses, to the cancellation of the name Prosecco from the DOCG: “it is part of our history, but we find ourselves evaluating the current situation, regardless of the history, and the perception we have is that the historical reality of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene runs the risk of being flattened, because the weight of the Prosecco system is totally different, and we have the feeling that the way to re-emerge is that of an independent road. Clearly, we would suffer from abandoning the origin, that's clear. We are not imposing anything, of course, but we are trying to understand what the territory thinks, and since we have collected so much discontent in the territory, and understand how to make clarity, clarity that in the long run can become an advantage for all”.
And on this aspect, it was the Consortium of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg that relaunched the reflection, as explained to WineNews by president Innocente Nardi: “We do not want to abandon the term Prosecco: it is a question of communicating a difference within the Prosecco system, and of understanding how to do it. But it is a question that we must ask ourselves, without prejudice or preclusion”.
Obviously, however, the question provoked the reaction of the Prosecco Doc Consortium: “The Conegliano - Valdobbiadene Docg Denomination has every right to decide on its own name, obviously also to renounce the term Prosecco. What I find inexplicable is that in making this step, it tends to denigrate the work of others, particularly Prosecco Doc, which instead has worked with commitment and - data in hand - has supported its development. In fact, Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg production has risen from 60 million in 2009 to over 90 million bottles today. Therefore, the growth of DOC over the last 10 years has also favored DOCG both in terms of volume and value”, said Stefano Zanette, president of the Consorzio del Prosecco DOC.
The Governor of the Veneto Region, Luca Zaia, also spoke on the subject. In 2009, as Minister of Agriculture, he “christened” the birth of the DOC: “to remove the word Prosecco from labels - he says - is a game that concerns producers. Obviously, the regulations will have to be modified. Personally, I think that suddenly removing the name from the labels will move buyers, especially abroad, to those who have the name. The appeal to the Consortia is that they make themselves heard, because they represent the producers. It is unacceptable to hear that with the 2009 decree Prosecco has lost out”.
But the producers of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg have different opinions on this idea. Starting with Domenico Scimone, in Carpenè Malvolti, the first winery that, in 1924, wrote the name Prosecco on the label, and that is about to leave for a world tour to launch its “Prosecco 1924”, to reaffirm the origins, history and original taste of Prosecco. “Working hard to make the most of the differences between Prosecco that originates from the hills that are part of the Unesco heritage and those on the plain is both appropriate and necessary, but to think of abandoning the term Prosecco from the territory where it was born is not the right way to follow”, he explains to WineNews.
Elvira Bortolomiol, the head of the historic Valdobbiadene winery, is also on the same line: “We did a lot to protect the name Prosecco, which includes a system that involves the hill and the plain, and I don’t understand how we can go back. We have received this great Unesco recognition for the Hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, and I believe that the territory is not overshadowed. The name Prosecco is important, maybe in the future we will talk more about the name of the territory, which we must enhance more, than Prosecco, but I do not understand how we can abandon the name Prosecco, I do not think it is the right solution to enhance more the hill. Also because in 2009 the name Prosecco became that of a DOC to be protected in the world, there is a link from this point of view between hill and plain, and I do not see how you can get out of it”.
Gianluca Bisol’s opinion of the historic label, which for some years now has been under the aegis of the Ferrari - Fratelli Lunelli group, is more tranchant: “I absolutely do not share the idea of eliminating the word “Prosecco Superiore”, which is the one that best helps to identify the wine produced in our historic hills compared to the “sea” of Prosecco di Pianura. I say more, if we want to use Valdobbiadene (or Conegliano, ed.) more clearly, we must use Prosecco Superiore with the words Valdobbiadene exclusively for sparkling wine produced from grapes harvested in the municipality of Valdobbiadene. Just as Brunello di Montalcino is produced only in the municipality of Montalcino, so those who want to write Valdobbiadene should do the same. And, again, we must enhance the Rive, and begin a reasoning that limits the destination of the grapes of the DOCG to the production of only Valdobbiadene DOCG and not Prosecco DOC”.
Primo Franco’s position, at the head of the Nino Franco winery, and among the deans of the denomination is also clear: “I have always said that today the denomination is Conegliano and Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg, and that this should not be touched. After that, the regulations already provide that one can write Valdobbiadene Docg, the world today buys Prosecco, it is up to the individual company to use communication and marketing as it sees fit. I start from the assumption that first there is Nino Franco, then Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg, meaning that the brand of the denomination is more important. The brand is of the companies, the denomination is a common good, and guarantees the origin and the provenance. Several companies, since 2009, discussed using only Valdobbiadene, but I think that these companies do not work abroad, or have minimum export rates”.
Contrary to a hypothesis of abandonment today, open to discussion for the future, however, is Franco Adami, at the head of the brand Adami: “The choice to use the word Prosecco Superiore or not is voluntary today - remembers Adami - and that some companies have decided not to use it is a fact, it is not a thing of today. In our DOCG there are those who believe that the word Prosecco has become a burden, and those who believe it is still important, especially accompanied by Superiore, to recognize a story that was made in this territory, and then “moved” even in a larger territory. Abandoning the word Prosecco is a burning discussion that has been going on for a long time, and will still last a long time, and that should in any case be shared by a large majority of producers to change the rules. I think you can discuss everything, but do not do sudden actions, which could even be boomerangs. To abandon the term Prosecco, now, I am against it, but I am open to making a path that enhances more Conegliano Valdobbiadene than Prosecco. Maybe it is possible to experiment with the Rive, where the municipality of origin of the grapes must already be indicated, or to experiment with a few wineries, then let’s see what happens. And maybe thinking of a tomorrow where in Conegliano Valdobbiadene only Prosecco Superiore Docg is made, without the possibility, as sometimes happens, to downgrade to Doc. In any case, the tables must be kept open, you must always discuss everything, because times change”.

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