Last week I spoke at an event in London about my travels in Italy and the diverse regional tastes of my country. I love to visit cities and regions across the Italian peninsula to try local ingredients and dishes that you cannot find anywhere else. It’s particularly exciting for me to visit producers and learn first-hand what makes Italian food and wine so special. Like the time I travelled to Valdobbiadene, the home of the best Prosecco, with Mionetto to learn how the famous Italian sparkling wine is made.
Valdobbiadene is both the name of a town of around 11,000 inhabitants and a vine-growing area (officially known as “Conegliano Valdobbiadene”) in the countryside of Veneto, about 50 km west of Venice and 100 km south of the Dolomites.
The landscape of the Valdobbiadene’s limestone-rich hillsides covered by vineyards is absolutely breathtaking!
This is the home of Prosecco, a light-bodied white wine with fruity and floral fragrances, a mineral, savoury flavour and tight bubbles. The Italian wine is low in alcohol and is perfect as an aperitif, though if you ask people in Valdobbiadene they’ll tell you you can drink Prosecco from breakfast till dinner!
The unique microclimate of Conegliano Valdobbiadene (mild winters and summers that are characterised both by hot temperatures and heavy showers) makes this area perfect for growing Glera, the highly aromatic grape variety used in the production of Prosecco. Glera is distinguished by green skin, high acidity and a fairly neutral palate.
Valdobbiadene is part of the Prosecco DOCG and DOC areas.
DOCG, a denomination used to guarantee the geographic authenticity of the wine and its quality. It is the highest denomination for wine and only a handful of Italian wines have it. Prosecco DOCG can only be produced in Conegliano Valdobbiadene and it is considered the best of the best!
The DOC geographic zone is bigger than the DOCG and covers 9 provinces across both regions of Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
There are 450 wine producers in Conegliano Valdobbiadene and about 70 of them work for Mionetto, a family-owned company founded in 1887. The fourth generation of the family still works at the company’s headquarters in Valdobbiadene today, producing as many as 24 millions of bottles every year.
The Mionetto family’s goal is simple: to make great Prosecco wine to be enjoyed everyday, and not just on special occasions.
My visit on a hot September day started with lunch on the terrace at Salis, a wine shop and restaurant perched on the hills of Cartizze. Imagine waking up in London and eating lunch in Italy with this view: it sounds like a dream, right? I would have happily spent a few days more in Valdobbiadene!
It’s a dreamy holiday destination: verdant hills, picturesque towns, great food and delicious Prosecco wine.
The highlight of our 3-course alfresco lunch (aside from the Mionetto wine, of course) was this Risotto with Cartizze Prosecco and Basil. I never thought of using Prosecco in risotto before, but the light and fresh sparkling wine works really well in this dish.
After lunch, we drove the short distance from the restaurant in Cartizze to Mionetto in Valdobbiadene, where we learnt how Prosecco is made.
The process of making Prosecco starts with the grapes, which are usually harvested in early September. Keep an eye on the 2018 Vintage, because according to Mionetto this year’s favourable weather led to a super production, one of the best in years.
How is Prosecco made?
The grapes are transported to a vinification centre where they are pressed to extract the juice (known as “must”). The must is then transferred to the production site in Valdobbiadene, which I had the chance to visit, where two stages of fermentations take place. The first is done with yeast and lasts for around 15-20 days. During the second fermentation, sugar (around 17-25 grams per litre) is added to the still wine inside big stainless-steel tanks to stimulate the production of bubbles. This phase can take around 25 days to make a soft sparkling Prosecco (frizzante) or around 40 days to make spumante.
The sparkling wine is bottled, packaged and shipped around the world. Of course, I am simplifying things: there is a lot of work behind the scenes to produce the great quality Mionetto Prosecco and ensure consistency in flavours, particularly in the most loved labels. Because there isn’t just one Prosecco.
The range of Mionetto Prosecco wines
Mionetto produces a wide range of Prosecco labels: DOC and DOCG, blends and single vintages, and different origins like Cartizze, Valdobbiadene and Treviso.
Mionetto DOC Treviso for example is distinguished by a light yellow colour and a taste of Golden Delicious apple. It is the company’s most classic and loved wine. Mionetto MO Cartizze is a crisp, well balanced and elegant Prosecco produced in a portion of land particularly renowned for position, soil and microclimate (it’s also more expensive).
During a tasting at Mionetto’s HQ, I had the chance to see the differences in six glasses of Prosecco and taste various levels of sweetness, acidity and freshness. Among them, was Mionetto organic Prosecco: a natural wine made with very low sugar and sulphite content, first introduced in the Italian and European markets in 2014.
I also tasted a Prosecco Rosé Extra Dry made with Glera grapes and Pinot Noir in rosé vinification (85% is the amount of Glera required by law in a Prosecco wine). A well balanced and sophisticated wine that I am sure the UK market will absolutely love when it launches here in 2020.
Just before sunset, we left Mionetto’s home and drove on the “Prosecco road” through the vineyards of Cartizze, stopping at Osteria senz’Oste for panoramic views over the valley.
We arrived at Hotel Abbazia in Follina, one of the most loved historical centres of Veneto, where we spent the rest of the evening and had a delicious dinner at Osteria dai Mazzeri.
Half Day in Venice
The next morning we left Follina early to drive back to Venice. We had a few hours to spare before our flight to London, so hopped on a water taxi and thirty minutes later we were in the beautiful laguna of Venezia.
With exactly one hour of free time before and after lunch, I quickly walked to all my favourite spots in Venice: the Rialto bridge, St Mark’s Square, Ponte dei Sospiri, Ponte dell’Accademia.
I also went up to the terrace of the new Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store, where you can enjoy this breathtaking view for free. The entrance is restricted to a limited number of people, so there is a bit of waiting time, but it’s well worth it.
Me and the rest of the Mionetto team met up again at Ristorante Antico Pignolo situated just five minutes from Piazza San Marco. Sitting in the courtyard at the back of the restaurant, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, we enjoyed a great lunch of Venetian dishes such as baccalà and Spaghetti alla Busara, paired with Mionetto Prosecco.
And then, it was time to say goodbye to Italy. My trip to Valdobbiadene and Veneto with Mionetto was a whirlwind, but in the short time I was there I witnessed the skills, knowledge and passion of the region’s wine producers and the tasted the best quality of our Prosecco. I returned home to London with a new appreciation for Mionetto Prosecco. I have already bought a bottle to toast in the new year in a few weeks!
For more online topics about wines, please visit Sokolin Collector Wines.
Disclaimer: I was invited on this trip as part of a media trip. This is a sponsored post. All opinions are my own.