Let me start by saying the Prosecco is one of the most beautiful wine regions I have visited. It is really a fantastic place for those looking for somewhere undiscovered and not filled with tourists. My visit made me appreciate how little we know about this sparkling Italian wine.
Learning about and tasting Prosecco
We really don’t know Prosecco here in the United States. Too often it is seen as the cheap alternative to champagne. Prosecco is wine made from the Glera grape from the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions of northeastern Italy. What is confusing is that the Glera grape used to be called Prosecco, but Italy changed the name in order to better protect the area of origin and not allow Prosecco wine to be made anywhere in the world.
Prosecco is designated a DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) or DOCG, with DOCG a higher, more specific and select designation. Given that there are more than 100 wineries in the Prosecco DOCG area alone, you likely don’t need to venture beyond that group. This area is located in Colli Asolani and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene.
According to “Ask Dr. Vinny” with Wine Spectator:
Its story began in Conegliano Valdobbiadene, a hilly area in North-East Italy, 50 km from Venice and around 100 from the Dolomites. Here, for over three centuries, people have grown the grapes that produce Prosecco Superiore, whose success began with the founding of Italy’s first School of Winemaking in 1876. The production area covers 15 communes and represents the heart of the world of Prosecco; it is one of Italy’s historic denominations, recognized in 1969. In 2009, with the reorganisation of the denominations for Prosecco, the Ministry of Agriculture classified it as a Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin (D.O.C.G.), the highest level of quality for Italian wines.
There are also the Asolo D.O.C.G. and the Prosecco D.O.C., covering 9 Provinces in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia, created to protect the viticultural heritage of Prosecco and defend it around the world. The region has an excellent website with maps and wineries that are located in the designation. This is a good place to start. You can also just reach out to us and we can find a great guide to take you around the region.
One other fantastic resource is the Strada del Prosecco, or Prosecco Wine Route, that winds from the town of Conegliano to the village of Valdobbiadene.
The hill of Cartizze is often considered the highest quality of grapes in the region. In fact, some producers are now simply noting this location (Cartizze) and not even labeling it a Prosecco, in order to really define this very special quality of grape and terroir. The group of growers in Prosecco also have designated subzones that call attention to the different microclimates and terroirs throughout the region.
The other great thing about this wine region is that it isn’t at all flooded with commercial operations and massive amounts of tourists - in fact, it’s quite the opposite. Most of the wineries you visit are family-owned and the owner is the person taking you through a tasting. There are also plenty of surprises in the area as well. One of the greatest places our guide introduced us to (and something we never would have found on our own) was a small path that led to Osteria senz’Oste in the hills of Valdobbiadene. This precious little spot is perched on top of a trellised hillside with tables and chairs set among the vines, and has vending machines that offer a selection of chilled Prosecco and gourmet snacks for you to enjoy in the garden. The views are to die for.
Where to Stay
A good homebase for your time exploring the wine region is the town of Follina, located a little over an hour from Venice. This is not a hot spot for tourism, but instead a lovely town that offers a respite from the craziness of Venice.
Villa Abbazia is a lovely Relais and Chateau property in the heart of Follina. This hotel has its own 1 Michelin Star restaurant and serves as a great home base to explore the Prosecco Wine Region. Staying here will make you feel like you are staying with family.
Things to do
Abbey of Santa Maria di Follina
Just across from Villa Abbazia is the Abbey of Santa Maria di Follina. This Cistercian monastery dates back to the 12th century and has been declared a national monument by the Italian Government. Spend some time wandering around the cloister, admiring the beautiful building and courtyards. You will also see the locals come to the small chapel for mass.
A bit further down the road is CastelBrando, located in the Trevisio Hills, just a 15 minute walk from Follina. It is one of the largest castles in Europe and was built in the Roman age as a defensive structure. It has since been carefully restored and now houses a fantastic hotel as well as a museum. You can take the Funicular to the top to enjoy the amazing views and a great pizza restaurant.
Follina (and the entire Prosecco region) is amazing for biking. Fantastic professionals are able to take you out for a day or a week with killer hills and incredible views. They know the region incredibly well and they have excellent equipment for those who really know biking. Italy Cycling Tours has tours available all over Italy and other parts of Europe.
A huge treat in the Prosecco region is PER, an amazing gourmet cheese shop that has been operating for generations. Treat yourself to a wine and cheese tasting, where a cheese sommelier will show you how to use all your senses to experience a selection of cheeses, with the same nuance as a wine sommelier. Perenzin Latteria dates back to 1898 and is now in its fourth generation of professional cheesemakers, who have won many national and international cheese awards.
If you want an authentic Italian experience without the hassle of crowds, I absolutely recommend a visit the Prosecco Region. We can help design a tour of the area, or even make it part of a larger trip where you start in Venice, spend a few nights in Follina, then head to the Dolomites. Whatever you choose, now is definitely the time to visit, before it is discovered by everyone else.