Today, Prosecco is known all over the world. You can’t even go to a honkytonk (a dive bar where music is played) in Austin, Texas without finding a Prosecco by-the-glass. (At one favorite honkytonk in the Texas capital, they have two Proseccos by-the-glass!)
But most wine lovers across the world hardly know that authentic Prosecco comes from the northeastern corner of Italy where growers and winemakers like Villa Sandi have been making sparkling wine for generations. And we can hardly expect them to know that the spiritual and historical homeland of Prosecco is formed by three towns, one of the more famous than the others.
The main two communes for Prosecco production are Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. Not only do these two towns produce the most Prosecco by far. But they also produce nearly all the Prosecco DOCG (the appellation’s top tier) that gets exported to other countries. But there is another historic town for the production of Prosecco DOCG that is often forgotten beyond the borders of Proseccoland: Asolo, to the west.
Just like Valdobbiadene (pronounced VAHL-dohb-BEE’AH-deh-neh) and Conegliano (koh-neh-YLEE’AH-no), which lie to the east of the Piave river, Asolo (pronounced AH-zoh-loh, with the main emphasis on the first syllable), on the west side of the river, is one of the historic areas where Venetian nobles set up their summertime country residences during the Renaissance. It was then that they started to use the rolling hills of Proseccoland — Asolo, Valdobbiadene, Conegliano — as farmland and vineyards. That period marked the early beginnings of the Prosecco tradition. Much later, in the 20th century, Conegliano would become an important center for wine production because it was there that one of Italy’s most important wine schools was founded after World War II. It was no surprise to anyone that it’s focus would be sparkling wine production since there was already a burgeoning sparkling wine industry there.
Beyond location, the main differences between Asolo on the west side of the Piave river and its larger neighbors to the east, Valdobbiadene and Conegliano, is that the soils in Asolo are nearly all morainic in origin, while the soils in the other two main communes is a mix of sandy soils and morainic.
What are morainic soils? They are soils created by glaciers melting in pre-history, millions and millions of years ago (the Miocene era). As they melted, their ice and liquid carried rocks downstream with them. As they traveled, those rocks were broken down, sometimes to the size of boulders, other times to the size of pebbles and even sand. In the east, where Valdobbiadene and Conegliano are located, this geological phenomenon created more sand than rocks and a mix of sand and rocks was formed.
In Asolo to the west, the Prosecco produced tends to be less fruity and more savory in character. In Valdobbiadene and Conegliano to the east, the wines are more fruity and less savory in character. While everyone has their personal preferences for how to pair these wines, many sommeliers like to reserve Asolo Prosecco for really salty dishes like Baccalà alla Vicentina, salt cod that has been slowly stewed with potatoes, a traditional dish from the area. At the same time, they might serve an “eastern” Prosecco with sweet crudo like prawns or shrimp. Those are just some basic pairing suggestions but you get the idea.
While Asolo Prosecco is produced in significantly smaller amounts than its counterparts to the east, it’s often the most prized among wine connoisseurs because of its salty character. That’s partly because tastes have shifted to wines that are “drier” in character.
Villa Sandi is famous for its single-vineyard Prosecco from Valdobbiadene. But it also makes one of the most critically acclaimed Asolo Proseccos from its Biodiversity Friend-certified vineyard in Asolo on the western banks of the Piave.