The geographical area dedicated to the production of Prosecco wine extends to the north eastern part of Italy, between the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions in a territory favorable to the vegetal production performances of the vineyards, and in particular, of Glera a as a reference vine of Prosecco wine. Since the reform in 2009,
the DOC Prosecco and the two DOCG: Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene, and Asolo Prosecco Superiore have become two clearly distinct terroirs, but are known under the same collective brand of Prosecco. Let’s take a look at these terroirs in more detail. First, the recently designated Prosecco DOC area has experienced a rapid and massive development of Glera of vineyards. The cultivation surface has nearly tripled in the last decade, reaching the actual 25,500 hectares. The DOC area was established in 2009. It is located in the north eastern area of Italy. And more precisely in the territory that
spans the six provinces of Veneto: Treviso, Venice, Vicenza, Padua, Rovigo, and Belluno, and in four of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, which comprises Gorizia, Pordenone, Trieste, and Udine. On the other side, we have DOCG Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene area and it is the historical hillside zone of the pre-alps in the province of Treviso, where most of the vineyards are cultivated on steep soils and managed manually. In this historical wine region, which includes 15 municipalities, vines grow between 50 and 500 meters, and are traditionally deeply rooted as viticulture still preserves the strong link with wine-growing traditions and its natural landscape. In fact, in 2019, the hills of Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It is a complex landscape mosaic where patches with vines are interlinked with trees and small woods, with hedges, tree rows and wooded strips. This contributes to the diversity of the landscape, resulting in agricultural areas made up almost entirely of very small vineyards, developing distinctive ingenious land management systems, as the Ciglioni terraces. These Ciglioni terraces are narrow grassy terraces that use management techniques still carried out by hand through a dense network of small farmers on the hill slopes. The qualitative summit of DOCG production remains and the micro zone of the Cartizze, a small hilly area located in the municipality of Valdobbiadene in Treviso that extends for only 107 hectares, where the Prosecco DOCG Superiore di Cartizze is produced.
It is a selection of small vineyards enclosed in one square kilometer, which counts approximately 150 different land owners. The Cartizze valley forms unexposed hilly chain that rises in altitude from south to north, from 200 meters to 350 meters above sea level. This microzone gives a unique and sumptuous sparkling wine every year. The DOCG Asolo Prosecco Superiore grape cultivation area, which is intended for the production of Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG wines amounts to about 1500 hectares and extends to 19 municipalities around Asolo Montello and the Asolani Hills. These two hill systems, almost in their own right, are characterized by an altitude that ranges from 100 to 450 meters.
While the 2009 reform has opened new opportunities for wine producers, at the same time, it has brought new issues on the management of these two denominations, as they clearly have different strengths and weaknesses. Because of this, they need different strategies to promote and protect the value of their production. Let’s take a look at the areas of DOCG Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene, and Asolo Prosecco Superiore. More than 50% of DOCG vineyards, and 100% of Cartizze vineyards are on slopes between 15% and 70%. This peculiar orography has two main consequences. First, steepness makes it difficult to use modern technologies, so vineyards are still managed manually and maintain their original training system.
And second, soil operations and interventions are very difficult, and this contributes to the preservation of the original soil shape. In fact, 60% of the DOCG vineyards and 100% of the Cartizze ones maintain their original architecture. Another identifying feature of the DOCG landscape area is the high biodiversity of plant species, with the presence of bushes, woods, fruit trees et cetera, in about 90% of the DOCGs vineyards, which is reduced to 40% in Cartizze vineyards and even grapevine intervarietal biodiversity. In fact, in this area, there is the presence of minor local varieties including Perera, Bianchetta, and Verdiso which are included in the Prosecco cultivation disciplinary.
Now that we’ve been introduced to the terroir of Prosecco DOCG, what about the areas of Prosecco DOC? This terroir is clearly different from the DOCG one. The vineyards are much larger, the management is almost totally mechanized, and in such an intense viticulture context,
two main priorities are foreseen: The first priority entails preserving the vocationality for Glera cultivation in the long term. This is done through the adoption of environmentally sustainable strategies that allow the reduction of the use of external inputs and natural resources. The second priority involves preserving Prosecco quality and typicity, and increasing resilience of Glera variety to face current climate change The recent adoption of innovative precision viticulture methodologies has enabled the assessment of local variation in factors that influence grape yield and quality, such as soil, topography, microclimate, vine health, et cetera. It has also fostered appropriate viticulture management practices, which includes pruning, fertilizer application, irrigation, harvest, et cetera.
The expansion of the DOC production area has caused Glera to be grown in very different climatic and pedological conditions from the original hilly areas. An important issue for this area is the sustainability of the use of natural resources and in particular, water management. In fact, while historically the Glera was cultivated in the pre-Alps, with annual rainfall values of about 800 millimeters, the extension of the DOC area has brought Glera variety to be grown in areas where annual rainfall is much less, about 500 to 600 millimeters, in the southern border of the DOC.
Moreover, soil characteristics are very diverse in such a large area, from stony, clay-like, sandy, peaty, up to gravelling zones where the use of irrigation is mandatory to get production and quality.