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‘Real Prosecco can have a longer shelf life than Champagne’, says Sandro Bottega

“It is not true that Prosecco has a shelf life of just a few months, the real Prosecco can have a longer shelf life than Champagne’, claims Sandro Bottega, head of Prosecco producer Bottega.

Left to right: Sandro, Barbara and Stefano Bottega

In an interview with the drinks business on Friday last week, Sandro stressed that Prosecco was more age-worthy than Champagne, despite the fact that the Italian fizz is viewed as a short-lived product that is at its best when consumed as soon as possible after bottling.

However, he added that his belief that Prosecco can outlive Champagne was only true for high-quality Prosecco Superiore DOCG, pointing out that there was a wide gulf between inexpensive examples sold in supermarkets and “the real Prosecco”.

“Prosecco has become more famous recently, but the original Prosecco is different from the one currently available on the market – the quality of real Prosecco is so high, so you can compare it to Champagne, and [‘real Prosecco’] can be higher in terms of shelf life,” he said.

Continuing, he explained, “If the Prosecco comes from the highest hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, then it can age for five years in the bottle – even Champagne doesn’t have the same shelf life after disgorgement.”

When db said that such a claim was controversial, he agreed, but said that he was planning to prove his assertion by holding “the first vertical tasting of Prosecco in London” later this year, having recently organised such an event in Canada, which he recorded had convinced wine writers in that market of his belief.

“I will show five different vintages from 2013 to 2017 to show the quality of Prosecco after more than five years… it is not true that Prosecco only has a shelf life of just a few months,” he said.

Such Proseccos from the Bottega cellars have all be made in the standard method of the region, which sees the wines undergo a secondary fermentation in a sealed tank to trap the Carbon Dioxide released by the transformation of sugars in the wine.

The sparkling wine is then transferred to bottle under pressure.

This is different, of course, to Champagne, where this second fermentation takes place in the bottle in which the wine is sold, a technique that brings greater contact with the lees formed after this fermentation is complete, and, as a result, a product generally believed to have a greater capacity for ageing.

Sandro told db that the different production methods weren’t relevant to the age-worthy nature of Prosecco versus Champagne, adding that it is the tank-method that he uses, because it is the norm in the region and a technique created in his home country, “We only use the Martinotti method, which was invented in 1895 in Italy, before being industrialised by French businessman Mr Charmat in 1907.”

Continuing he said, “It is the quality of the grapes and where they are cultivated that makes the biggest difference,” although he also said that the length of time that the wine spends in contact with its lees will further help create a more age-worthy Prosecco, as well as the technology used in the sparkling wine’s production – mentioning the need for state-of-the-art chilling equipment.

Nevertheless, he stressed, “We don’t want something that is too clean; many take away all the body of Prosecco to have a stable sparkling wine, but they also take away all the personality.”

Although he spoke of the need to source grapes from hilly DOCG areas of the Prosecco region to make the wines necessary for long-lived sparkling wine, he added that there are parts of the much larger DOC Prosecco where the raw material is also good – meaning that finding a clear quality divide between one and the other isn’t always possible.

“There is a difference [in grape quality] between DOC and DOCG, but this depends on where the grapes are coming from in the DOC – there are nine provinces of DOC production, and in the DOC area of Treviso alone, there are eight different types of soil, with a huge difference between grapes sourced from one to another,” he recorded, adding that hilly parts of DOC Prosecco in Treviso can yield DOCG quality grapes.

Summing up on the topic of quality levels in Prosecco, he drew a further comparison with Champagne. “The English consumer has an image of Prosecco that is different from the original one. I don’t want to say that others have bad quality, but, for example, you can find Champagne in Carrefour for €9.99 and elsewhere you have Dom Pérignon, which is €150, and in this case the level of quality in the €10 Champagne can’t be compared to Dom Pérignon, and it is the same for us in Prosecco.”

When asked by db for his views on possible addition of a rosé to the offer from DOC Prosecco, he said that he is already making a pink sparkling wine using Glera grown in the Prosecco DOC, which is blended with still red wine made from Pinot Noir, and so he hopes to be able to label it as a Prosecco in the future.

Nevertheless, he said that changing the rules set by the ruling body of the DOC to allow rosato fizz from the region under the Prosecco brand is proving hard to do.

“They now say that Prosecco rosé will come into affect with the vintage 2019, but due to Italian beaurocracy, this is taking a lot of time; it would be easier to find an agreement for Brexit,” he joked.

Finally, Sandro told db that he didn’t support a plan by the DOC to further increase the production of Prosecco, with a suggestion that the region may be looking to hit the one billion-bottle mark.

“I am against this vision, because I don’t think there are enough consumers to drink this amount, and I don’t think there is enough land to cultivate good Prosecco,” he said.

Concluding, he stated, “The amount we have today is more than enough, we need to keep to this level and improve the quality; we need to focus on making the best Prosecco possible.”

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