Q&A: Damiano Canali, Viticoltori Ponte

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5th April, 2019 by Lauren Eads

Viticoltori Ponte has been cultivating its vineyards in the north-east of Italy since 1948. Founded by a formidable band of winemakers in the aftermath of WW2, it now counts 1,200 members within its ranks and produces 1.25m nine-litre cases a year from 2,000 hectares of vines. Here, winemaker and operations manager Damiano Canali, who joined the company in 2010, explains the benefits of a co-op model, and how he is taking Ponte’s portfolio to new heights.

Viticoltori Ponte’s winemaker and operations manager, Damiano Canali

What is Ponte’s key focus in the winery?

Mainly sparkling wines, with an important focus on Prosecco DOC and DOCG Valdobiaddene. Regarding still wines, we are one of the leading companies in the production of Pinot Grigio (also a new sparkling version) and some reds, such as Merlot and Cabernet.

What are the characteristics of wines from north-east Italy, and what makes your portfolio stand out?

In the eastern part of Veneto, the wines stand out for their freshness; in smaller quantities we have some red wines destined for ageing. At Ponte, we look to our white wines (Prosecco & Pinot Grigio primarily) for fruity and floral notes, which allow us to obtain an elegant and balanced wine that evolves, as in the case of Manzoni Bianco, into mineral notes. In the reds, as well as fruit, we also look for spicy complexity, which comes from the use of oak. In aged red wines we look for complexity, given by its natural evolution and use of select toasted woods.

What are the benefits of working as part of a co-op for a winemaker?

Working with a company such as Ponte is a huge advantage as a winemaker, as your are able to follow the entire process, starting with the grape (during harvest), to selecting the best cuvées for both small and large batches of product. This represents a very important guarantee
for buyers, who consistently receive quality wines.

What new trends are you seeing with regards to sparkling and Prosecco?

There is much debate about rosé Prosecco. Not everyone agrees on this issue, but personally I think it is right. All the most famous wines have their rosé versions, such as Champagne, and in Italy the Trento DOC or Franciacorta. The market will be the final judge of the success or failure of a product. The demand for brut wines with less sugar is also increasing.

How can winemakers differentiate their offer and raise the quality of Prosecco?

I think that the right path has been taken, but for further improvement producers must invest in technology to enhance the conditions of vinification and to prevent malolatic fermentation during the preservation of the bases, and also experiment with new yeasts in foam forming to improve their nutrition, thus avoiding moments of cell stress during the refermentation, which could lead to less clean fermentations.

With regards to still wines, what big trends are emerging?

Still wines are suffering from the success of sparkling wines. In the future, I believe we will have an even greater separation between consumers oriented towards base wines, and evolved consumers who will prefer more complex wines. A style that may be of interest are aromatic wines, such as Sauvignon Blanc and Traminer, which can catch the consumer’s attention with their distinct aromas. We have included a Sauvignon Blanc and a Traminer in our range for restaurants.

Looking ahead, what are Viticoltori Ponte’s aims and ambitions?

Viticoltori Ponte is aiming to increase its presence on the market. Our goals are to increase the sales of our own-branded products, including both sparkling wines and still, and to be recognised for our wine quality, service and reputation. Viticoltori Ponte pays a lot of attention to its customers’ needs and market demands. As well as products from the DOC delle Venezie appellation, we are proposing a Pinot Grigio Spumante Brut using the Charmat method. It is excellent as an aperitif, and matches well with fish.

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