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How Bisol 1542 is breaking new ground in Valdobbiadene

Bisol 1542 president Gianluca Bisol tells db about why the secret to securing the future of Prosecco Superiore may lie underground.

Speaking with the drinks business at this year’s Vinitaly, Bisol began by sharing how this Italian fizz became an icon in recent decades: “Prosecco is not a category of wine, it is something that lies inside the history of Italy since the 15th century. It has a long story in the hills of Valdobbiadene. The success of the wine all around the world is incredible. I’m the 21st generation of the Bisol family and I started 37 years ago. Then, Prosecco was only sold in Veneto, with a little bit in Milan and Rome, but not abroad. Now, it’s a case study in international success.”

Breaking down that success, Bisol said: “The US is the great surprise of the last five years. Six years ago I decided to change importer to Wilson Daniels, and, from exporting 200,000 bottles to the US, last year we imported more than one million there.”

He also shared that the UK and France were proving to be strong markets for the company, with the latter, he suggested that it was because Prosecco is notably distinct from Crémant and Champagne.

Beyond affordability, a major part of Prosecco’s appeal is its accessibility due to its easy-drinking nature.

“New technologies have helped us a lot,” Bisol explained. “We use stainless steel tanks for fermentation. The bottling process has also changed in the last 30 years – we used to use semi-automatic machines, which allowed oxygen into the wine when the cork was put in. This doesn’t happen now, and that has helped improve the longevity of the wines.”

On that note, Bisol mentioned that he is striving to “destroy the wall” surrounding the notion of ageing Prosecco: “Last year, I did a coast-to-coast promotional tour from Boston to Los Angeles, and for every event we opened a magnum of Prosecco Superiore 2016, and people were delighted with its evolution. It’s so nice to drink Prosecco when it’s aged.”

Another wall that Bisol wishes to tear down is the notion that Prosecco should only be popped open for celebratory occasions, rather than as the accompaniment to a meal: “With raw fish, Prosecco is perfect. Cartizze [Bisol’s Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG] is also great with Japanese cuisine with general. There’s good acidity, a lot of flavour, and a creamy sensation – it’s a wonderful combination.”

Northern Italian white wines, both still and sparkling, are widely-considered to be a good complement to East Asian-inspired cuisine, with the consorzi for Lugana and Soave also suggesting similar to db.

Speaking about the future of the brand, Bisol mentioned the need for greater emphasis on communicating the importance of soil.

“Seventy years ago, my grandfather Jeio improved the technique of identifying the qualities of grapes grown on different soils. We have five different kinds of soils in Valdobbiadene. We are the only producer in the Prosecco Superiore area to have all five.”

Those five soil types are as follows: Cartizze (sandstone and moraine), Crede (clay), Molera (limestone), Relio (gravel) and Rive di Campea (predominantly limestone).

“You can find one year old and 80 year old vines in the same vineyards. The old vines have metres of roots – and everything that happens in the grapes is a consequence of what’s happening with the roots.”

But vine age isn’t just a number: “With the consorzio, we are looking into why some old Glera vines are more resilient to parasites. We can then select these vines and reproduce them.”

The deep roots of these old vines may also provide some relief from the growing risk of water stress, a consequence of Northern Italy’s increasingly hot summers.

While Bisol expressed concerned at the acceleration of the effects of climate change, he said that Valdobbiadene is “lucky” due to its geogrpahy: “We have a big mountain behind us that offers protection, and two small lakes in our area that hold water. In the future, we will create a small artificial lake. We made one as an experiment 20 years ago, but now we want to develop one which also has an underground reservoir.”

Bisol also shared that irrigation could be transformed by a new product from Israeli startup TomGrow. MediumX, as it is called, involves gel cubes that are buried next to the roots and provide them with the correct amount of water and nutrients: “We’ve used this in a small experimental vineyard in Cortina and have had good results.”

A number of Bisol 1542 wines were medallists at this year’s edition of the drinks business’ Prosecco Masters. To read the full list of medallists, click here.

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