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Miotto, not your average Prosecco

Andrea Miotto in his Prosecco vineyard in Veneto
Andrea Miotto giving us a Prosecco tutorial at the old casera in the Federa vineyard

If you're inclined to dismiss all Prosecco as cheap sparkling wine that is quaffed in vast quantities by millennials in Britain and North America, then it's probably because you haven't yet tried the Miotto Prosecco Superiore from the UNESCO protected hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.

The Prosecco boom of the last quarter century took everyone in Veneto by surprise because this huge explosion in demand was completely without historical precedent in the world of wine. The supply response was of course more predictable and various pro-business reforms in 2009 resulted in a massive expansion of the area that is permitted to make Prosecco DOC wine. A somewhat artificial historical rationale was also concocted to include in this enlarged zone a small village near Trieste whose name just happened to be Prosecco.

A typical Valdobbiadene Glera vineyard
A typical Valdobbiadene Glera vineyard on the 'hogback' hills

Today in north-eastern Italy the DOC designated Prosecco vineyards stretch almost all the way from Verona to the Slovenian border with much of the new territory under vine being unsuitable flat land that was previously planted to maize and other cereal crops. Prosecco production quickly tripled to 638 million bottles in 2022, making it by far the world's most popular sparkling wine.

The tiny green area in the middle is the traditional DOCG Superiore zone

Traditional Prosecco however has been produced for over 300 years in the hills north of Venice between the small towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.

This is the DOCG Superiore zone and is tiny by comparison to the newer DOC zone given that the distance between these two towns is no more than 15 miles as the crow flies.

The DOCG zone has a unique terrain of steep hillsides, often with distinctive geomorphological formations called hogbacks and the vines are planted on grassy terraces (ciglioni) that climb up the slopes in an agricultural practice that is as old as Prosecco itself, appearing as green waves along the hills.

The Miotto family vineyards that produce their DOCG Superiore wines are located in these ancient hills where the slopes are so steep that everything in the vineyard must be done manually. There is a reason why Prosecco was born here and it has everything to do with the soil, the minerals in the rocks, the climate and the natural ventilation created by the elevation and the shape of the hills.

The UNESCO sign as you enter Vidor in the prosecco hills

UNESCO: In 2019 the Prosecco hills of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene were awarded UNESCO heritage status and not just for their beauty because this imprimatur speaks also to the authenticity of historical viticultural practices in this area and the integrity of the landscape within the DOCG zone.

One of the positive results of this designation has been to stop further vineyard growth here and retain some necessary biodiversity.

In many respects the recent developments in Prosecco mirror the history of Soave wines a little further west in Veneto where commercial success in the 1970s resulted in an expansion of the vineyards into unsuitable flat land with their less-than-ideal loamy clay soils. The lower quality wine negatively impacted consumer confidence in the product and soon thereafter Pinot Grigio replaced Soave as the dominant Italian white wine in the North American market.

In Soave however it is much easier for the consumer to understand what they are buying because the word Classico is reserved for the higher quality wines that come from the volcanic soils in the hills above the town. With Prosecco spumante however, the consumer has to seek out DOCG on the label instead of just DOC - never has one letter been so important in Italian wine - as well as the word Superiore together with Conegliano and/or Valdobbiadene. Perhaps it would have been better and less confusing for the consumer if Prosecco had adopted the Classico terminology instead.

The Miotto prosecco vineyard called Fedéra in Colbertaldo
Top center is the small casera in the Federa vineyard that used to be the cowshed during summer grazing

Who drinks Prosecco? The numbers tell an interesting story because it seems that it is the American and British wine drinkers who are most in need of educating as to the difference between DOC and DOCG. Of those 638 million bottles of Prosecco produced in 2022 about 81% were exported, with half of this amount going to just the US and UK markets, evenly split between the two so on a per capita basis the Brits are very big guzzlers of Prosecco. Not a surprise to me.

However when it comes to the 100 million bottles of the higher quality Prosecco Superiore DOCG, the more discerning Italian market consumes the lion's share at 60% and the US market barely gets a mention in the statistics.

These numbers suggest that there is an image problem or lack of differentiation among wine drinkers outside Italy, especially in the US, as to how much better Prosecco Superiore can be and how different it is to the simple DOC wines that the big brand names flood into overseas markets.

By the way, 80% of Miotto's production is consumed in Italy which in light of the above numbers tells you something perhaps about the quality of their Prosecco.

A Miotto Prosecco tasting in the vineyard
Late afternoon on a sunny mid-winter day in Veneto is as good a time as any to sip high quality Miotto Prosecco

Terroir: On our many visits to wineries in northern and central Italy our favorite winemakers have always been those who take us into the vineyards and show us the soil, slope and environment in which their vines grow so that an hour later when we're back in their cellars we can better understand the nuances of each wine.

Andrea Miotto went one better because he took us straight up to his highest and best site, the Fedéra vineyard, and brought along a few bottles so we could taste the wine right where the grapes are grown.

Andrea Miotto pouring his Prosecco in his vineyard

The Fedéra vineyard is a steeply sloping five acre site with 70 year old vines whose roots have had to force themselves down between the rocks that predominate below the topsoil in this location.

The vines face south by south-west giving them optimal sun exposure and within these five acres there is a single block of vines dedicated to the Miotto cru wine Rive di Colbertaldo.

Rive (meaning steep terrain in the local Veneto dialect): There are 43 certified Rive areas contained within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore region. These areas have been selected because they are steep, top quality vineyard sites with particular micro-climates that produce superior grapes, thereby allowing for the production of premium Prosecco. 

Miotto Federa vineyard in Colbertaldo
The Rive section of the Fedéra vineyard

Each of the 43 areas has a different terroir which contributes to the unique taste of their Prosecco. 

For every Rive Prosecco, yields must be reduced to 13 tonnes of grapes per hectare, the grapes have to harvested exclusively by hand and the vintage year is always shown on the label.

Soil Characteristics: Most of the Miotto family vineyards are concentrated in the western half of the DOCG zone along the historical Prosecco road not far from their winery facility in Colbertaldo. One of the major reasons why the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area has always been the premier location for the Glera vine is the remarkable variety of rocky soil types that are found here, deposited aeons ago by glacial flows and the upward push of the African continent against the pre-Alps massif.

The layers of rock created by this upward pressure created over time a unique landscape of parallel hogback hills interspersed with valleys and ridges. A very difficult physical landscape for viticulture, typically requiring 600 hours of manual labor for every hectare, but one with endless permutations of soil, rock, micro climate and aspect.

Andrea Miotto explaining the different vineyard sites of Miotto prosecco
Each Miotto vineyard has a different soil type, slope, micro climate and aspect resulting in a different flavor profile

Each soil type differs in the amount of water and mineral nutrients that the Glera roots can find which also impacts the temperature of the soil. Limestone, clay-dominant marl and calcareous earth as well as conglomerate soils are all present in the western half of the DOCG zone and Andrea has a very complicated chart on his cellar wall that identifies the exact location of each soil type and how that particular soil will affect the vine's root structure and depth. Some soils force the roots to remain quite superficial while others allow them to push deeper.

Blending: When a detailed knowledge of the soil is combined with a good understanding of the specific microclimate present in that vineyard a 'flavor wheel' can be constructed to facilitate the blending process of the fermented wines before they are combined in the autoclave tanks for the secondary fermentation.

Andrea Miotto in the cellar at the Miotto winery in Colbertaldo

Andrea gave us an insight into one of his most important jobs by having us taste three still wines in the above tanks that were produced from three different vineyard locations and then, based on their flavor characteristics, comment as to how we would blend them and in what proportions. For us the most fascinating aspect of this task was to see how all these wines differed in terms of fruit, body, freshness and acidity based solely on their unique locations because all three of course were exactly the same Glera grape variety.

It should be abundantly clear by now that Prosecco Superiore DOCG is a very different animal to simple Prosecco DOC where the flat vineyards lack the natural drainage and ventilation of the DOCG hillsides, the climate can be too warm and where the soil lacks rock-based minerals.

Miotto Prosecco Superiore wines

Miotto Wines: Andrea, his brother Matteo and their father Valter produce 3 DOCG Superiore wines. The aforementioned Rive is a single vineyard cru and is the driest with zero residual sugar. The Fedéra Brut, which is a cuvée not a cru, is a little less dry with 6 grams per liter of residual sugar and the Fedéra Extra Dry cuvée is even less dry with about 17 grams per liter of residual sugar.

Extra Dry is the most traditional type of Prosecco and as such it used to represent the majority of production but consumer tastes have changed recently in favor of the drier Brut style.

They also produce a Col Fondo Agricolo wine (ie. with sediment), called ProFondo, which represents a return to the original history of Prosecco wine before the invention of the autoclave. The secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and, as there is no subsequent disgorgement of the spent yeasts, they remain at the bottom of the bottle.

It is naturally a completely dry and slightly cloudy wine and what it perhaps lacks in elegance and pure fruit flavors it more than makes up for in complexity and yeasty notes.

Col Fondo wines have become quite fashionable in recent years in Italy and elsewhere and we find them to be fascinating wines because they are all individual and you can never predict exactly how they will taste; in fact the flavor can change quite considerably after exposure to air in the glass. They are also wines that can age very well, certainly up to 10 years, and in the process develop additional nuances of flavor.

Miotto winery building in Colbertaldo

Tasting Notes:

Fedéra Extra Dry - Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG  (11.5% alcohol)

As for the Federa Brut below, this wine is made from the best grapes but the slightly higher sugar content brings forth a different flavor profile. Most producers will tell you that Extra Dry is the version that best showcases the aromatic nature of the Glera grape.

A rich floral and fruity nose of pear which develops further on the palate. The mousse is soft and creamy but there is sufficient acidity and the flavor never really veers into sweetness. Elegant and balanced but for us personally it has less appeal than the Brut version. However it is ideal as an aperitivo or paired with soft cheeses or crustaceans.

Fedéra Brut - Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG (11.5% alcohol)

From grapes sourced from their best vineyards with the steepest slopes this wine shows its pedigree immediately with a delicate nose of apple and white flowers. On the palate the mousse is very soft and it opens with a crisp, fresh acidity reminiscent of granny smith apples, becoming rounder and richer with notes of kaiser pear. A long finish with no hint of sweetness. Pair with antipasti of cheese and/or vegetables.

Rive di Colbertaldo Extra Brut 2022 - Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG (11.5% alcohol)

A fragrant nose is followed by a crisp, fresh and quite concentrated wine on the palate with citrus notes. Vertical, dry and precise with mineral notes the bead is fine and the acidity is restrained rather than sharp, making this Prosecco very enjoyable by itself or with food, both fish and white meats.

ProFondo Vino Frizzante 2022 - Colli Trevigiani IGT (11% alcohol)

Glera is a semi-aromatic grape and the yeast deposit masks to a degree some of these aromatic qualities. Andrea's preference is not to shake the bottle beforehand and disturb the deposit because he feels there is enough yeasty flavor already in the wine. We agree though it is matter of personal choice and of course when you drain the bottle at the end you'll get the full impact of the deposit in any case. Andrea describes this wine as 'naked' in the sense that you cannot hide any defects.

Right out of the bottle you can tell that this is a Col Fondo wine as there's a powerful nose of yeast and fruit that is very appealing. On the palate it's fresh, full, vivacious and very dry. The finish is long and really stimulates the appetite - it will have you quickly looking for food. Simply a fabulous bottle of wine and we came away with a range of vintages to see how they all develop over time.

Four vintages of Miotto's Profondo wine
Four vintages of Miotto's Profondo wine


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