People have been growing grapes here for over 3000 years, but the rise of Prosecco Superiore really came into being from the 1980’s. Discover the history behind your favorite sparkling wine.
These people, also known as The Veneti, inhabited a region between the Adige and Tagliamento rivers. This ancient culture spoke their own language, called venetic, and grew grapes and grain.
The Veneti and Romans became allies, though the Veneti people eventually became part of Roman culture. This co-operation and eventual integration increased grape-growing and winemaking in the region.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Grape Growing Described
San Venanzio Fortunato, Bishop of Poitiers Valdobbiadene is described as an area “where vines bud below the high mountains, and in which the lush greenery protects the more barren zones”.
Venetian Republic Rule
The Republic of Venice controlled the Adriatic for many centuries, and did this through its vast arsenal of ships. The republic paid many of its shipbuilders in wine. Those wines were sourced from throughout the land, including the Conegliano Valdobbiadene hills.
Prosecco First Mentioned
Poet Aurelio Acanti in his Book of Poetic verses, Il Roccolo writes “So much it is worth, this Prosecco, that I would not exchange it not even with the ambrosia of the gods”
Napoleon invades Venice and takes control of all its corresponding lands, including the hills of Prosecco.
The Austrian Empire under the Habsburgs took control of the area. Their appreciation for wine is well known and very likely sourced wines from here for their court.
Veneto joins The Kingdom of Italy
Verdiso and Bianchetta Grapes Reign
Though Prosecco (the grape) had been well appreciated, the main grapes in the region were Verdiso and Bianchetta. These white grapes are still grown today and can make up a portion of the blend (max 15%). In the 1870s though Prosecco (aka Glera) only made up 8% of all grapes.
Italy’s First Enology School established In Conegliano
This was the first major push for trying to improve viticulture and winemaking standards in the region and throughout Italy to ensure, that through science, they could improve their wines. A number of new varieties were produced here, mainly Manzoni Bianco by famed viticulturalise Luigi Manzoni.
Federico Martinotti developed the technique for making sparkling wines in a closed tank. Today this is called the Martinotti Method, but is also known as the Tank Method. This method is still used today to create Prosecco Superiore.
Institute of Viticultural Experimentation Founded
Another move towards improving the understanding of how to grow quality grapes led to the foundation of this institute.
Prosecco Takes Over
The majority of plantings (over 60%) at this point are Prosecco (aka Glera) and there is a distinct focus on planting on steep slopes to improve quality.
WWI, Faciscm, and WWII
Two World Wars and facsicm created a massive Italian Diaspora. Millions of people left all over Italy, but especially from the region of Veneto.
This caused many vineyards to be left unattended, and to fall into disrepair. Many of the people leaving Veneto emigrated to the United States and Canada. Grape growing and winemaking stagnated at this time.
Remaining Producers Ban Together
After the war, there was a distinct possibility of losing the knowledge and skills of how to produce high quality wines due to mass emigration. This caused the remaining producers to create the Consortium to ensure they produced high quality wines
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Becomes a DOC
This is the first exclusively sparkling wine DOC in Italy, and was exclusively produced from grapes made in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene hills.
People Return to The Hills
An influx of people returning to the region and focusing on high quality wines and viticulture drives growth in production and in quality.
Conegliano Valdobbiadene Becomes a DOCG
The region becomes Italy’s 44th DOCG, indicating its rise in quality in winemaking and viticulture.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
The unique combination of hogback hills, steep vineyards on grassy terraces called ciglioni and a landscape defined as "patchwork" along with its rich history made Conegliano Valdobbiadene a World Heritage Site. Just one of five wine regions focused heritage sites in Italy.
♦ Robert C. Davis, Robert C. Venetian shipbuilders and the fountain of wine, 1997. Oxford University Press.