WHAT: Usually when we think of Prosecco most people thing of a pleasant, lightweight wine that makes a nice summertime drink or an apertif before we get to the serious wine.
But when the Bisol family puts its name on the bottle you can toss all your notions about Prosecco out the window. The family has been making Prosecco in Valdobbiadene for nearly 500 years, and they have spent that time perfecting their craft.
I tasted two Bisol Proseccos and they were both crazy good: Crede and Cartizze. The Cartizze Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze retails for about $50 and is unlike any other Prosecco I’ve ever had.
The low alcohol found in most Proseccos is the same (11.5 percent), and the Bisol wines are sparkling. That’s where all similarity to other Prosecco ends.
Both wines had a slight yeast aroma that you find in French Champagne. There were many tiny bubbles that kept coming until we finished the bottle.
The Crede is a brighter yellow, with green highlights and floral aromas. The palate features apples and pears and a hint of minerality and balanced acidity.
The Cartizze was slightly sweeter, with lots of fruit and citrus flavors. It, too, had a slight mineral quality that added some zip to the taste. It is a light straw yellow color with floral, apple and pear aromas.
Both Bisol wines are richer, fuller, more complex and with a longer finish than most other Proseccos I have tried. In fact, with the Cartizze, the winery recommends drinking it outside a meal or with refined desserts. I can’t argue with that because the tastes are so exquisite you don’t want to cover up a single sip.
The Crede is produced using grapes from several vineyards in the historical heart of the appellation. Crede is a type of clay-laden soil with particular characteristics that greatly benefit the grapes. Glera grapes are combined with Pinot Blanco and Verdiso, producing freshness, elegance and versatility in the wine. The 2014 blend is 85 percent Glera, 10 percent Pinot Blanco and 5 percent Verdiso.
Cartizze is produced from grapes coming from the hill of the same name. It is such a special area that one hectare (about 2.5 acres) sells for $1 million. The area has a mild microclimate, allowing for long ripening of the grapes. Good ventilation, extended sun exposure and the sandy soil make it particularly well-suited to grape production. The Cartizze is 100 percent Glera. The bubbles are produced through a secondary fermentation in autoclaves (pressurized tanks), often called the Italian method or the Prosecco method. Champagne bubbles are produced through bottle fermentation.
Bisol can make such great wines because the winery is one of the few in the area to manage all phases of the winemaking process, from vineyard selection to final bottling.
To understand the quality differences in Proseccos you need to understand the quality pyramid that came into existence in 2009. Essentially the Italians added to Prosecco the DOCG classification, the highest possible classification. It is the equivalent of the French Grand Cru.
Prosecco was recognized as a region and the principal grape used in Prosecco wines became known as Glera. DOC wines are similar, but the requirements to attain DOCG are stricter: lower yield, small geographic area often to include hillside vineyards.
Below the DOC wines are IGT wines, or basic everyday table wines.
Gianluca Bisol, president and CEO of the family wine company, likened the classification system to the one used in Champagne since 1927. He called that system a “trampoline that launched it towards world dominance.”
Gianluca’s father, Antonio Bisol, lobbied for the classification system for years before it became a reality.
“We work tirelessly with passion so that Conegliano will gain the same prestige as Reims, Valdobbiadene the same charm as Epernay, and Prosecco the same notoriety as Champagne,” Gianluca said.
Sales of less inexpensive Proseccos helps Bisol, Gianluca believes, because it increases awareness of the region among American wine drinkers. The new classification also imposed rules on the IGT wines.
WINERY: There are records showing the Bisol family cultivating grapes and producing wine since 1542 in Valdobbiadene, a prime location in the Veneto region for quality Prosecco. The region is north of Venice.
The family tradition of quality Prosecco has been handed down from father to son for generations.
“Our family is one of Prosecco’s historical houses,” said Gianluca Bisol. “Our tradition has been intimately linked with the territory of Valdobbiadene since 1542 when our family started the grape-growing and wine-making business, handing it down through the generations.
“We try to obtain the finest expression out of the Valdobbiadene hills by directly cultivating more than 20 of the best located plots for grape growing. The feather in the cap is the plot nurtured on the summit of the Cartizze hill, the world’s most expensive vineyard dedicated to bubbles.”
The Bisols are practicing sustainable farming and reducing intervention in the winery. They also ferment grapes from each individual vineyard separately, allowing each lot to add something different from its soil. “The history of the land is therefore transferred into every bottle of Cru Bisol,” said Gianluca Bisol.
Bisol also spearheaded the restoration of the ancient, walled estate of Venissa, on the island of Mazzorbo in the heart of the Venetian Lagoon. There the family cultivates the native Venetian grape variety Dorona di Venezia.
The Doges who ruled Venice loved the wine, but it was believed to be extinct until several years ago when Gianluca discovered a few abandoned vines. This led to the limited production of the Venissa wine, available primarily to collectors.
GOES WITH: We had these two wines on different occasions.
We had the Crede at home with shrimp cocktail that we had before dinner. It was perfect, light and full of bubbles. The fresh acidity worked well with the lemon juice and cocktail sauce that accompanied the shrimp.
We took the Cartizze to lunch when we met some friends at the Willcox Inn in Aiken. We had a wonderful lunch, and started it all off with the Prosecco, before any of the food came. It was sublime.
We saved a little to taste with our appetizers, and while the wine was still excellent, I enjoyed it much more without food. Our friends Richard and Sharon agreed that it was rich and full-bodied, with an excellent flavor. It was much more complex wine than most Prosecos we drink.
The Crede was a little drier, so it would be better with many different foods. I would be happy to sip it on the porch all summer long, or drink it with seafood, appetizers, most cheeses, roast chicken or quail.
The Cartizze is even better by itself, or with rich desserts. It also would be a great wine for spicy Asian or South American food.
Serve both well chilled.