In the course of working with grape grower and winemaker Luca Ferraro of Bele Casel, he’s spoken to me numerous times about how Asolo was unfairly omitted from the Prosecco Conegliano-Valdobbiadene DOC when it was created in 1969.
I doubt we’ll ever know the real reason for this. The answer probably lies somewhere between a historic rivalry among the villages of Asolo, Conegliano, and Valdobbiadene and the on-the-ground realpolitik of the era (It might also have something to do with the fact that Italy’s most important center for the study of viticulture — the Istituto Sperimentale per la Viticoltura or Experimental Viticulture Institute, originally founded in 1923 — was already well established in Conegliano by that time).
The fact that Asolo was one of historic centers for the production of sparkling Prosecco is relatively unknown outside the township.
I recent came across the following document and felt it was worth transcribing and posting here. It comes from T.A. Layton’s Wines of Italy, published in London in 1961 (five years before the first Italian DOC was officially decreed) and included in an appendix (D) of the book entitled “A Description of Venetian Wines Given by Professor Italio [sic] Cosmo at a Cafe Royal Italian Tasting, 1959.”
Italo Cosmo became the director of the Istituto Sperimentale per la Viticoltura in 1946 and is one of the fathers of contemporary Italian enology.
Not only does the text give us an indication that Asolo was generally accepted as part of the Prosecco production zone, it also reveals the origin of the appellation’s association with the empress Livia.
PROSECCO.—This is a nice sparkling wine, obtained by controlled fermentation in a closed vat; the vine goes by the same name and it is cultivated on the Treviso group of hills which, from Vittorio Veneto and Conigliano [sic], extends to Valdobbiadene, ultimately reaching the Piave and passing on to the Asolani Hills, so dear to the great Italian actress, Eleonora Duse. The Prosecco grape is also used for preparing a dry wine, including that “Vin de Conegliano,” which the gay poet, Olindo Guerrini (1845 to 1916), better known under the pseudonym of Lorenzo Stecchetti, has connected for ever [sic] with fried sole.
No latin [sic] author mentions this wine, although some fragments of wine containers (amphorae, etc.) found at Opitergium (to-day known as Oderzo), Ceneda (Vittorio Veneto) and Asolo, testify that in Roman times wine must have been known in the Treviso district. In any case, there are documents confirming the presence of wine here in the Middle Ages, from the eighth century onwards. However, I want to place on record that the Prosecco, under the name of Serprina, was also cultivated in the Euganean Hills in the province of Padua. The grape probably originated from the seaboard near Trieste and around the present village of Prosecco, where it is still cultivated, but under the name of Glera. Its cradle, therefore, seems to have been situated where, at the time of the Romans, there was the production of the famous “Vin Pucino,” appreciated so much by Livia, wife of the Emperoro Octavianus Augustus, because the wine enabled her to reach the age of eighty-two. According to Livia, therefore, this wine possessed the magic power of an elixir to prolong life.