Category: Bele Casel

Bees in the vineyards: Prosecco Diaries April 2018

As always, there’s a lot of important work to do in April, especially when the rains interrupt the rhythms of the day and they make it impossible to use our tractor. We have a lot of catching up to do in terms of replanting and the spike in temperature at the end of the month is going to make us go without sleep for weeks.

Bees in the vineyard were one of the highlights in the month of April (see below).

April 5: You can definitely feel the biodiversity in our vineyards. Those flowers are wild arugula. You can’t begin to imagine how wonderful it is to smell their fragrance as you walk between the rows. Smells like honey.

April 6: When you walk through our vineyard in Monfumo, you can find seashells like this one.

April 7: We work in the rain as we prune our little Bianchetta Trevigiana vines. They are enjoying the spring!

April 8: “How do grape growers get so strong?” Have you ever tried walking with a ton of dirt stuck to your shoes?

April 9: “Every Prosecco vineyard can be mechanized!” Is that so? Here’s proof. Here we are pruning in our Monfumo vineyard.

Have a look at what we’re doing here. Are we working fast enough in your opinion?

13 Aprile: E’ arrivata la primavera…

April 15: Vinitaly is here!

April 17: Work in the vineyard never ends. Here we are cleaning up between the rows in our Cornuda vineyard.

April 20: The famous break following Vinitaly! It’s time to substitute the vines that have died with new plantings of Glera in our Cornuda vineyard.

April 21: Anyone who’s ever met Luca will understand how tall these flowers are! This is our vineyards in Prà Grande. We have decided to let the flowers grow and let the bees collect their nectar for as long as they want. It’s perfect because we can’t use our tractors in this vineyard anyway. Everything has to be done by hand. You have no idea how wonderful it is to walk through this marvelous site when the only sound you can hear is the buzzing of the insects. There’s a reason why they call these hills the “Silent Hills.”

April 22: The bees are so important to the well being of our vineyards. Here’s a bee in our Prà Grande vineyard, enjoying our cover crop flowers.

April 24: Due Rocche will come by to see us tomorrow at our Cornuda vineyard.

April 25: Happy (Italian) Liberation Day!

Rabbiosa, Marzemina Bianca, Perera, and Bianchetta: The “Other” Grapes in Prosecco

We all know Glera but what are the other grapes that can go into Prosecco?

Rabbiosa, Marzemina Bianca, Perera, and Bianchetta are some of the traditional Prosecco grapes that we grow in our vineyard in Monfumo, the parcel used to make our Colfòndo and one of our favorite vineyards (and most beautiful!).

Click here to see a Facebook album with images of all the grapes above.
When we say “we grow them” we should really say that “we found them growing there.”

When we purchased this historic vineyard a few years ago, it had vines that had been growing there for literally more than 100 years. And one of the most interesting things about the site and one of the things that made it so attractive to us is that it was planted in a time before Prosecco was such a big part of the Italian wine world.

Back then, farmers would plant mostly Glera, the top grape for the appellation. But they would also plant other white grape varieties, like the ones mentioned above.

The wisdom was as follows. In most vintages, Glera will deliver a healthy and robust yield of grapes. But in challenging vintages, it might be the other grape varieties that perform better and deliver better fruit. So in a way, it was kind of like the farmer’s insurance policy. She or he knew that a consistent yield could be obtained in nearly any vintage, despite challenging weather conditions.

Here at Bele Casel, we love tracing the flavors in our wines back to the Prosecco of generations past. After all, our grandfather was a grape grower and a winemaker and our father makes our wines today.

We feel that in a way, our Colfòndo, because it’s made using a “field blend,” is one of our most traditional and authentic wines.

Did you know that Rabbiosa, btw, is known as Durello in other parts of Italy?

Thanks for reading!

Weather monitoring is key to maintaining the health of the vineyards.

Our newly installed weather station helps us know what’s going on in the vineyard.

The weather. It’s one of the most important factors in grape growing, if not the most important of all.

And when it comes to the weather, the grape grower needs to be constantly monitoring the conditions in the vineyard. And that doesn’t just mean temperature. It also means wind conditions and perhaps most importantly (depending on where you make wine) closely monitoring humidity.

Humidity and moisture are such important factors in the vineyards. When there is too much humidity, there is an increased risk of mildew and vine diseases. When there is too little humidity, the soil can become too dry and the vines can go into hydric stress, for example. And those are just a few of the things the grape grower and winemaker need to watch out for.

In the case of the Bele Casel family-owned vineyards, some of our vineyards lie very close to our family’s home in Caerano San Marco. All any one of us needs to do is to look outside and feel the air outside and we have a sense of what’s going on weatherwise in our parcels.

But when it comes to our Monfumo vineyard, which lies a sizable distance from our family home, the climatic conditions there can be entirely different than the ones in the vineyards that lie near to where we live.

That’s why we installed a brand new weather monitoring station there this week. You can see it in the photo above, snapped just the other day. It allows us to monitor the conditions there at any time, day or night.

The Monfumo vineyard is our more prized growing site. And so it’s highly important that we know what’s going on there at all times. If conditions become too extreme, we know we need to get out there and do the work that’s needed to keep the vines healthy.

Fake Prosecco? The differences between authentic Prosecco and imitators.

Prosecco imitators are found all over the world.

Fake Prosecco and how to discern Prosecco authenticity has been on people’s mind’s lately.

Historically, Prosecco as we know it today is produced in three townships in Treviso province in the Italian region of Veneto: Valdobbiadene, Conegliano, and Asolo (where we live, grow grapes, and make our wine).

Prosecco made in these three townships is labeled Prosecco DOCG. The DOCG stands for denominazione d’origine controllata e garantita or designation of controlled and guaranteed origin. It’s the highest level of “authenticity” in Prosecco and it denotes Prosecco that’s been grown on hillsides in those three townships.

In Italy, Prosecco is also grown across Treviso province in townships that lie on the valley floor. And Prosecco can also be grown across the regions of the Veneto and Friuli. These wines are labeled DOC, denominazione d’origine controllata or designation of controlled origin (without the guarantee). This is the second tier of Prosecco quality.

As a number of writers have pointed out this week, the DOCG is the best way to determine whether or not you are drinking authentic Prosecco from the three historic townships that produce the wine. The DOC designation means that you are drinking Prosecco from Italy made outside the historic townships.

When you don’t see either of those on the label or bottle, the wine could have been grown and produced nearly anywhere. Even as far away as Australia, people are growing Glera grapes and bottling them as “Prosecco.” One could argue that there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s also value in knowing that your Prosecco comes from a place where they have been growing Glera and making sparkling wines for generations.

But perhaps more important than the label, one of the most important — actually the MOST important — way to determine the authenticity of your Prosecco is through its aromas and flavors. That will be our next post on Prosecco authenticity.

Allegagione: How do you translate it into English and what’s its significance?

Fruit set is a critical moment in the vine’s vegetative cycle.

Allegagione… it’s not easy to say in Italian!

It’s pronounced ahl-leh-gah-JOH-neh.

And the English translation is “fruit set.”

Basically, it’s the moment in the vine’s vegetative cycle when certain flowers on the plant start to become berries.

According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, only 30 per cent of the flowers become berries, although, the editors write, that figure can be as high as 60 per cent.

It’s such an important moment because it determines how much fruit the harvest will actually yield. And the yield, naturally, also affects quality. A lower amount of flowers that become berries could mean a smaller crop for the grape grower. A higher amount could mean that the number of berries produced is higher but the quality could be lower because the flavors will not be as concentrated.

The time leading up to the fruit set is also very risky for the grape grower. The berries are strong than the flowers and they can handle a little rain better than the flowers. But a heavy rainstorm can wipe the flowers off the plant and that can be a disaster for a grape grower.

The fruit set also tells the grape grower, more or less, when harvest will be. The rule of thumb is 100 days from fruit set, give or take a few depending on how fast or slowly the grapes ripen.

So while a lot of nail-biting goes on as the vegetative cycle leads up to fruit sit, there can be a huge sigh of relief after it happens. (Or in some cases, crying call follow!)

Luckily for Bele Casel this year, fruit set arrived last week with no major issues and the outlook — so far — for this year’s harvest is very good!

Asolo is one of the communes of the Prosecco DOCG (even though some don’t realize that)

There are three communes in the Prosecco DOCG: Conegliano, Valdobbiadene, and Asolo.

Asolo. It’s a township (or commune) in Treviso province, pronounced AH-zoh-loh. It’s one of the most beautiful villages in northern Italy. In fact, people often refer to it as the “Pearl of Treviso” for its picturesque beauty. It’s also known as the “City of 100 Horizons” because of its spectacular panoramic views.

The great Italian actress of the late 19th and early 20th century, Eleonora Duse, made her home there and she died there. She was one of the most famous celebrities of her time.

The late 19th and early 20th century Italian poet Gabriele d’Annunzio, another one of the most famous persons of that era, also spent time there.

The small town is also home to one of the most significant collections of works by the late 18th century and early 19th century sculpture and artist Antonio Canova.

And the hills around Asolo are home to one of the world’s most famous and celebrated wines, Prosecco DOCG.

Most people know two of the townships included in the Prosecco DOCG: Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Our little township may not make as much wine as the others do. In fact, the amount of wine made here is relatively small compared the townships where the overwhelming majority of Prosecco DOCG wines are produced. But our township was included in the historic DOCG because like Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, we have the southern-facing hills and the morainic subsoils needed to produce top Prosecco.

We couldn’t help but thrilled when an American friend shared the photo above. It’s from a restaurant in the heart of Oregon wine country (the Willamette Valley). You’ll note that the author of the wine list wrote Asolo for her/his Prosecco entry. It takes a great wine appellation to know another!

DBGItalia: Tasting notes for Bele Casel current releases by David Berry Green

DBGItalia is owned and run by leading British wine authority David Berry Green, who has lived in Italy since 2009. Here are his tasting notes for Bele Casel current release wines.

Prosecco Asolo Superiore Extra Dry (16 grams RS) – tasted in March ’18, from 3 tanks prior to bottling (soon!); vintage 2017 frost & drought, save some drizzle at the end of the summer to alleviate the stress; blended together, largely from the Cornuda & Maser comunes, on grey & red clay soils, giving orange slice & white stone, bianco spina/blackthorn flower, nettle & lime, a bunch of spring flowers, emphatic, energetico!

Prosecco Asolo Superiore Extra Brut (4 grams RS) – tasted March ’18 from tank, from 2017 vintage, spring bottling. From the lofty east facing Monfumo vyd – hit hard by frost in 2017, so none for the Extra Dry – at 150m asl, planted with Glera, Perera, Bianchetta, Rabbiosa. Extra Brut is stonier, drier, with notable nettle, creamy leesy notes, almost Moscato-esque, with white flower perfume, stylish too, white peach (vs the yellow of the Extra Dry), more detail, pinpoint, a fine boules/bubbles!

Prosecco Asolo Superiore Dry Millesimato – none produced due to 2017 frost!
Prosecco Asolo Colfòndo (secco) – tasted March ’18 from bottle (bottled in May ’17); 11% abv, secco; 10 months on fondo in bottle (May’17 to March’18), from the trickier, downy mildew-hit 2016 vintage. One must remember to gently turn the bottle over to put the lees back in suspension, enriching the wine & creating a more complex, sapid flavour spectrum! On the nose, biscotti, freshly made bread, some mandarin as well as sapid, crunchy, nettle, frizzante (less fizz) fine, more of a still wine! Complex, needs food/appetisers!

Prosecco Asolo Colfòndo ‘Quindici’ (secco) – tasted from bottle in March ’18, but not due out until autumn 2018; compared to the more challenging 2016 vintage, 2015 (‘Quindici’) was a breeze! At a glance, it’s more complete, riper, cleaner, much more complex, brimming with white currant character & refinement. Very good.
Prosecco Asolo Colfòndo (2010) – a fascinating treat to be offered an eight year old Asolo Colfondo frizzante; much more savoury now, more fieno/hay, yet the fruit is strangely candied, citrus pith, licorizia, sapidity…

Prosecco Asolo Superiore ‘Vecchie Uve’ (secco) – an anteprima/sneak preview, tasted from tank in March ’18, where it will remain on its lees until 2019. A 2017 vintage blend of ancient Asolo Prosecco varieties Glera, Perera, Bianchetta, Boschera, Rabbiosa, Manzoni, harvested from their vineyards in the villages of Monfumo, Maser & Cornuda. Slightly more intense in colour, it brims with fieno/hay complexity, essential oils, straw, ‘prato di montagne’, tiglio/lime flower & Artemisia (floral)complexity. Fantastico, rich with complexity & sapidity (0RS)

Memorial Day is a great holiday for Prosecco!

Whether poolside or on the beach, Prosecco is a great way to kick off the summer.

Memorial Day, of course, is a national holiday in America. It’s a day when Americans commemorate members of the military who have given their lives for their country.

But it’s also marks the unofficial start of summer. School is out by the time the holiday rolls around (the last Monday in May) and it’s the first long weekend of the post-school calendar. It’s also the time that a lot of Americans go on vacation or fill their swimming pools for the first time every year. It’s also the first time that many Americans go to the beach. And perhaps, most importantly, it’s when Americans begin to fire up their grills and start grilling each year!

The holiday also marks the beginning of summer temperatures. And that means that people will be reaching increasingly for sparkling wine — wine to drink at outdoor events, wine to drink poolside, and wine that has a wide range of pairing options.

That’s why Prosecco is such a great wine for the holiday and the summer parties that follow.

It’s low in alcohol. Usually around 11 percent. It doesn’t “weigh you down” and you can drink more of it without feeling the effects.

It’s extremely fresh. You need that freshness to go with the foods of summer. It may not go with the grilled steaks you are making for the long weekend. But just think how well it goes with grilled corn or even bbq ribs!

It’s a crowd pleaser. When the wine is good, EVERYONE loves a Prosecco. From the casual wine lover and wine drinker, Prosecco is a wine appreciated by everyone (especially when it’s Bele Casel!).

It’s low cost. It’s an affordable wine that doesn’t break the bank, especially when you have a big crowd of people.

Happy Memorial Day to all our friends in the U.S.! And happy summer!

Ancestral method is “traditional” but it’s not “traditional method.” Let us explain.

Sparkling wine terminology can be really confusing!

Ancestral method, know as méthode ancestrale, “sometimes called méthode artisanale or méthode rurale,” according to the Oxford Companion to Wine, “very traditional and newly fashionable way of making a lightly sparkling, wine, usually with some residual sugar and, often, some sediment.”

“It involves bottling young wines before all the residual sugar has been fermented into alcohol. Fermentation continues in bottle and gives off carbon dioxide.”

By the way, we highly recommend both the Oxford Companion to Wine and Jancis Robinson’s Purple Pages online tasting notes archive and magazine where you can also find the entire Oxford Companion to Wine online (with a built-in search engine that makes it very easy to use).

So that’s the basic definition of this ancient “ancestral” approach to sparkling winemaking.

As Luca likes to put it, the old folks used to add some sugar to the wines to make them less bitter (in a time before modern winemaking technology was readily available). As a result they would re-ferment in bottle.

The wines we call col fondo are just one expression of the ancestral method.

The ancestral method is indeed a traditional method of sparkling winemaking.

But we have to be careful not to call it “traditional method” because the expression “traditional method” has a particular meaning in sparkling wine parlance.

Because only Champagne producers can use the words champagne method or méthode champenoise to describe their wines (because the term refer to the place itself), the European Union adopted the expressions “classic method” and “traditional method” to denote wines made using the same method outside of Champagne.

It’s confusing, we know! But it’s important to make the distinction so that we share the correct information.

Bele Casel makes an ancestral method (col fondo) wine and a classic range of Martinotti method (also known as Charmat method) wines.

Thanks for reading!

Cinema and wine: FIVI hosts Cinecittà wine fair this weekend (and Bele Casel will be there).

Italians are famous for their movies and there wines. It’s great when they come together!

Cinema, Italian style. Throughout this century and the last, Italians have been leaders in the motion picture arts.

Roberto Rossellini, Vittorio De Sica, Federico Fellini, Michelangleo Antonioni, Pietro Germi, Ettore Scola, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Sergio Leone, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Giuseppe Tornatore, Nanni Moretti, Roberto Benigni… Those are just some of the names of the great Italian cineastes who have defined the category and set benchmarks in the field with their landmark and pioneering work.

We couldn’t be more thrilled that FIVI — the Italian Federation of Independent Grape Growers and Winemakers — is holding its next fair (market and trade fair) at Cinecittà, the legendary Italian film studio in Rome that reshaped the motion picture industry in the twentieth century.

See details below.

Founded in the 1930s, Cinecittà was conceived as an experimental center for film production. And it quickly became a hub and a home for some of the great movies ever made.

Bele Casel will be there!

From the Wikipedia entry:

With an area of 400,000 square metres, it is the largest film studio in Europe, and is considered the hub of Italian cinema. The studios were constructed during the Fascist era as part of a scheme to revive the Italian film industry.

World-renowned filmmakers such as Federico Fellini, Roberto Rossellini, Luchino Visconti, Sergio Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Mel Gibson have worked at Cinecittà. More than 3,000 movies have been filmed there, of which 90 received an Academy Award nomination and 47 of these won it. In the 1950s, the number of international productions being made there led to Rome being dubbed “Hollywood on the Tiber.”

FIVI Wine Fair

Where: Teatro (Stage) 10, Cinecittà, Via Tuscolana 1055, Rome
When: Saturday and Sunday, May 19-20, 2018
Time: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Cost: €15 (includes tasting glass)