Prosecco History: Commerce with Northern Europe

Click here for the complete “Prosecco History” series.

Prosecco History: Glera, a banner of Venetian identity and a barrier to invaders – Part 2

By Ulderico Bernardi, professor of sociology and social process at the University of Cà Foscari in Venice (L’enologo 10, October 2014, 20-22).

Commerce with Northern Europe.

Giacomo Agostinetti di Cimadolmo (1597-1690 C.E.), the celebrated author of the Cento e dieci ricordi che formano il buon fattore di villa (The 110 Memories that Make for a Good Farmer), noted the hillside production of wine and shared with his readers the special techniques employed in his time that made the wine an important export for the Republic of Saint Mark.

“Hillside wine,” he wrote, “is prized because it is sweet. First of all, in order for it to be sweet, very ripe grapes must be sought. And this is because they are to be left on their lees much longer than wines made on the valley floor. This is how you can determine when white grapes have ripened enough to make sweet wine as desired: When they have changed color and have turned from white to yellow or rather red like a fox’s tail; when the stalk has become soft and when you handle the grapes, your fingers stick together.”

Commerce with the courts of Germany and Poland was intense. Carts would arrive in the Treviso hills from those countries on the other side of the Alps. And they would return laden with casks.

One of the saintly figures, worthy of mention as a precious wine resource in these hills, was Venantius Fortunatus.

This holy bishop was the author of sacred and vernacular hymns. He was born in Valdobbiadene in the first decades of the 6th century and he died in Poitiers in 606. He was a devotee of Saint Martin. And it was in a poem dedicated to the saint from Tours that he affectionately described the village of his birth, high in the hills where the good wine was made: “Down there where the vines eternally bud, below the great mountain, where the lush green protects even the most barren zones.”

Centuries passed and the woods and vines would suffer inauspicious days. Even though certain types of vines are resistant to bad weather and the ill effects of parasites. Throughout the course of the 19th century, different torments would afflict the vines: Oidium, peronospora, phylloxera. And as if that were not enough, the First World War would destroy the entire hilly area with its cannon bursts while the fields midway down the hills and the valleys near the banks of the Piave river would be dug up by bullets, trenches, and battlements. It would take years to restore the farmland, and the drainage and irrigation canals.

To be continued…

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Author: Bele Casel

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