Prosecco: Navigating the three different consortia and appellations.
The following is an excerpted translation of Italian wine writer Carlo Macchi’s WineSurf interview with Bele Casel grape grower and winemaker Luca Ferraro.
Click here for the complete interview (in Italian) and stay tuned for part II.
Carlo Macchi: Can you give us an overview of the Prosecco appellation?
Luca Ferraro: The situation in Prosecco is extremely confusing. [The appellation] covers an enormous area with the historic production zone in the middle.
There are actually three different oversight consortia:
Two DOCG (Asolo and Conegliano-Valdobbiadene), which cover roughly 8,000 hectares and produces roughly 83 million bottles.
One DOC (Padua [Padova], Vicenza, Belluno, Treviso, Pordenone, Trieste, Udine, and Gorizia), which covers 21,000 hectares and produces roughly 400 million bottles.
CM: Wait a minute! Do I have that right? 83 million and 400 million? To what do you attribute Prosecco’s overwhelming success?
It’s important to keep in mind that 95 per cent of Prosecco used to be produced in Treviso province. Over the last five or six years, we have witness a real revolution. The DOC was changed to DOCG. The IGT was changed to DOC. Appellation regulations have been changed. The political climate has changed as has the economic climate.
It was a chilling experience to learn that they didn’t want to allow Asolo DOCG producers to use the designation “superiore” [for example].
[We’ve also seen] incomprehensibly low retail prices and speculation that has caused the price of bulk wine to double.
I’ve also seen wineries who have risked losing everything because of contracts they signed with big distributors before the [extremely challenging] 2014 vintage.
I’ve also seen the consortium force DOC bottlers to hold back 10 per cent of their production (a ruling that was later rescinded) and then subsequently force them to hold back 20 per cent because production levels were higher than market demand.
You could say that I’ve seen it all and then some.
Obviously, it’s not easy to pilot a ship that’s transporting 500 million bottles. I don’t even want to imagine the pressures the consortium directors and presidents have to face.
The big bottlers want to buy bulk wine at the lowest price possible. And they hold a lot of sway over the decisions that the consortia make. In such a varied appellation as ours, producers face widely different problems as the big bottlers impose their rights and their will.
I think the bigger question is: How long will Prosecco’s success last? Will we be able to maintain growth within our appellation?
To be continued…