The family company now known as Silvano Follador, previously Il Cardo, is in the hands of the next generation, brother and sister – Silvano who is in charge of the vineyards and winemaking at this small estate and Alberta who runs the office. They produce only 23,000 bottles of sparkling wine – but they are 23,000 very special bottles. The vineyards have been farmed in a organic way for eight to nine years but without certification: the hallmark here is simplicity and an absolute commitment to letting the land express itself in the glass. Silvano is very forceful on this point and from him it does not sound like a cliché; it is amply exemplified in the glass.
The wine making process is straightforward and is in line with the lack of chemical intervention in the vineyards. They harvest relatively low yields, about three quarters of what the DOCG regulations allow (Silvano only leaves two short shoots on each plant), press the grapes, make wine with naturally occurring yeasts and then keep it on the lees for six months. The second fermentation in a pressurised tank is not carried out until the next spring. So this is a relatively slow process by Prosecco standards, especially the holding the wine on the lees for half a year which undoubtedly produces greater complexity and depth of flavour in the finished wine.
Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2010, 11.5% – a blend of fruit from their four vineyards make up this wine, including some from Cartizze. On completion of the second fermentation, the wine is filtered lightly (as there is no long period of resting in a bottle as with the classic method) and then, unusually, no sugar is added, so the wine could be called zero dosage. This is perhaps the clearest indication of a commitment to the land expressing itself – and not being smothered by even modest amounts of sweetening. After a few minutes in the glass, the fruit, herbs and attractive saltiness begin to express themselves and grow in forcefulness. You are a million miles from the bland Prosecchi of the plains.
Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Brut 2010 – this wine comes from grapes in the much prized Cartizze zone, 106 hectares in all, shared by many growers; the Follador family has a hectare and a half and can produce 6,000 bottles a year. This wine is similar in characteristics to the Valdobbiadene above but is more intense, saltier and more mineral. Again it is very dry by Prosecco standards which suits the English palate.
The final wine is a bit of a surprise: Metodo Classico Dossagio Zero 2009, again a tiny production of 4,000 bottles, slightly fizzier at 5 bar. The aromas here are completely different following 16 months on the lees in the bottle as well as the six months on the coarse lees in the tank, leading with strong yeast notes and dried and candied fruit. It is fascinating that a grower as traditional as Follador nevertheless has added a bottle-fermented wine to his small, three bottling offering.
Personally, these were the wines Janet and I probably enjoyed the most in our stay in Valdobbiadene. That was partly a matter of their dryness but partly because, without that sometimes delicious sweetness, the quite austere fruit, almond notes, saltiness and minerality can come to the fore. These are a fine expression of the Glera grape variety in its best vineyards.
With many thanks to Silvano and Alberta – may the excellent work continue! – and it was a special pleasure to meet your father and to see the pictures of your grandfather.
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