Every now and then in visiting wineries there is a muddle over times of appointmetnts – inevitably. Wine producers are busy people; visitors may be trying to manage demanding schedules. On our visit to Ruggeri, Giustino Bisol drops all and offers us a quick tour of 40 minutes. But being passionate about his business however, he offers to shows us the vineyards and drives us on the minor roads up the impressively steep valley to show us the famous Cartizze vineyard. Most Prosecco may be a prosaic pleasure. But the numerous growers who have a hectare or so each of the 106 hectare Cartizze zone, not a single vineyard but a delimited area, share the best slopes in the entire DOCG of more than 6,000 hectares. These growers could in theory put the famous Cartizze name on a label. But most of them are far too small, or too busy with their other jobs, to do so, with the result that they sell their grapes to the bigger concerns, of which Ruggeri is one. This historic firm, the fifth to make sparkling wine by the tank method in the area, has been there since the beginning – the name ‘Case Bisoi’ can be found on the oldest extant maps of the Cartizze zone. They have long term relationships with 100 growers around Valdobbiadene including 55 families from whom they have been buying grapes for 40 years. So while they have just 15 hectares of their own vines, their buying network is impressive and quality focused, including 10% of the Cartizze zone. By the time we had done the tour of Cartizze it was perfectly obvious that Giustino was going to give us far more than the promised 40 minutes.
In the winery, there is the technology and the commitment to produce the very best on a large scale. Giustino is rightly proud of the two entirely independent processing lines which give Ruggeri both the scale and the potential for attention to detail which their wines require. On the one hand they can produce big numbers of good quality mid-priced bottles, on the other hand they can produce the very best, wines which are among the handful of Prosecchi which have won the coveted ‘tre bicchieri’ (three glasses award) from the Gambero Rosso – in the company of Brunello or Barolo which age in a cask for five years, wines of inherently greater complexity and substance.
At the end of the production line are an impressive line of paired pressurised tanks. They used in pairs so that the now sparkling wine from one tank, having undergone a slow second fermentation of two months, can be moved under pressure from tank 1 to displace the pressurized vacuum in tank 2 with no loss of pressure. The same method is used for bottling, preserving quality to the last. Impressive stuff!
We complete our tour with a tasting of four exemplary wines:
Vecchie Viti, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Brut, 2010 – requires almost an article in its own right. ‘Old vines’ here really does mean something: this small production is from individually selected vines of between 80 and 100 years in age spread across 19 different vineyards: 2,000 old plants in all! This is truly a labour of love as it means harvesting the grapes from the individual vines across the vineyards at the same time so that you can make the batch together. The resulting wine, made as a Brut with 7g of residual sugar per litre – quite dry by Prosecco standards – is savoury, delicious and has a fine acidity. Rather sweeter (12g) and very good for a DOC wine is Argeo Prosecco DOC 2011, made from fruit grown just outside the DOCG zone.
The two stars of the show are on the sweeter end of the spectrum – called, laughably, Extra Dry and Dry according to the European categories for sparkling wine. Giustino B, Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG 2010 is named after the company’s founder – and the current Giustino’s grandfather. The ‘B’ stands of course for Bisol but it can’t really be called that as there is the other important Valdobbiadene company called just that – cousins of course. It was this wine which had recently won the latest ‘tre bicchieri’. The extra residual sweetness (16g), gives it a much more pronounced nose, with very fine fruit and floral character on the nose and then elegant fruit on the palate. A balanced wine with some real depth of flavour and subtlety. Finally, there is Cartizze Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore 2011, in the sweetest style (28g), ie properly amabile, which leads with pears and the classic bitter almond of the Prosecco/Glera grape variety. By Prosecco standards it is quite a pronounced wine, moderately sweet, complex and refreshing.
With many thanks to Giustino Bisol – we were very impressed with your energy and commitment to the highest standards for Prosecco Superiore!