Saturday, 21 May 2016

Proseccos from Villa Sandi

Producer: Villa Sandi

As the train rolled in to the next stop in Singapore, I noticed something peculiar. The electronic route map inside the train was indicating that we had arrived at Paya Lebar, while the station signs read Eunos. Meanwhile the automated announcement was assuring passengers that we had stopped at Tanah Merah. Later during the day, as I spoke with Laura Dassiè, I inwardly wondered if she too wished that she could be at several places at the same time. As the Export Area Manager for Villa Sandi, her travel schedule is physically demanding, and the mental effort required to be promoting wines the entire day no less punishing.

Laura was in Singapore to talk about Prosecco, Italy’s chip in the sparkling wine stakes. Until 2009, Prosecco was used to refer to the name of the grape as well as the wine. In a feat of bureaucratic marvel, the winemakers in Veneto lobbied the European Union for Prosecco to be used to refer to the appellation and for the grape to be renamed as Glera. This sleight-of-hand was important to prevent producers in other countries from producing their own prosecco and leveraging on the brand name much as what happened with champagne in the past. While a grape variety cannot be trademarked, an appellation can. So now we have prosecco (the wine), made in the DOC production zone of Prosecco, from Glera grapes.

A group of sommeliers from various restaurants (pictured above) had gathered at Salt tapas & bar to sample the wines from Villa Sandi. One of the things we quickly agreed on was that prosecco shouldn’t be seen as a competitor in the same category as champagne. The extended aging on lees that champagne undergoes, the elaborate production method and the different grape varieties puts it in a different price category. Apart from both being sparkling there is very little similarity in taste. “Prosecco was born as an affordable drink,” explains Laura. “Yet there are certain standards to maintain.” The usual method of creating the bubbles in prosecco is through tank fermentation, also known as the Charmat method, and up to 15% of other grape varieties can be included. This creates a light-bodied fizz with flavours of peach and fresh orchard fruits. Laura states that “Prosecco has to be drunk as fresh as possible. The ideal drinking window is within one and a half years.”

Part of Laura’s mission in Asia is to highlight the existence of premium prosecco, the DOCG level wines that can only be made in the region between the towns of Valdobbiadene and Conegliano. The most-prized sub-region is steep hillside slopes of Cartizze, where the price of land is as high as that of vineyards around the famed Tuscan town of Montalcino. We were able to compare the entry-level “Il Fresco” Prosecco with the “Vigna La Rivetta” from Cartizze, and the latter showed much greater depth of flavour and persistence. Whether consumers can be convinced to trade up for it remains a question to be answered, but it helps that the wine was given the highest rating (Tre Bicchieri) by the Gambero Rosso wine guide.

Accompanying the wines was a selection of mouth-watering tapas including a fresh sashimi with Persian feta and an east-influenced curried roast pumpkin with capsicum. These highlighted the other strength of prosecco, which is that it is a wine that is quite amenable to different foods.

Tasting notes:

Villa Sandi “Auris” Spumante Brut – Packaged in a striking gold bottle (is this a throwdown to the Bottega Gold Prosecco?) Not entitled to the Prosecco DOC as the wine is a blend of Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay. Vivid flavours of straw and apple with crisp acidity. Goes down a treat but bubbles dissipate very fast.

Villa Sandi “Il Fresco” Rosé – A blend of Glera and Pinot Noir. This lively and straightforward wine shows bright pear notes with a lively hint of barley sugar sweetness. An excellent choice for an everyday aperitif.

Villa Sandi “Il Fresco” Prosecco DOC – Made from a mix of grapes grown on hills with morainic soils and alluvial plains. A vivacious example of prosecco showing a fine line of citrus, lime and starfruit notes. Light textured with a medium length, this is a wine that should be consumed young to appreciate its vibrant, floral nature.

Villa Sandi “Vigna La Rivetta” Valdobbiadene Superiore Di Cartizze DOCG – Villa Sandi was one of the first producers to produce prosecco from Cartizze in a brut style. The weathered hillside soils in Cartizze lend a mineral hint to the wine, which shows zippy acidity and beautiful poise. The flavours are a little riper, tending towards stone fruit (apricot, peach) and the finish is gloriously long.

No comments:

Post a Comment