Valdobbiadene, ten thousand souls, a renaissance town square and the fresh breeze descending from the Dolomites. Here, away from the limelight, the world-renowned Prosecco wine is produced, including its most precious and rare variety which goes under the name of “Cartizze”.
Prosecco, the new cool
Fresh, hip and affordable, The most famous Italian sparkling wine is enjoying great popularity worldwide. Millennials from London to New York, are ditching tired champagne in favor of its Italian cousin and deciding to celebrate with a bubbly glass of Italy’s best. Prosecco seems to be the new cool and the numbers agree: five hundred million bottles produced in 2018 and a 5 percent growth in key markets such as Germany and the US, while in Britain the decade-long surge in Prosecco sales is finally reaching its plateau and Italian sparkling wine is stabilizing in its dominant position.
The Italian authorities are very strict in licensing designations for different wine varieties only to producers who meet the criteria to label their wines with the prestigious DOC and DOCG (Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) marks, over the more common IGT (Indication of Typical Geography). In this framework, a certain designation such as the Cartizze, arguably Italy’s best Prosecco, is granted to wines harvested only in specific micro-hotspots, drilling down to distinction of one single hill over another.
The Cartizze Prosecco and the heroic harvest
In the 107 hectares where the exclusive Cartizze Prosecco comes from, the harvest has to be done by hand because of the steep hilly terrain which doesn’t allow for much automation. Every year, dozens of young locals are drafted and offered a competitive salary to take part in what is nicknamed the “heroic harvest”: hours of climbing up and down Valdobbiadene’s sunny hills, cutting off the juicy Glera grapes and collecting them in heavy baskets and crates, before delivering them to the nearby tractor. It is the unique terrain composition of the steep hills, together with the rare environmental and weather conditions that allow Valdobbiadene’s best winemakers to deliver Italy’s best Prosecco.
One of this winemakers, wanting to share the beauty of this territory with visitors, or maybe just tired with the elitist timber-and-glass designed cathedrals of a certain wine tourism, came up with a rather unique concept. “Osteria senz’oste”, the inn without a bartender, is literally a private house open to everyone to use its spaces, where people are invited to pick their own wine and local typical products and pay them leaving a recommended offer in a wooden box. The trust-based business model proved to be surprisingly sustainable and visitors could enjoy a glass of wine with the stunning view of the terrace in an informal and friendly context.
An innovative experience
Who did not like the concept, however, were the Italian authorities. The system appeared to some as a tax fraud loophole and the case raised to national news in a country where too often bureaucracy prevents innovation.
Today the Osteria senz’oste is open again, the regulatory compliance issue was solved with an innovative system of Prosecco vending machines which adds to the unique experiences and tourists, often foreigners spend their afternoon socializing on the hill before their affordably priced Cartizze bottles and tasty salami.
Valdobbiadene, thanks to the global Prosecco hype, is attracting tourists in search of a different kind of day trip: the ceiling of the Osteria is patched with banknotes from virtually any country and the vending machines have to be filled often. The region has much to offer including tall mountains theater of World War I and the charming town of Bassano del Grappa with its tourist attractions. In case you might find it relevant: the Italian regulation allows driving with a 0,5 alcohol concentration in blood limit, which should allow you to indulge in a couple of toasts with your luckier, non-driving fellows.