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Wine No 2 of 12 Raw Wines, Sottoriva Prosecco Malibran NV

Prosecco Sottoriva Malibran NV £14.95 (Buy this wine on-line)

The beautifully manicured rolling hills of the northern Veneto between the Po Valley and Venice to the south and the Dolomite mountains to the north lies the region of Valdobbiadene where they grow the Prosecco (also known as Glera) grape variety (yes it is a grape, not just the name of a wine) and produce the sparkling wine of the same name that has over the last 15 years taken the UK market by storm.

When i lived in Padova, a lovely old town to the west of Venice (10 years ago now, how time flies), myself and girlfriend would often take our lunch on the balcony overlooking the busy main road in Arcella, soaking up some midday sunshine and munching through mountains of Provolone cheese, Salami Piccante and olives washed down with a bottle, sometimes two of Prosecco from the corner shop under the flat.  It cost us a mere 1 euro 50 and the first bottle was always amazing and left us red faced and in a very jolly mood for the afternoon.  If we drank the second  bottle, we ended up a little too woozy (even though it was only 9.5% abv) and also with an unpleasantly rasping dryness in the back of the throat.  It was cheap stuff and it was the situation that made it good.  It was probably riddled with sulphites and the fizz was injected with a bicycle pump but nevertheless, i have loved the wine ever since and have managed to find found one of the best producers out there in Maurizio Favrel from Malibran.

The Vineyard at Malibran in Susegana
The Vineyard at Malibran in Susegana

A brief history of Prosecco......

In 1754, we find the word Prosecco in the book "Il roccolo Ditirambo", written by Aureliano Acanti:

‘And now I would like to wet my mouth with that Prosecco with its apple bouquet’.

Prosecco Grapes
Prosecco Grapes

It is not certain whether he was referring to a still or sparkling wine.  The grape offers high acid and a distinctive malic acid-apple character in either form.  It is not certain either when the sparkling wine was born but what is sure is that, like most sparkling wines, it happened by accident.

Before temperature control, stainless steel and cultured yeasts, the peasants of the region made their wine and bottled it in the autumn.  When the temperature dropped (as it does very quickly in the region, literally overnight they can move from autumn to cold winter), the fermentation stopped and they bottled the wine thinking it was made.  The bottles that made it through the winter, stacked up in the barn, often started to explode in the spring!  The others tasted unusually fresh and slightly fizzy, very pleasant thought one bright spark, we should make more of this.  The rest is history.

The accidental method of spontaneous re-fermentation in the bottle has since died out with big tanks, temp control and carefully selected yeasts taking over to produce a safe and standardized product.

How they make the Sottoriva......

Prosecco Sottoriva

Maurizio Favrel of Malibran wanted to see just how this natural Prosecco would taste and so Sottoriva was born.  The wine is fermented cool initially under pressure in a steel tank and to about 5 or 6 degrees of alcohol.   It is then chilled down to 0 to stop the fermentation.  It is racked off the main primary yeasts and solids without filtration and put under pressure into bottle.  There it stays and in the ambient temperature of the cellar, it starts to ferment again.  Once all the sugar has been converted to alcohol, a label goes on and the wine is sold without taking of the cap and leaving everything behind in the bottle.

Of course it takes very good quality fruit to start with to make a wine in this way and Maurizio although not certified operates an organic vineyard and his cellar work is totally natural.  Only 30 parts per million of SO2 are used at bottling (see here for lower and upper limits of SO2 in wine making) and so the final wine is the purest and most natural expression of Prosecco you will find. (Maurizio has also made 120 bottles of an experimental wine totally without sulphur, although i haven't tasted it, i am told it is delicious!  We will have to wait for next year to get any)

Tasting note

The appearance is cloudy, verging on grey as you reach the end of the bottle.  On nose and palate the wine is all delicacy and freshness with that lovely apple character coming through with some subtle floral and citrus notes.  The wine is totally dry and zippy with a little salty twang to the finish.  Unique Prosecco, and so drinkable, it goes far too fast.  Let it settle before pouring but then drain the mirky last glass where the natural terroir of the Valdobbiadene region is fully expressed.

This Fabulous and unique Prosecco was present at Raw Fair and is one of our 12 Raw wines that we recommend in a superb mixed case.  12 Raw wines at Buon Vino......