Balance and rigour for a great Prosecco 30 Ottobre 2019 – Posted in: . ENGLISH TEXT
I first came across Prosecco in the late Sixties. Those were different times. I was lucky enough to witness the change the Italian oenological culture was starting to express. Today there are a thousand wineries. In those days there were one hundred, and those one hundred were paving the way that has brought us here.
Pronouncing the word Prosecco was not as common as today. There were few denominations of origin and export was secondary in the wineries’ balance sheets. The trendiness, the spritz, and the planetary success were only to arrive much later.
So, I remember the meeting with those bubbles with a pinch of nostalgia. I was a young man, a beginner, with a curiosity like few others, eager to discover the charming world of wine. I lived in Milan and worked as a sommelier helper at restaurant Gourmet in Via Torino, on the corner with Piazza Duomo. It wasn’t an ordinary place, especially when the dining room was livened up by the presence of some famous people and some great wine producers. I would approach this group of clients mostly, I’d open my ears and listened (discreetly) to their inspiring stories of vineyards, grapes, terroir and cellars. Soon some of them adopted me, so to speak. I was not yet eighteen, and they considered me their mascot.
So, when I finished work after the evening service, I joined the gang of the dining room and kitchen brigade, and I started to visit the first enoteche and vinerie. Especially Ronchi, which at the time was in Via San Maurilio, and Scoffone in Via Hugo. Both wine bars were close to the restaurant. Here, dragged by this ‘brotherhood of wine’, I discovered Prosecco. I never forgot those very moments. One sip after the other, the flavour of the wine left a mark in my palate. And in my memory.
After those positive early experiences, I started to study this wine more thoroughly. But, after some tastings, I realised it was hard to feel the same sensations I had felt in the wine bars in Milan. The wines I tasted did not thrill me.
Then came 1980. I was working as a sommelier in Gualtiero Marchesi’s restaurant in Via Bonvesin de la Riva. One day a famous wine selector arrived, and he suggested I taste Nino Franco’s Prosecco, which was unknown in Milan at the time. The name of the winery didn’t ring any bell. So basically I sat at a table, I opened the Prosecco he had brought with him, and I gently filled the glass. It took a taste and a moment: captured by the abundant foam and by the very fine bubbles, my palate, in contact with the delicate aromas of that wine, well balanced by the right amount of carbon dioxide, got started, reactivating the memory. I closed my eyes and my mind rushed back to those memorable nights in Milan. The authentic Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, this is what I once again had in front of me. On the nose, I caught the lovely scents of pear and wisteria, on the palate the flavour was captivating, made rounder by the limited amount of residual sugar and by a balanced amount of carbon dioxide that made it creamy on the palate. I didn’t hesitate, not even for a moment, and I added the product to the cellar and the wine list of Gualtiero’s restaurant.
From that moment on, I started to think of possible pairings between Nino Franco’s Prosecco and food. Food knocked on the door of this wine which swiftly acquired nobleness and elegance, but the pairing was not banal. I put aside dishes whose flavours were too strong, like red meat, game or matured cheese. What the heck: the delicateness of that sparkling nectar required more delicate pairings, from Marchesi’s collection, like cold spaghetti with caviar and chives, the chicken liver terrine, maccheroni with black truffle, hake in guazza bianca or eggs with bianchetti.
Playing on the balance of flavour was the winning choice, as confirmed to this day by the colleagues, restaurateurs or importers who recommend Nino Franco’s bubbles. Professionals who pay attention to acknowledging the true quality of a wine, while oblivious to the trendy effect that that name now inspires. Because Prosecco is now this too: a trendy phenomenon. But in order to belong to this category, in my opinion, you must follow a strict production process that starts in the vineyard and allows no error. The choice of the grapes, the vinification technique, the refermentation, everything must be done with attention.
And Primo Franco is a vintner who has always followed these rules. This is why I believe his Prosecco is a sparkling wine of the highest quality. An idea I’ve never changed for almost forty years now. Since that distant 1980 in Via Bonvesin de la Riva.