Prosecco is easily Italy’s largest DOC zone, and it continues to grow: 3,000 hectares have just been approved in a recent expansion, taking the total hectares planted to more than 23,000. Picture the entire city of San Francisco under vine—twice over. This equates to almost half a billion bottles of Prosecco each year, most of which hail from mechanizable flatlands. Call us snobs, but we wouldn’t even use most of this overcropped plonk in our mimosas. However, the beating heart of this massive region is undoubtedly the Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG subzone, a real mouthful that ultimately designates the most qualitative terroir for Glera, the Prosecco grape. In the shadow of the Alps, poor, well-draining soils at higher altitude yield elegant, aromatic bubbly worlds apart from the mass-produced wines flooding the market. Cinzia Sommariva is an adamant ambassador of the style, following in her parents’ footsteps to consistently craft a Prosecco of total class and charm—no mimosas necessary.
For generations the Sommariva family worked vines on the Venetian high plains, but it was Caterino Sommariva who began purchasing hillside vineyards, having great faith in the Prosecco varietal and deciding to plant it exclusively. Their daughter Cinzia remembers the difficulty of harvest; choosing to pursue studies in marketing. As she got older, she began to see her parents’ work differently, discovering her own passion for winemaking. She eventually joined them and became an enthusiastic and dynamic partner. The Sommarivas take their work very seriously, closely watching over every step of production. These perfectionists only sit back once the work is done and it’s time to enjoy the delightfully fresh fruits of their labor.
Italy’s most prolific wine region by volume, the Veneto is the source of some of the country’s most notorious plonk: you’ll find oceans of insipid Pinot Grigo, thin Bardolino, and, of course, the ubiquitous Prosecco. And yet, the Veneto produces the highest proportion of DOC wine of any Italian region: home to prestigious appellations like Valpolicella, Amarone, and Soave, it is capable of excelling in all three colors, with equally great potential in the bubbly and dessert departments.
With almost 200,000 acres planted, the Veneto has a wealth of terroirs split between the Po Valley and the foothills of the Alps. While the rich soils of the flatlands are conducive to mechanization, high yields, and mass production of bulk wine, the areas to the north offer a fresher climate and a diversity of poor soil types, ideal for food-friendly wines that show a sense of place. Whether it’s a charming Prosecco Superiore from the Glera grape, a stony Soave or Gambellara from Garganega, or a Corvina-based red in any style, the Veneto’s indigenous grape varieties show real character when worked via traditional production methods.
Since his first visit in 1979, Kermit has regularly returned to the Veneto to enjoy its richness of fine wines and local cuisine. Our collaboration with Corte Gardoni, our longest-running Italian import, is a testament to this. The proximity of beautiful cities like Verona and Venice, with their deep culinary heritage, certainly doesn’t hurt, either.
Every three or four months I would send my clients a cheaply made list of my inventory, but it began to dawn on me that business did not pick up afterwards. It occurred to me that my clientele might not know what Château Grillet is, either. One month in 1974 I had an especially esoteric collection of wines arriving, so I decided to put a short explanation about each wine into my price list, to try and let my clients know what to expect when they uncorked a bottle. The day after I mailed that brochure, people showed up at the shop, and that is how these little propaganda pieces for fine wine were born.—Kermit Lynch
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