Prosecco Valdobbiadene Docg, a story of heroic viticulture and ‘Rive’
By Francesco Saverio Russo, posted on 15 January 2024
Forty-three certified areas are entitled to use the quality statement Rive in the Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco region. This entitlement comes with specific restrictions, such as harvesting by hand and a cap on yields. We take a closer look at what the designation, which refers to the steep vineyard sites, implies for Prosecco wines.
When referring to 'Prosecco', we tend to generalise, but there are substantial differences between the various appellations and types of Prosecco. The top of the quality pyramid for Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Docg can today be defined by the term 'Rive', alluding to the steep hillsides that characterise the area. The Rive definition is, of course, reserved for sparkling wine, and that sparkling wine has to be produced exclusively from grapes within a limited area. Because of this uniqueness, Rive wines must comply with some serious restrictions: the grapes must be harvested entirely by hand (to keep the skins intact) and production cannot exceed 13 tonnes per hectare. On labels, the name 'Prosecco' must follow the wording 'Conegliano Valdobbiadene', while Rive must be accompanied by the name of the town/village (or hamlet) where the wine is grown, the term 'superiore' and reference to the vintage.
In the Conegliano Valdobbiadene area, 12 towns/villages and 31 districts belong to the Rive category: Valdobbiadene itself with the hamlets San Vito Bigolino, San Giovanni, San Pietro di Barbozza, Santo Stefano and Guia;
- Vidor with the hamlets Vidor, Colbertaldo;
- Miane, with the hamlets Miane, Combai, Campea, Premaor;
- Farra di Soligo with the hamlets Farra di Soligo, Col San Martino, Soligo;
- Follina with the hamlets Follina, Farrò;
- Cison di Valmarino with the hamlets Cison di Valmarino, Rolle;
- Pieve di Soligo with the hamlets Pieve di Soligo, Solighetto.
- Refrontolo with the hamlet Refrontolo
- San Pietro di Feletto with the hamlets San Pietro di Feletto, Rua di Feletto, Santa Maria di Feletto, San Michele di Feletto, Bagnolo;
- Tarzo with the hamlets Tarzo, Resera, Arfanta, Corbanese;
- Susegana with the hamlets Susegana, Colfosco, Collalto;
- Vittorio Veneto with the hamlets Formeniga, Cozzuolo, Carpesica, Manzana.
- Conegliano with the hamlets Scomigo, Collalbrigo - Costa, Ogliano.
- San Vendemiano with the hamlet San Vendemiano;
- Colle Umberto with the hamlet Colle Umberto.
This classification is not quality-driven but rather identifies the different micro-zones that are distinguished by their soil and weather conditions, in addition to the gradient (up to 70%) which makes Rive vineyards unique in terms of exposure and hours of work required per hectare. This distinction is fundamental in order to enhance the identity of each vineyard site and make it clear that Prosecco from the Rive cannot be compared, either from an organoleptic perspective or market positioning, to Prosecco from the plains.
To illustrate the soundness of a rationale that began with a variation of specifications in 2009 (first vintage produced in 2010), we have selected a number of wineries that have made the Rive designation a flagship of their production.
Andreola is a company with unique defining features, and a firm rooting in the Valdobbiadene Conegliano DOCG. Over its 40-year history, it has managed to establish a collection of heritage vineyard blocks throughout the entire appellation area, thanks to the achievements of Nazareno Pola, perpetuated by his son Stefano. It boasts 110 hectares of vineyards under direct management, subdivided into around 250 different parcels. The winery produces around 100 - 150 single-vineyard wines, the number of which varies from one year to the next. Andreola is a touchstone for those who want to better understand the area’s unique traits. The Rive enhance its diversity. Many years of vineyard work, winemaking and research have enabled segments of individual villages or hamlets to be identified as not only offering a guarantee of superior quality from year to year, but also unique diversity that can be expressed through single-vineyard bottlings.
- The Andreola Winery in Farra di Soligo respectfully vinifies each grape variety in a bid to enhance its varietal and regional identity.
After the present-day appellation was established in 2009, eligibility for the Rive designation emerged, in all respects embracing the philosophy of Andreola. The company was one of the first to believe in the classification, so much so that today it produces and bottles the largest number of sparkling wines labelled Rive in the entire appellation – these are Rive di Col San Martino, Rive di San Pietro di Feletto, Rive di Refrontolo, Rive di Soligo, Rive di Rolle. And the list could include Cartizze, the forerunner of Rive and first real Prosecco ‘cru’. Despite this, the focus on enhancing these unique regional traits has not stopped, and ongoing research by winemaker Balliana Mirco has paved the way for Andreola to be eligible for two more sub-areas from the next vintage: Rive di Santo Stefano and Rive di Guia. These have been vinified separately, and the base wines are currently spending time in the cellar. To promote the clearest site expressiveness, there are no variations in vineyard management and winemaking techniques between the wines. The same care is taken in the vineyard and during harvesting and the same attention is paid to each of the wines in the winery.
Nazzareno and Stefano Pola, the father and son at the helm of Andreola.
Andreola produces 5 "Rive" references: "26°I°" - Rive di Col San Martino, "XXIII BIO" - Rive di San Pietro di Feletto - "Ai Boschi, Col del Forno" - Rive di Refrontolo, "Mas de Fer" - Rive di Soligo and "Vigna Ochera" - Rive di Rolle, for a total of approx. 190000 bottles.
- The special system for transporting baskets of grapes at harvest time, a symbol of heroic viticulture in the Rive di Andreola.
Andreola's Valdobbiadene Docg Rive wines come from vineyards grown on steep, labour-intensive slopes, which instil litheness and softness, savouriness and creaminess on the palate, with intense, fruity aromas, elegance and freshness. The company’s target markets are the USA, UK, France, Malta, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Finland and Thailand.
- The Rive di Rolle, between 350 and 450 metres above sea level, guarantees good diurnal shift which is perfect for enhancing the freshness and aromas of the Valdobbiadene Superiore Docg Rive produced here by Andreola.
This winery is located in San Pietro di Feletto, in the heart of the Prosecco Superiore DOCG hills. The name Le Manzane originates from ‘Manzana’, one of the 43 Rive permitted across the entire DOCG area. This family-run company is strongly rooted in the Treviso area where it has been a producer for almost 40 years. For three generations it has been perpetuating a family tradition showing a passion for wine, while respecting what nature provides and working with people who share the same ideals. Every stage of the production process is personally supervised by Ernesto together with his wife Silvana and their children Marco and Anna, who have decided to follow in their father's footsteps. There are 15 full-time employees at the winery, a number that varies during the harvest and pruning periods. The vineyards cover approximately 82 hectares and are almost all located in the hilly area between Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. In addition to Glera - the main grape variety for producing Prosecco Superiore - native varieties such as Verdiso, Manzoni Bianco, Bianchetta and Marzemino are grown.
- The view from above Le Manzane’s headquarters in San Pietro di Feletto in the province of Treviso.
Rive, from the dialect 'Riva', refers to the steep hillsides in the historic Prosecco area, now a Unesco World Heritage Site. Prosecco Superiore Docg Rive conveys the quintessential features of the hills. The uniqueness of these areas is reflected not only on the boxes, with a map of the exact position of the vineyard, but also in the packaging – the hand-wrapped bottles are wrapped in tissue and numbered to indicate the uniqueness of this limited edition product:
- 20,600 bottles a year of Conegliano Prosecco Superiore Docg Rive di Formeniga Millesimato Extra Brut - Springo Blue
- 20,500 bottles a year of Conegliano Prosecco Superiore Docg Rive di Manzana Millesimato Dry - Springo Bronze
In addition to this are 5,500 bottles a year of Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Springo Gold Dry, although not 'Rive'.
- The Balbinot family - Ernesto and his wife Silvana, with their children Marco and Anna, who continue to manage the company founded by their father Osvaldo Balbinot in 1958.
The grapes are vinified and the sparkling wine is made separately precisely to find and guarantee the maximum expression of their original Rive. In the vineyards, the company complies with the SQNPI protocol, Sistema di Qualità Nazionale di Produzione Integrata (National Quality System for Integrated Production), a voluntary certification scheme for all agricultural and food products using integrated production techniques. For the wines themselves, opposite styles were chosen for two of the Rive. Rive di Manzana best expresses the dry version, offering an explosion of varietal aromas of yellow-fleshed fruit such as apple and yellow peach, banana and wisteria flowers. Rive di Formeniga illustrates the dry version, the extra-brut. Here, notes of apple, lily of the valley, wisteria, vegetable notes of sage and thyme, cedar, orange and mineral hints of pumice immediately emerge in the glass.
The wines are distributed throughout the country, including the islands. Exports account for 65% of the company's turnover and Le Manzane is present in 36 countries. In addition to Italy, its wines are sold in Austria, Belgium, Belarus, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
The De Stefani family comes from Refrontolo, a small village in the Veneto region of Italy, as recorded in official documents dating back to 1624. Across the Conegliano Valdobbiadene hills, founder Valeriano De Stefani identified a unique terroir for producing great wines in 1866.
His son Valeriano, the second generation, inspired by his fussy wife Angelina, started a tradition to which the De Stefani family has always adhered: total and uncompromising devotion to quality. The third-generation Tiziano, after graduating in 1958 in oenology and viticulture at Italy's most prestigious oenological school in Conegliano, began producing wines in the Piave Valley, near Venice, between the Adriatic Sea and the Dolomite mountains. Today, the company's headquarters and cellars are located here in Fossalta di Piave.
- The De Stefani family, originally from Refrontolo, where in 1866, founder Valeriano De Stefani identified a unique terroir for producing great wines.
Alessandro De Stefani, the fourth generation, also graduated in oenology and viticulture from the same school and today, together with his wife Chiara, produces excellent wines. Their main guiding principles are to show the utmost respect for their old vines planted to a very high density and the indigenous grape varieties, in order to make wines that can convey emotions decades after they were crafted.
The Rive vineyard is the jewel in the crown of Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Docg. The Rive are the true 'cru' of a given region and its rich biodiversity. They are the highest quality terroir expression of the Prosecco hills. Some 35,000 bottles of De Stefani's Rive are produced annually.
The Prosecco displays an elegant, fresh style characterised by very low residual sugar, with fruity, pear aromas, good flavourful characters, freshness and minerality. Despite being a limited edition bottling, De Stefani's Rive has global distribution.
- De Stefani’s headquarters and winery in Fossalta di Piave, in the province of Venice.
Rive, for Conte Collalto, means Isabella Rive Di Collalto Charmat Lungo Brut. This Martinotti method sparkling wine is the high-end offering by Collalto cellars. The grapes are grown in the Rive di Collalto area and produce a very long Charmat-based wine, due to its lengthy stay on the lees for 9 to 10 months. Only 6,400 bottles are produced, and they are strictly numbered.
The grapes used for 'Isabella' come from just one hectare of land: the famous Rive, thus named because they are set at the top of Collalto hill. There is a lush green forest all around, which also protects the vines climatically. It was on this very hill, one thousand years ago in 958, that the ancestors of Princess Isabella Collalto de Croÿ settled. Since 2007, she has been at the helm of the namesake winery.
Isabella is in fact a tribute to the princess and also to her family who, for more than 1,000 years, have preserved the rich natural heritage and beauty of the land overlooking the Prosecco hills. Now, as then, the Collalto family presides over and preserves these hills with the same love and attention for their precious biodiversity. Isabella is a wine that tells a story of excellence, care and attention.
- The 1989 marriage of Isabella di Collalto to Prince Guillaume de Croÿ later saw the birth of their beloved children Emmanuel and Violette.
After spending a long time on the lees, the brut is bottled at the end of August and left in the bottle to rest for a further two months to allow the wine to complete its maturation. The result is an elegant, understated sparkling wine, creamy on the palate, with fresh floral aromas and mineral sensations. It is complex and delicate, incisive but never over the top, pairing effortlessly with fish dishes but also with traditional Veneto cuisine. In addition to the Italian market, the wines are shipped to northern European countries such as Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania, but also East, to markets such as Bulgaria and Romania.
- Isabella Collalto was born in Frankfurt am Main on 26 April 1960, and is the eldest daughter of Prince Manfredo di Collalto and Princess Trinidad Castillo de Jura Real.
Sui Nui Spumanti
The Sui Nui winery is in Valdobbiadene, the heart of the Prosecco Docg, where the steep vineyards are suited to growing Glera using virtuous techniques. This is a rare expression of heroic viticulture, and it is where the Bressan family has perpetuated its business for four generations with passion and dedication. However, it was only six years ago that the turning point came with the official birth of the Sui Nui farm. The company brand is a local name that means 'new soils', i.e. areas made available after an ancient retreat of the Piave river.
- Four generations of the Bressan family have called the region home and Sui Nui, established just a few years ago, is now led by brothers Marcello, Ezio and Davide.
Today, the company is run by the three brothers, Marcello, Ezio and Davide, who draw on their experience to pursue their ideals but never forget their passion for their work and the spirit that drives them to constantly improve and reinvent themselves. Elegance and distinction characterise Sui Nui’s approach to its wines, in particular the most iconic expression of heroic vine-growing, namely the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Docg Rive Di Rolle Extra Brut. This white sparkling wine has energetic and persistent beading which in the Extra Brut version has a creamy and elegant mousse. The bouquet is intense, with hints of hawthorn blossom and citrus fruits, apple and peach. On the well-defined palate, it stands out for its balanced savouriness and fruity suggestions. The Rive appellation allows for greater definition of regional identity, where the more historic areas are recognised as a fundamental value in the production of increasingly high quality Prosecco Valdobbiadene. The production of 'Rive di Rolle' amounts to approximately 10,000 bottles, about half of which are sold in the Italian market and the other 50% in the European market (Germany, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia).
- Sui Nui produces quality wines from hand-selected grapes using cutting-edge techniques, while respecting the environment and tradition.
At a time of strong growth in Prosecco production, being able to use a term such as 'Rive', which is capable of specifying the precise provenance of the grapes and justifying higher production costs, as well as a higher market positioning, is fundamental. Clearly, vineyards where Rive-classified wines can be produced cannot be compared to those on the valley floor, where the yields are higher and mechanisation is easier. The hope is that the term Rive will be increasingly identified by consumers as a synonym for superior quality and specific regional identity.
You might like these articles.