In November 2020, UK supermarket shelves began stocking something new. The much talked about Prosecco DOC Rosé had finally been approved for export worldwide on 28th October.
Following a change in Italian law, the sparkling wine can now be made with Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero) grapes vinified on skins as red. In order for it to be called Prosecco Rosé DOC, the wine must include a minimum of 85% Glera and 10-15% Pinot Noir and be ready on 1st January after vintage. Unlike standard Prosecco, which spends a minimum of 30 days in stainless steel tanks, the minimum fermentation period for the rosé is 60 days. Also, the label must contain the word 'Millesimato' plus the vintage with a minimum of 85% of the grapes from that year.
One company at the forefront of this new phenomenon is Villa Sandi.
Historic and renowned Italian wine producer, Villa Sandi, is one of the biggest exporters of Prosecco in the world. The company's headquarters - a beautiful, Palladian-style Venetian villa - is located in DOC Treviso, the heart of Prosecco. Built in 1622 as a summer residence for Venetian nobles and their guests, it was completely refurbished 30 years ago. During this renovation, they discovered 1.5km of underground caves that had been used in the war. These proved to be a perfect underground cellar for storing wine, connecting the villa directly to the winery! The company has five estates covering the Prosecco DOCs, as well as the DOCG regions of Conegliano-Valdobbiadene, Asolo and Cartizze.
Underground cellars at Villa Sandi
Diva Moretti Polegato, Villa Sandi Global Brand Ambassador and daughter of Villa Sandi president, Giancarlo Moretti Polegato, says her father has been a visionary. "He said decades ago that Prosecco would become a success, like it is today. Everybody knows it's easy to drink and suitable for any occasion. This is what made Prosecco famous worldwide."
However, it's not just global recognition that gives the wine its enduring appeal and ongoing relevance. Its importance is summed up by Flavio Geretto, Villa Sandi Export Director: "Prosecco is a symbol of Italian lifestyle."
While Pinot Noir vinified as red is now allowed in the production of Prosecco Rosé, as an 'international' grape, it must still come from the local area. Indeed, blending Glera with Pinot Noir was a traditional way of making sparkling rosé in this part of Italy.
Villa Sandi has been growing Pinot Noir since the beginning of the twentieth century, so it was a natural step to make a pink Prosecco. However, this is not a straightforward task and the light colour, almost akin to a Provence rosé, is not simple to achieve. Stefano Gava, Villa Sandi Winemaker and Technical Director comments further: "This rosé started a long time ago and is the result of a lot of experimentation. Making a good Prosecco in general, but particularly a rosé, is not easy. You need high quality Pinot Noir juice for a high quality sparkler."
Flavio believes that pink Prosecco will have an important impact on the category overall, potentially accounting for 12% of the total production of Prosecco DOC for the 2020 vintage. This equates to more than 50 million bottles. Villa Sandi sold around 50.000 bottles of the 2019 vintage, while predictions for the 'Millesimato 2020' are at least double that number, depending on market response.
Villa Sandi Il Fresco Prosecco DOC Rosé Millesimato 2019 is made from a blend of 85% Glera and 15% Pinot Noir. Residual sugar is 12g/L and ABV is 11%.
Villa Sandi uses a unique vinification method for their white and rosé Proseccos. After gently pressing the Glera grapes, they take the juice and cool it to 0°C. Then, when they need to make a sparkling wine, they warm the must to 15°C, before starting alcoholic and secondary fermentation together in the same tank with the same yeast.
For the Prosecco rosé, the red grapes, after pressing, are put into tanks where a soft maceration for extraction of colour and a few tannins takes place at a controlled temperature of 22-23°C. The white must and a small part of the red wine are mixed. The resulting cuvée, with added yeast cultures, is then put into vessels where fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature of 15-16°C. On reaching the required alcohol and sugar content, fermentation is stopped by refrigeration. Then, after being left for at least two months in contact with the yeasts, the sparkling wine is ready for bottling.
By using this 'on demand' approach, Villa Sandi can produce Prosecco whenever required, retaining the wine style's fresh, floral and fruity character. This is particularly important for the company, given that they export wine to more than 100 countries around the world.
Bottle: The bottle shape is unique, distinctive and elegant. Also, rather than using clear glass, they've used a darker colour to protect against light strike.
Colour: Pale salmon pink.
Nose: Fresh, floral and aromatic with notes of red pear, light red berries plus a hint of lemon.
Palate: Notes of red pear leading to wild strawberries, a touch of watermelon on the mid-palate and a saline freshness. Although made in a Brut style with 12g/L residual sugar, the sweetness is not that obvious, as the crispness of the wine and elegant balance of fruit and acidity shine through.
Food match: Excellent as an apéritif, but would also pair well with light finger food, pasta or mild cheeses.
Villa Sandi Il Fresco Prosecco DOC Rosé Millesimato 2019 is on sale from Bellavita Wine Shop and Amazon, RRP £14.99 per bottle.