Plan a Day in Prosecco

When we began planning our 2016 trip to Venice, Prosecco (Italy’s most popular bubbly) was top of mind for us sparkling winos. We wondered, are there special kinds of Prosecco available in Venice that we can’t get at home? Is it sold by the cask at restaurants overlooking pretty canals? Will a scruffy gondolier let us pop bottles on his gondola in the sunset? Ok, scratch that last thought, however exciting.

We decided that a day trip from Venice to the famous Prosecco Road – which links most of the Prosecco producing towns and villages – was the perfect idea for two guys with a bubble habit. While sitting at home researching, we thought: there must be plenty of transportation and tour options, right? Turns out, this wasn’t the case. But … that shouldn’t deter you from visiting this amazing region and we hope that our own experiences and tips, outlined in more detail in this post, will help you to discover the Prosecco Road and the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene in beautiful Veneto.

Pre-planning essentials (hopefully with a glass of bubbly)

The first thing you want to figure out while at home is transportation within the Prosecco region, the wineries you’d like to visit (as you’ll likely need to make an appointment to taste the wines), how long you’ll stay in the area and where you’re going to hit the hay, be it back in Venice or in the region and it’s main towns: Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. The towns are connected by the Prosecco Road, which is about 60 kilometres (37 miles) long and was named the European Wine City 2016.

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We opted for a day trip from Venice given our tight schedule, without overnighting. While researching into day trips, we soon realized that there are very few packaged day trips and, for those that were available, we weren’t about to drop $500 for a car ride, two hours of driving, two undisclosed wineries and a pasta lunch. It just wasn’t our style and also, $500 is a lot of Prosecco. So, we went rogue: we found a train from Venice to Conegliano, hired a driver with knowledge of the area and its bubbly and threw caution to the wind. And… we fell in love! We hope you find these tips helpful.

Getting there and around

Luckily for all of us, Northern Italy’s train infrastructure is great. From Venice – Santa Lucia Station, which is located on the same island as the old city, you can hop on a Trenitalia train which takes you to Conegliano, the gateway to Prosecco. The tickets range from 5-10 Euros and can be purchased from automated terminals in the station if your Italian is atrocious or you’re feeling shy. The train leaves hourly, the journey is about an hour and makes a few stops in between.

Pro tip: Santa Lucia Station has a small cafe and grocery store, so you can grab lunch there before departing. We may or may not have had two sandwiches and some Prosecco on the train before reaching our destination.

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In Conegliano, we met with Oriana Balliana, our charming driver and knowledgeable guide to prosecco. We arranged to have Oriana take us through Prosecco before departing for our trip and we were not disappointed! Not only was Oriana knowledge about the area and it’s special wines, but she was able to help us make the most of our time and suggested we try wineries unfamiliar to our Canadian palettes. Perhaps most importantly, Oriana made our Prosecco adventure a breeze, taking care of the driving, setting up winery appointments and providing us with informative and often hilarious commentary.

Oriana can be reached on Twitter @orianaballiana or via her website. Don’t let the website’s simplicity fool you, Oriana is a Prosecco maven.

Visiting the wineries

We had some ideas about which wineries to visit and they tended to be the “big boys” of Prosecco. For us Ontarians, the Prosecco we see in our market is produced on a large enough scale to be brought in by the government agency that sells us wine. Luckily for us, Oriana was kind enough to suggest smaller producers and knew the Prosecco Road like the back of her hand – do not underestimate the sheer magnitude of the Prosecco Road! It is as long and windy, as it is scenic. That being said, we gave Oriana some suggestions on the wineries we wanted to see and she, thankfully, gave us her thoughts and we met in the middle. In the end, we were able to see the perfect combination of big and small wineries, and we couldn’t be happier to share our experience with you!

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Prosecco is a sparkling wine made from the glera grape in a viticultural area generally between Conegliano and Valdobbiadenne, with the most prized terroir producing the “DOCG” – or Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita – stuff. Prosecco is fermented in steel tanks in the Charmat method, which basically means there’s less champagne-style fusiness and complexity, and none of that hand riddling. All in all, it’s an approachable, easy drinking style of wine with an accessible price point. You don’t have to know much about it to enjoy it. But if you care to learn more check out our “Prosecco 101” guide!

Marchiori

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Our first stop along the Prosecco Road was Marchiori, which would be considered a small winery in the business of Prosecco. But what Marchiori lacks in size, it makes up for in experience, finesse and approachability. Located in Fara di Soligo, Marchiori is a modern winery that produces a variety of Prosecco (extra dry, brut and fondimentale, or with sediment) and still wines and is working with local educators to advance the knowledge of Prosecco production and the region as a whole. We were taken through the immaculately designed winery by Sara Marchiori – a kind, gregarious and intelligent host – who showed us the region’s soils (literally) and helped us to understand Marchiori’s special approach.

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Having then tasted the extra dry, brut and fondimentale Prosecco, we can see why Oriana took us here first. The fondimentale prosecco, which is bottle fermented and contains sediment (much like a champagne would), was an eye opener in terms of the uniqueness and quality of Prosecco. We’re still thinking of those gorgeous bubbles.

Nino Franco

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Ah, Nino Franco… we are not sure where to start, so perhaps the beginning? Oriana organized a private tasting for us with Mr. Franco himself, and Nino was exactly as we pictured him to be: charming, affable and professional. Unlike Marchiori, we were aware of the Nino Franco brand from the praises of Venetians back home and from the Vintages Section of the LCBO (which, for some unknown reason, he hasn’t been able to crack). The winery is also a larger enterprise and provided an interesting contrast, though Nino knew his workers by name which was a nice reminder that this is a family business.

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We were lucky to have tasted the full suite of wines, including Rustico, Brut, Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano, Grave di Stecca, Faive and Primo Franco. Rustico, at the most accessible price point was an easy drinking gem, whereas the Brut and Vingeto were slightly crisper and more complex. Our personal favourite was a toss up between the herbal Grave di Stecca and the almond brioche-y Primo Franco, which would have gone beautifully with the surprise excursion to Nino Franco’s Villa Barberina, with it’s enchanting stone walls, beautiful pool and fig orchard. And I mean, who else can say they picked figs with Nino Franco himself?

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Col Vetoraz

Another relative unknown to us, Col Vetoraz was a pleasant surprise and arguably had the most stunning location of the wineries we visited, with an super pretty rose garden and overlooking the stunning hillside vineyards growing the Glera grapes that are fashioned into Prosecco. Slightly more rustic in its approach than the other wineries we visited, with a simple tasting room, Col Vetoraz wound up surprising us sparkling winos with a Brut Dossagio Zero (or, a Prosecco without any residual sugar) and a Cartizze Superiore (a slightly less sparkling, off dry wine). Opposite ends of the spectrum – right? Turns out their driest wine was our favourite and the cartizze, which is largely unavailable outside of the region, was a perfect pairing for a sweet treat when we made it back to Venice.

Osteria Senz’Oste

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So… how else to top off an amazing Prosecco adventure? Well, with a rustic farmhouse full of bread, cheese and cured meats and a Prosecco vending machine, of course! Osteria Senz’Oste, known for its “pay what you can” approach to food, is perhaps even more famous for it’s hilltop bubbly vending machine. We cautiously (and, let’s get real, non-soberly) followed the wooden signs saying “Prosecco this way” until we were face to face with one of man’s greatest achievements. Hidden behind a sunscreen, this glorious contraption contains chilled prosecco (in the range of 8 – 20 Euros).

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We were spoiled for choice, so we picked a brut with the coolest label and the bottle was dispensed by a high tech arm gadget thingy that lifted the bottle out of its slot and gently brought it down for our enjoyment. The machine even has cups on the side! Wowed by this marvel of human ingenuity, we left our change in the machine (we think of this as paying it forward to the universe) and enjoyed our bubbles with the most perfect view of view of Valdobbiadene. No pictures will do the moment justice, and it’s not just because we had prosecco goggles on! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the vending machine doesn’t demand ID for purchases.

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