Saving Prosecco – One man, one wine, one vision
I’m climbing the stairs into the granary, the hand-cut stone building housing the major portion of winemaker Alois Lageder’s Renaissance complex in the Alto Adige hamlet of Magré.
Once I’ve reached the doorway, the first stop is to visit Primo Franco.
It was Day One of Summa 2014, the two-day tasting event last April hosted by Lageder that serves as a well-focused run-up to VinItaly.
This year Summa celebrated its 15th anniversary of featuring several hundred select wineries from around the world and as expected, the maze of rooms and floors are filled with winemakers of every ilk.
But for now, it’s Primo Franco I’m here to see.
Or more rightly, it’s his Prosecco, which Franco has elevated to levels previously unseen in Italian wines.
There are other great Prosecco makers – I immediately think of Bortolomiol, Drusian, Bisol, Bonotto and others who deserve mention – but today it’s Primo Franco I want to visit.
I met Primo, his wife AnnaLisa and daughter Silvia at Summa 2008 and after missing a few years didn’t expect them to remember me. But Primo, either a very good diplomat or simply very accomodating, greeted me as if he recognized me and immediately shared his wine and his immense insights into the World of Prosecco.
I’m certainly not the first to write of Primo Franco – thanks to recent posts by Susannah, Alfonso, DoBianchi and Charles Scicolone – so anything I can tell you about the Franco family history and winemaking, and the struggle to retain Prosecco’s integrity and identity, is repeat news.
I tasted through his wines, including the Nino Franco Brut (named for his father), the Vigneto della Ria di San Floriano and the Primo Franco and was impressed by them all – bright, fruitful, satisfying wines that sit light on the palate.
I especially liked the Cartizze Superiore, produced from the tiny vineyards in the vertiginous hills of the exclusive Cartizze DOCG hills of Valdobbiadene, where land prices are as steep as the topography.
The Cartizze was more restrained than the other wines, a symphony of green apple, honey and lemon, underscored by the brilliant minerality character of fine Prosecco.
Primo didn’t have much time to chat – this year’s Summa was popular and busy – but he talked briefly about the struggle to retain the purity of Prosecco at a time when nearly everywhere, even Brasil, claims to produce a Prosecco.
The new regulations adopted in 2009 focused the Prosecco DOCG in and around the towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene and established a penumbra of nine Treviso provinces that would become DOC.
All the rest, that ocean of lesser sparkling wine taking advantage of the work, the heritage and dedication of such people as Primo Franco, would now be called Glera, after the grape, and all would be IGT.
The laws, Franco said as he eyed the small crowd building behind me, would preserve Prosecco’s identify and integrity.
“People will know that Prosecco, true Prosecco, comes only from” the DOCG/DOC zone, he said. “I owe it to my family, to my history, to the people who live in the (Prosecco) hills and work the land like their fathers did.”
He inclined his head toward Silvia, who seems quite capable of filling some very big shoes. “How could I not?”
He turned to another visitor and I moved on.