I'm not a huge connoisseur of Champagne. I like a good aged Champagne every now and again, but I don't have the urge to drink much of it, especially since most Champagne that you might drink on an everyday basis isn't very good in my opinion. Unlike most other wines, where it's possible to find a decent, even a great bottle at the $10 to $20 price range, I find that same task extremely difficult when it comes to Champagne. For my money, by far the better bet in that price range is the Spanish sparkling wine Cava, or even better, a nice Prosecco from northern Italy.
Up until a few years ago, I knew nothing about Prosecco. I had never even heard of it, but then I got invited to go to a wedding (actually I was invited to be the officiant) in Conegliano, Italy, and I found myself in the heart of the Prosecco-Valdobbiadene wine region. Within spitting distance of the Dolomites, this region of twisty roads winding around steeply humped hills of green is a not often trafficked part of the Italian wine country, but one that is quite rewarding to explore. For one thing, the vineyards are quite extraordinary, planted as they are on some of the steepest hillsides I have ever seen anything growing on, let alone trellised wine grapes. These hills are so steep they'd make fabulous ski runs were they but 200 kilometers farther north (and not covered with lush vines, of course). Couple these dramatic vineyards with a countryside dotted with a mixture of Palladio design estates and small family farms, and you've got a winning mix for an afternoon (or a week) of wine tasting.
I really didn't get to explore it much while I was there, and it came at the end of a much longer, more in-depth trip to Tuscany, but I did have one half-bottle of California wine left over (the last of six) that I had carefully brought with me to Italy to share with the winemakers that I visited while in Tuscany. I brought it with me one afternoon that we went wine tasting with the bride and groom, thinking that I might give it to one of the folks who showed us their hospitality that afternoon.
I was presented with a perfect occasion at the estate of Il Colle, perched on a steeply banked hill just off the main Wine Road that winds through the Prosecco region outside of the tiny village of San Pietro de Feletto. Owner Fabio Ceschin's family has been in the wine business since 1920, and in 1977 he founded this estate in the region to produce both still and sparkling wines from entirely estate grown grapes. While not exactly a small family producer (I don't quite remember how much wine they produce, it's pretty large quantities) they were very gracious and I was happy to leave them with my last bottle of wine as a thank you. I had returned to the bus that we had arrived in and we were just about to depart when the young lady who was showing us around ran out and presented me with this bottle in return.
Cuvée 46Â° Parallelo is a non-vintage (NV) limited edition bottling of some of the estate's finest fruit. 10,000 bottles are made, and each one numbered. Mine was Bottle 04405 of 10000. Named after the 46th parallel, which cuts through the heart of the Prosecco appellation, this wine is made from 100% Prosecco grapes in the traditional style which mirrors the production techniques of Champagne. Because it is non-vintage, one can assume that the wine is a blend of wine from several vintages.
The color of light hay in the glass, with moderately small bubbles, this wine smells of old parchment, hay, and dry earth. In the mouth it its gorgeously light and balanced, with excellent but not overpowering acidity. Its primary flavors are of chalk, lemon zest, and a slight airy sweetness that hints at the tiniest bit of apple or pear flavors. It has a crisp finish and is a joy to drink, as if it were the laughter of a small child.
I had this bottle with some good friends over a very nice dinner. We drank it as an aperitif, for which it did wonderfully, but it would also be a lovely accompaniment to any sort of raw fish or crudo. If you're not going to just drink it for the heck of it, then bring it to sushi.
Overall Score: 9.5
How Much?: $45
This wine was hand carried back to the states and is nearly impossible to find domestically, I'm sorry to report.I'm not even sure they have a US distributor. It is sold in various places in Europe. If you see it somewhere, buy a case for yourself and a case for me! I know it's a little silly for me to review a wine that you, my readers, can't easily find, but this was a special bottle and it's a fabulous wine, so maybe you can just chalk it up to experience.
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