Discovering Asolo: The “Other Prosecco DOCG” Region

Most wine lovers think of Prosecco as a refreshing glass of bubbly, rather than home to one of the most beautiful wine, food, and travel regions in Italy. Asolo is the smaller, lesser-known of Italy’s two DOCG regions for the production of sparkling wine. Yet its diminutive size only concentrates its charm and appeal, rendering the medieval town of Asolo a delightful stopping off point for your Italian tour.

Just an hour north of bustling Venice, Asolo – also called “the city of a hundred horizons” – is really a village surrounded by ancient walls and dominated by an austere fortress on Mount Ricco. Climb the stone stairs of this military-like structure and you will be rewarded with a perfect view of the town, the surrounding mountains, and on clear days even the Venetian Lagoon in the distance.

Asolo’s town center

In the center of town is Garibaldi Piazza, with its 16thcentury fountain topped by a statue of a winged lion. During my springtime visit, dozens of young couples were seated in small cafes around the fountain, drinking brightly colored orange Prosecco and Aperol spritzers on a warm sunny day. While it’s easy to visit historic churches and monuments right in the town square, more attractions await by car just outside town.

Though Asolo had great historical fame, it had largely been forgotten until 2009, when it as well as the larger towns of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene received DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status. This is the highest possible quality level in the Italian wine classification system. It was at this time that the small, mostly family-run wineries of Asolo decided to work even harder to prove the quality of their terroir and winemaking and worked hard to put the region on the map.





I was able to visit many producers, see their production facilities, and taste their wines. Every visit to every vineyard and winery was remarkable in the diversity. Though all my visits were to small and family-run wineries, their individual vineyards impressed me by their high elevation. Several vineyards were located at the very peak of a mountain top or high hills; with such steep hillsides mechanization is impossible. Even walking among the vines at such a steep slopes proved challenging. The hilly terrain of Asolo is just one of the many factors that help producers make great wine, with the secondary factor the Morainic soil that helps bring freshness and minerality to the wines.

You’ll be able to try and buy Asolo Prosecco DOCG wines at the Bottiglieria Al Moretto tasting room in the center of town, as well as all the nearby restaurants and cafes. Asolo’s producers also welcome visits, and during the individual tours and tastings you will discover that every winery has a unique story of its own.

Bele Casel

The vineyards at Bele Casel

Bele Casel winery got its start over forty years ago when Danilo Ferraro began to help his father-in-law make wine in the family basement after his day job. It had just been a family hobby at the time, but today Danilo is joined by his son Luca (in charge of viticulture) and daughter Paolo (in charge of sales and export activities). Bele Casel makes various styles of Prosecco DOCG wine, including the traditional ColFondo which is left unfiltered to age on the lees. Sommeliers love this style, for even though it is cloudy, the lees add depth of flavor and richness. Later this year, Bele Casel will be releasing a vintage ColFondo to emphasize how well the wine can improve with age.



Pat del Colmel

Another memorable visit and tasting was to the Pat del Colmel winery, established in 1875. Here I was greeted by winemaker Lino and his wife, and charmed by this high-altitude winery tucked away in the remote foothills of Treviso. Pat del Colmel also produces a Merlot and Cabernet wine under the Montello – Colli AsolaniDOC. These red wines were brilliant, rich and full-bodied with moderate use of oak. On another visit, I met Ida Agnoletti, one of the first female winemakers in Asolo, Ida also makes delicious red wines from Colli Asolani DOC and speaks excellent English. She has a delightfully bohemian and eccentric style that transcends into her wines, which of course include hand-crafted Asolo Prosecco DOCG.

Tenuta Amadio

Tenuta Amadio

Wine lovers who enjoy modern, state-of-the-art tasting rooms will love a visit to Tenuta Amadio, a winery with a gorgeous view and a dramatic story behind it. Originally, the winery was an ancient mansion surrounded by vineyards, with the resulting wine made for personal consumption. The production of Asolo’s famous autochthonous apples supported the family economically. But when the apple market collapsed, the current young brother and sister team of Simone and Silvia Rech had a life decision to make. One was to sell the family winery and continue on with their chosen careers. The other was to give up their careers, move back to Asolo, and make Tenuta Amadio a leading winery in the region. This required rebuilding the winery, improving the vineyards, and focusing on the production of Asolo Prosecco DOCG full time. They chose the latter option, and today oversee a thriving winery.

Eating in Asolo

Returning to Asolo after a day of wine visits, guests with a gastronomic bent will find many fine restaurants to choose from as Asolo has a reputation as a “foodie town.” Recently the International Slow Food organization designated many of Asolo’s local food products as local treasures, including Morlacco Cheese and Monfumo Apples. I liked my dinner at Le Corderie restaurant, a very modern restaurant that had the elegance of Milan. And I fell in love with the stunningly gorgeous five-star Hotel Villa Cipriani, right in the center of the Old Town. I visited for cocktails and was enchanted by the garden, with its colorful flowers panoramic terrace. This luxury hotel my absolute first choice for a romantic, Prosecco-soaked Asolo weekend. Yet the region is full of hotels that fit every price range. Wine lovers who enjoy the authentic country agriturismo experience, for example, will enjoy the family-run Villa Serena Agriturismo a short drive away.

Before my visit, it had not occurred to me to seek out the Asolo Prosecco Superiore DOCG name when I asked for a bottle of Prosecco. But now, having been there, having skidded down the steep hills of the high-altitude vineyards, having experienced the charm of its small-town center so removed from the busloads of tourists, it is what I will look for in the future.

If You Go

Where to Stay

Hotel Villa Cipriani, Via Canova

The view from Hotel Villa Cipriani

This is an elegant, extremely romantic five-star hotel in the center of Asolo, within walking distance to the town center. Gorgeous gardens and terrace.

Villa Serena Agriturismo

Though a short drive from Asolo, this is a reasonably priced family-run Agriturismo that has been recently remodeled. Gorgeous pool and authentic countryside feel.

Where to Dine

Le Corderie

This is a strikingly beautiful restaurant in the modern style, with excellent food artistically arranged and delicious.

Hotel Villa Cipriani Restaurant (Central Asolo)

This is a most romantic restaurant, very ideal for terrace dinning surrounded by the gardens in the afternoon or evening with excellent service and international cuisine.

Due Mori (Central Asolo)

This is a very attractive restaurant with a large picture window offering gorgeous views. The cuisine and service are very good. Open for both lunch and dinner and known for fabulous sunset vies.

Locanda Baggio (in Asolo, short drive necessary)

This family-run restaurant is known for its traditional approach to Italian food and has a good wine list.

 

Marisa D’Vari DipWSET is a Manhattan-based wine journalist, educator, and consultant with more than a dozen wine credentials (Certified Sommelier, CWE, etc). Follow her wine-region adventures on Instagram @winestory.