Prosecco DOCG: Tradition Demands

As a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG has achieved a status that fills the region with pride, but also brings obligations for the producers. Benjamin Sauri Montalt, Clemens Gerke report.

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The Unseco World Heritage status is expected to provide the Prosecco DOCG Conegliano Valdobbiadene with additional long-term momentum. (Photo: Tenuta Rivetta)
The Unseco World Heritage status is expected to provide the Prosecco DOCG Conegliano Valdobbiadene with additional long-term momentum. (Photo: Tenuta Rivetta)

Prosecco DOCG extends beyond Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Particularly, the wines of the DOCG Asolo have seen significant growth in recent years – not least fueled by the fact that the 'Doppio Passo' Prosecco DOCG hails from Asolo. However, the heart of the DOCG beats in Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.

In addition to the thriving Prosecco DOC, the traditional origin DOCG also saw a favorable growth. Valoritalia issued 103.8m quality seals in 2021 - with a slight 1% decline in 2022.

According to the consortium, in 2023, sales declined by around 10%. For Diego Tomasi, Director of the Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Consortium, this is not a cause for concern. "We should look at the average figures from 2016 to 2020." Tomasi's focus is not primarily on statistical distortions due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent euphoria, but rather on the fact that the DOCG has a natural production limit of 90–100m bottles per year, which changing climatic conditions may have reduced to 90–95m bottles.

Value growth

Especially due to its status as a Unseco World Heritage Site, the consortium must focus on preserving the environment and biodiversity. Expanding the production zone does not align with these commitments, nor does the reduction of forest area (53%) in the DOCG of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. "We seek the balance between area and yield. Our goal is not to expand production, but to grow in value," says Tomasi.

A slight increase in revenue in 2023, achieved despite a significant decline in sales, only partially aligns with this strategy. The revenue increase is primarily due to a sharp rise in the costs of bottles and packaging, which producers had to pass on at the beginning of the year. Key export markets like the UK (-32.5% sales) and Germany (-15.5%), both highly sensitive to price changes, reacted strongly. They are now both at very similar levels at the top.

Prosecco DOCGs export volume 2022 in million bottles
Prosecco DOCGs export volume 2022 in million bottles
Marketshare export value of Prosecco DOCG
Marketshare export value of Prosecco DOCG

The consortium notes a normalization in the first few months of 2024 and is confident in stabilizing sales at normal levels. Not only because they plan to intensify efforts in their two main export markets, but also because new opportunities are emerging. "We are currently focusing on Poland, Switzerland, Canada, and Japan," Tomasi reports. Especially Switzerland and Canada are already significant export markets, and Austria also saw a 64% increase in 2023, against the trend. In a second phase, in approximately three years, the plan is to focus on South Korea, Thailand, and Japan.

Embracing green practices

For Tomasi, it remains clear: "It's not enough to promote our products; we must highlight how we care for and protect our environment. We are responsible for working sustainably." Therefore, one of the main tasks of the consortium is to persuade vineyard workers to adopt chemical-free practices. Tomasi sees the DOCG on a promising path. Nearly 60% of the winemakers are already SQNPI certified. 

He identifies climate change as the most significant challenge. According to current studies, temperature rise is seen as a lesser threat compared to changes in precipitation patterns, which are crucial for the acidity in the wines. Therefore, in the DOCG, numerous micro-basins have been constructed to collect winter precipitation for use during the summer.

Thus, the DOCG aims to maintain its qualitative strength. "Our environment is perfect for Glera. Our wines show a special finesse. That's the uniqueness of the region," emphasizes Tomasi.

.Diego Tomasi


“We aim to strike a balance between vineyard area and yield. Our goal is not to expand production but rather to grow in value.“


Diego Tomasi
Consorzio Tutela del Vino Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco

Sustainability in focus

There is consensus between the consortium and most Prosecco wineries regarding this course of action. Valdo, one of the most renowned producers, also emphasizes the importance of sustainability. The company is certified by SQNPI and CSQA and highlights both the ecological and social aspects of sustainability in its communication.

"Valdo has always believed in the social role of the company. Sustainability in society is a fundamental and indispensable value for Valdo in protecting the planet and future generations," said the company.

Valdo places particular emphasis on its long-term relationship with its 70 winegrowers: “The bond between Valdo and its winemakers is an ancient relationship, a partnership built on trust, respect, and mutual exchange.”

Flavio Geretto


“Of course, we need to better communicate to German customers that purchasing a Prosecco Superiore DOCG is a choice for a premium product.”


Flavio Geretto
Villa Sandi (Photo: Villa Sandi)

Difficult communication

One core issue for Prosecco DOCG remains the confusion with Prosecco DOC, especially among those with limited wine experience. „Naturally, we need to better explain to our customers that purchasing a Prosecco Superiore DOCG is a choice for a top-quality product,” says Flavio Geretto, Sales Director of Villa Sandi. “That's why we're currently conducting a very elaborate survey and market analysis in Germany, which is a very important market for us. We want to understand the consumption behavior of Germans regarding Prosecco. The results will be published soon.”

Even though Villa Sandi's "Il Fresco" has become a bestseller in the German specialty trade and gastronomy as a DOC, DOCG still plays an important role for the company. 35% of the annual production of 6.5m bottles bear a DOCG label. Villa Sandi also markets "La Rivetta," a Prosecco Superiore di Cartizze DOCG Brut priced at around €30 RRP.

Another approach to marketing has been taken by the premium winery Col Vetoraz. They produce approximately one million bottles exclusively in the DOCG Valdobbiadene. However, the designation "Prosecco" has disappeared from all labels since 2017. It was perceived to be diluted by mass productions in the plain. Therefore, the decision was made to focus undivided attention on the locality of Valdobbiadene.

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Martinotti as advantage?

Many top producers are noticing a shift away from the brand towards terroir-driven wines. If everyone follows suit, terroir ultimately becomes the brand itself, shining through beyond the label's name. This succinctly explains the story of Champagne in two sentences. However, achieving this requires high average quality and a clear product profile for the villages around Conegliano, Valdobbiadene, and Asolo. But is Prosecco compatible with the concept of terroir?

For many, it's even better than with traditional bottle fermentation, as terroir is defined not only by grape variety, climate, and vineyard, but also by the less invasive second fermentation. The Charmat method (or Metodo Martinotti, named after the Italian inventor of the pressure tank) significantly influences the base wine less than the more intense yeast contact in traditional bottle fermentation.

In most cases, they are elegant sparkling wines with a very fine fizz and a milder acidity. Aromatically, the rather neutral Glera grape variety imparts delicate hints of almond, citrus, apple, pear, white flowers, and jasmine. The combination of subtle fruit and floral notes gives Prosecco Superiore DOCG a refined rather than heavy-handed character.

Another ace up Prosecco's sleeve is its straightforward enjoyment. Consumers don't have to navigate a razor-sharp acidity or wrestle with intense brioche notes that would require a sommelier-level sensory discussion to determine the type of bread crust involved. Prosecco is more about drinking than analyzing.

The Prosecco DOCG fundamentals

The term Prosecco Superiore DOCG encompasses five different geographical indications, with the DOCGs Conegliano and Valdobbiadene being the largest producers. Asolo, regulated by its own consortium, stands alongside these two. Above them are the Rive, which are special registered vineyard sites allowed to be marketed separately. At the top of the pyramid sits the DOCG Cartizze, representing the richest base wines.

Traditionally, Prosecco from Cartizze has been crafted mainly as Dry, with a relatively sweet profile containing 18–32 g/l residual sugar. However, the trend is shifting towards Extra Dry or Brut, mirroring the evolution across all Prosecco DOCGs. While the market previously favored extra dry, there's now a growing preference for Brut.

A recent addition is the DOCG sui lieviti, which could be translated into international wine language as "sur lie". In the local language, "col fondo" is more commonly used, meaning "with the lees" in English. However, these Pet-Nats represent only 0.03% of the production and are considered absolute niche products. Unlike in the DOC, there is no rosé version among the DOCGs.


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