Submitted by: Rachael Woolston
For a relaxed and unpretentious
wine-and-food break, forget France’s
Champagne region and head to
Treviso, the home of Italian Prosecco.
Rachael Woolston takes a wander
and sips at a glass or two.
For most of the tourists that fly into Venice airport, the final destination is the City of Light itself, renowned for
its canals, bridges and, of course, the Venice Carnival. Not
many have yet caught on to the jewel in this region’s crown,
the Treviso province.
Known as the Garden of Venice, it boasts pretty Renaissance towns
and Italy’s oldest wine route, which winds through a rolling landscape
thick with the vines of hundreds of family-owned vineyards all producing
the renowned Italian fizz, Prosecco.
This strada del vino is where my father and I were going to spend three
delightful days visiting just a few of the small vineyards recommended by
the local tourist office, combined with sightseeing in some of the pretty
towns. Arriving late one afternoon into Venice airport, it took us just
under an hour to drive to our hotel, Castel Brando (www.castelbrando.it),
which overlooks Valmareno in the heart of the region. After checking
in, we retired to the cosy stoned-walled bar to enjoy our first glass of
Prosecco, while we thoughtfully pored over a map to decide upon our
route for the following day.
Prosecco is produced in a region that stretches from the town
of Valdobbiadene, past the capital Treviso and Renaissance town of
Conegliano, to Vittorio Veneto. For our !rst outing the next morning, we
headed towards the vineyard Tenuta Contarini (www.tenutacontarini.it),
near the small town of Conegliano.
The vineyard’s driveway is lined with lime trees and opens into a
rustic courtyard flanked by an original stone farmhouse on one side and the refurbished 19th-century villa clementina on the other. it is here that we were welcomed for a tasting, it’s worth noting has 10 beautifully furnished rooms upstairs where you can choose to stay.
Having visited a fair few vineyards in France, I’d been expecting a long
line of tourists all vying for a sip of wine. Not so here, where we were
welcomed by the English-speaking staff and sat at a table swiftly laid with
grissini to accompany the tasting of a the variety of Prosecco wines they
had to offer us.
Although the wine is made from the grape native to these soils,
Prosecco is now cultivated as far a!eld as Brazil and Australia, and so
all the bottles from this region are marked with DOCG as a mark of its
genuine origin and quality.
We tasted three varieties, Brut, Extra Dry and Dry, with Brut being
the driest. All were delicious and light although the Brut had my vote.
The vineyard also makes a bubbly spumante, and a frizzante which is
only fermented once for a much more delicate bubble. As we sipped
our way through the tasting, it became clear why many people choose
to stay at agriturismo – the B&B accommodation of individual vineyards.
Food and fizz
Keen for lunch, we said our goodbyes having
bought a few bottles, and headed to Ca’del
Poggio (www.cadelpoggio.it), a restaurant
recommended by the local tourist office.
Located in the middle of nowhere, this is not a
place you are likely to stumble upon and so the
fact that it was busy when we arrived indicated
just how good the food promised to be.
We weren’t disappointed – an entrée of
fresh tuna carpaccio wrapped around delicately
seasoned cream cheese, and thin slices of sea bass, was followed by a
second course of lobster, with lemon rind, fennel and parsley. Then it
was a seafood spaghetti course, before the main event itself, sea bass
baked in a sea-salt crust, which was cracked open at our table.
Of course, this being the home of Prosecco, no meal can pass without
it appearing somewhere on the menu. In this region, many people enjoy
it at lunch as a refreshing drink mixed with Aperol, an orange coloured
liqueur similar to Campari, mixed with soda and ice. But here it was
presented as a dessert, S’Groppino, which had been mixed with lemon
ice cream and vodka. It was delicious, if a little sweet and a definitely
too lethal to finish if you are driving. In fact, if you are coming to the area
it would be wise to do so with friends so you can share the driving.
Not, of course, that this area is just about the vineyards. With its
hilly terrain and acres of unspoilt countryside, it attracts walkers, horse
riders and cyclists. If you prefer something more cultural, visit the capital
Treviso with its canals making it seem like a mini Venice, or any one of
the many beautiful medieval towns, including Vittorio Veneto with its
pretty cobbled streets lined with medieval buildings and shops.
Keeping it in the family
We decided to make Vittorio Veneto our starting point the next morning
– with a regular train service that takes just an hour to reach Venice, it
is a great base if you want to combine your vineyard tour with a trip to
the city. After a relaxed morning wandering the pretty streets, we left
to explore our next vineyard, Campion (www.campionspumanti.it),
a family-owned vineyard in Valdobbiadene, less than 40 minutes away.
As we turned off into the vineyards, we saw a single red rose at the
end of each row of vines, a wine-growers tradition which safeguards
the grapes. If anything infects the vines, the rose will wither first, giving
them time to save their grapes. This is a tradition no longer used by large
wine producers, but it is seen all over the region here where the majority
of the 140 producers are independently or family owned, like Campion.
And this vineyard remains firmly in the family, with our tasting taken
by a nephew, who told us that at harvest time they call in every member
of their extended family to pick the grapes.
As we were beginning to realise, a ‘tasting’ never just includes the
Prosecco. By the time we had visited their cellar, the table had been set
with a plate of homemade salami and cheese. Campion is one of the few
producers of Cartizze, considered to be the Grand Cru of Prosecco. The
grapes that go into this wine come from steep hills and were traditionally
left until last as they had to be hand-picked. Like those we had already
tasted, it was deliciously light with a slightly drier bite.
And so it came to the last day of our weekend and our last vineyard
– Vigneto Vecio (www.vignetovecio.it), again a family affair. While
the granddaughter of the vineyard’s founder led us through a tasting,
her father bustled off to the kitchen to prepare food for the vineyard’s
renowned restaurant. You must book here to avoid disappointment – and
I understood why, when he insisted on showing us the kitchen where he
was basting a roasting pig with Prosecco. He wouldn’t let us go until we’d
drank a glass of their sweet Prosecco with a plate of homemade biscuits.
One can only imagine what a dinner would be like here, but I bet it
would definitely be worth parking your car up and taking a room in their
guesthouse (starting from about £57 with breakfast).
We had deliberately not indulged on our last day so that we could
enjoy a final evening meal at La Corte, the restaurant at the Hotel Villa
Abbazia (www.hotelabbazia.it) in nearby Follina, which was
recommended by the tourist office. It certainly deserved its plaudits
– think Italian food and you imagine rustic, but here the little touches
were everything, from the homemade cuttlefish-ink bread to a dessert
of apricot sorbet and meringue with miniature mint leaves.
It was a fitting finish to a weekend packed with the tastes of Italy, both
in terms of its food and wine and its people.
As we flew out of Venice the next day, I left with a heavy heart to
match my stomach, but knowing I would be back. This region really does
offer a perfect weekend away with outdoors activities, culture, fantastic
food and, of course, the Prosecco.
When to go
Depending on what you want to enjoy most in Treviso,
you may want to visit at different times of year.
For culture: FEBRUARY
There can be no better time to experience the culture
of the region than Venice Carnival with its incredible
For Prosecco: SPRING
The wine industry comes alive from February though to
June with numerous Prosecco DOCG wine shows, with
producers vying for the award of best Prosecco in June.
For more info visit www.primaveradelprosecco.it
For food: ALL YEAR
Year round, the restaurants in this region celebrate
different foods with a menu sometimes dedicated
entirely to that season’s vegetable. In spring, the focus
is on asparagus, including the famed white asparagus
of Cimadolmo. Autumn is the festival Cocofungo, with
dishes related to mushrooms, while in winter all the
menus showcase the area’s radicchio.
For sport: SPRING
Spring sees the vineyards come alive with the pounding
of feet as thousands of runners take part in the Treviso
Marathon (www.trevisomarathon.com). If cycling is
more your thing, then don’t miss the Giro D’Italia in
May for astounding feats of endurance.
For more information
For information about where to stay and for bookings, call the
Tourist Promotion Board Marca Treviso on +39 0422 541052 or visit
www.marcatreviso.it. For tourist information visit www.visittreviso.it
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