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Cartizze, a Pleasure on the Tongue
Becky Sue Epstein

TODAY, WINES FROM THIS TINY SECTION OF PROSECCO ARE TRADITIONAL YET FRESH, WITH A WONDERFUL BALANCE OF LILTING AROMAS AND FRUIT FLAVORS

Actually, this is more of a rediscovery than a completely new thing. The Cartizze sparkling wines come alive in your mouth, zesty with a touch of fruitiness and the underlying honeyed aroma and flavor that characterize great, traditional Proseccos.


PHOTO COURTESY OF CONEGILANO VALDOBIADDENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE


While the wines made from the Cartizze [car-TEE-tseh] hills have always been high quality, on my visit this spring I found these wines to have more consistency, finesse and balance than in the past. Though most Proseccos are not vintage-dated, they are generally produced and released within a year after harvest. The 2012 harvest (which you will be drinking now) was best in Prosecco's hilly areas, like Cartizze.

Cartizze is the gem of the Prosecco region, which is located about an hour northwest of Venice. The Cartizze vineyards comprise just over 100 hectares, less than a half a square mile, or about 2% of the delimited area where Prosecco can now be produced.

With demand for Italian sparklers soaring (exports have been growing 10% per year lately), the Prosecco region is in a good position to handle this because a 2009 restructuring enlarged the overall Prosecco production district in the north of Italy. But the Cartizze area can not be enlarged. So, as more vineyards are planted elsewhere in the Prosecco region, the Cartizze area will become more exclusive as it becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of the region's production in the future.

Cartizze is one simple word, so it is fairly to remember, and to look for on the bottle.  One downside of the recent re-organization of the Prosecco region is its new label designation—Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG—which can be confusing to the non-Italian market.

Cartizze is the top of the Prosecco designations. Literally, the Cartizze hills are a steep, bowl-shaped section of the region, in the western part of the DOCG Prosecco area, where the humidity of the microclimate is contained when it's brought in by cool winds from the Adriatic Sea. In addition to the weather, the soil in these hills defines the delicate aromas and flavors of the sparkling wine. At the top of the hills the soil (which is clay with sandstone and limestone) can be thin so the vines must struggle even more-and they produce finer grapes.

The grape here is the same as everywhere else in Prosecco: Glera, a grape that is often referred to as Prosecco. In fact, most people don't know that Glera is the actual name of the grape. Small amounts of a few other local and international grapes may also be used in Prosecco wines, but on the Cartizze Hills the vineyards tend to be nearly 100% Glera.

One more recommendation: value. In the U.S., these top-of-the line Proseccos will retail at $25 to $35. With their splendid balance of florals, fruit and acidity, serve the Cartizze sparkling wines at the beginning or end of the meal.


A selection of Cartizze labels.