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Prosecco Col Fondo

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On a recent trip to Italy, I was introduced to Prosecco Col Fondo, and it was love-at-first sip. It's a style of Prosecco that is cloudy due to the retention of sediment in the bottle. Interestingly, before opening the bottle, the winegrower gently turned the bottle upside down and then back again, presumably to disburse the sediment throughout the bottle.

So I have two questions about the Col Fondo -- (1) what is actually meant by the phrase "lees-aged Prosecco"? And (2) when I serve a bottle of Prosecco Col Fondo at home, should I do as the winegrower did and gently stir up the sediment before uncorking the bottle? Thanks!

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  1. 1. Aged on the lees means the wine is aged on the yeast. The yeast make the bubbles -- by eating the sugar and emitting carbon dioxide bubbles. The sediment or cloudy material you're referring to is the yeast that has done its thing and died.

    In most sparkling wine production, the spent yeast is collected in the neck of the bottle, and then removed. To do so, the bottle is inverted and the spent yeast collects in the neck of the bottle, a process called riddling. The neck of the bottle is then frozen, and when the bottle is opened, the ice plug with the spent yeast is ejected. The bottle is then topped off, re-corked and prepared for sale.

    With this particular Prosecco, the spent yeast was not removed, and because of that, its cloudy sediment is still in the bottle.

    2. If the winegrower dispersed the sediment throughout the bottle, I'd do that too. Unless, you wanted to turn the bottle upside down awhile to collect the yeast in the neck, and then open the bottle upside down -- a difficult trick I wouldn't try unless you were pretty skilled in such things.

    It sounds like the spent yeast is part of the flavor or allure or personality of this wine. Or that it was made that way because the winemaker didn't not have the capability to riddle or freeze the neck of the bottle. I bet the Col Fondo has more depth and heft to its flavor than what's found in most Prosecco.

    6 Replies
    1. re: maria lorraine

      Thanks so much for your explanation. The Col Fondo is intentional and it has a character different from, and IMHO more interesting and complex than, the more traditional Prosecco. The second fermentation takes place in the bottle and the sediment is left there. Interestingly enough, before trying this wine, I would have assumed that sediment in a bottle of sparkling wine was not a good thing; I would have been very wrong.

      This same winegrower also produces a more traditional, clear DOCG Prosecco, which I've been enjoying regularly for a number of years. I don't know whether he has the equipment to freeze the neck of the bottle.

      This was my first experience with Col Fondo, and I learned that as of just a few days ago, it's now available in my favorite wine store. It's well-priced (under $20) and I know it will become one of my go-to choices in sparkling wines.

      A question about something you wrote -- you said, "In most sparkling wine production, the spent yeast is collected in the neck of the bottle, and then removed. To do so, the bottle is inverted and the spent yeast collects in the neck of the bottle, a process called riddling. The neck of the bottle is then frozen, and when the bottle is opened, the ice plug with the spent yeast is ejected. The bottle is then topped off, re-corked and prepared for sale." I always thought the process you described was known as "disgorgement." Is that another term for the same process?

      1. re: CindyJ

        Yes, indeed. Had no idea you were so hip with the terminology. Cheers!

          1. re: maria lorraine

            I'm chuckling -- I'm really NOT so hip with the terminology. But THAT term was one I first learned back in 1972 on a walk-through of the Dom Perignon cellars.

          2. re: CindyJ

            In addition to Maria's reply; whereas Frances Champagne, Spain's Cava, South Africa's Cap Classique, top end California etc are made in the traditional (AKA champagne) method, Prosecco and many other sparkling wines are not.

            Bottle fermentation and disgorgement is a costly business and there's very much cheap fizz that have their bubbles created by injecting CO2 (much the same way as coca-cola and other such drinks )

            A middle way is the Charmat (aka tank method or cuve close) used in Prosecco where the second fermentation takes place in large tanks and after fermentationis completed the wine is then bottled under pressure leaving the sediment at the bottom of the tank.

            Anotherway is secondary fermentiion in bottle but then pouring the wine under pressure into another bottle via filter to remove sediment. So the seller can legitmately say 'bottle-fermented'.

            Col Fondo wine made in the Prosseco area is a reversion to olden times before the modern Charmat took over. Col Fondo wine starts fermentation in tank but is bottled before fermentation is completed, so the fermentation continues in the bottle creating the sediment of dead yeast.

            1. re: Gussie Finknottle

              I really do love the science of winemaking, and every time I learn something new I'm reminded of how much I DON'T know. I do know, however, that most of the Prosecco from this particular winegrower (Bele Casel) is produced using the Charmat method.

              The day before our visit, the announcement was made that Bele Casel was the winner of the “50 Best Italian Wines Super Prize Award for Innovation.” Winegrower Luca Ferraro was still flying high with excitement as he shared several of his Proseccos with us.

        1. Thanks for starting this trail, which I found - and which answered my question about a particular bottle I was getting ready to serve today. Ciao from Norway!

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