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altaneve: Prosecco goes uptown

Wine is a vocation that inspires second careers. When David Noto founded Altaneve and dedicated himself to making the planet’s finest Prosecco in 2013, his timing was impeccable: global sales of Prosecco had just surpassed Champagne for the first time, and they remain higher today. Even so, Noto had a steep mountain to climb. For many American consumers, the popularity of Prosecco was built on price. The wine was firmly planted in the $10-15 category, selling for one-third of the average NV Brut Champagne.

However, there’s another side to the Prosecco boom that no one is telling you about. Champagne is a difficult wine to drink and understand. It is too complex for many consumers, and too dry as well (in the wine business, the cliché is that people talk dry but drink sweet). Underlying Noto’s quest was an interesting proposition: if you could make a wine with the freshness, richness and approachability of Prosecco and the price of Champagne, would Americans buy it?

The verdict is not yet in, but Noto’s wines are on the market, and they are stunning. In fairness, he comes from a family with ten generations of winemaking tradition, so it wasn’t farfetched when he abandoned the world of finance to make Prosecco. His vineyard sites are carefully selected and his grapes are hand-harvested. He readily admits that two years’ worth of R & D went into creating the packaging, which is remarkably sleek and elegant. Thus far the wines are available in upscale restaurants and retail stores; production is low, so Altaneve will likely remain a niche item. And as difficult as the challenges are, Noto appears to have the entrepreneurial spirit to stick it out.

              altaneve prosecco tasting notes

Altaneve produces three wines. The Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG ($32) is the color of green-tinted straw with persistent streams of tiny bubbles. The fetching nose exudes whiffs of Meyer lemon, brioche and minerals. Fresh and clean on entry, the wine expands in the midpalate with considerable depth and charm. The texture is rich, yielding flavors of stone fruits, vanilla and citrus balanced by good acidity. While dry, the palate presence is generous and the finish is long and opulent, with a core of tropical fruit flavors that invite you to take another sip. It is unlike any other Prosecco on the market, and it’s nearly impossible to stop drinking it.

Their Rosé ($32) is technically not a Prosecco and is not labeled as such. The wine is a blend of 70% Pinot Nero from Northwestern Italy’s Oltrepo Pavese region and 30% Glera from the Valdobbiadene hills. It has a very pale salmon color and a foaming, delicate mousse, along with just the faintest hint of red fruits on the nose. In the mouth, the wine is compact and ripe, with good acidity and charming flavors of wild strawberry and red raspberry. The finish is on the short side, but this rosé is delightful while it’s on the palate.

If you want to find out exactly how good Prosecco can get, open a bottle of Altaneve Z ($42). Both the sources and methods for this wine are impeccable. The grapes come from an ancient, tiny hillside vineyard in Valdobbiadene, yielding enough for 1500 bottles each year. The wine goes through a seven-month extended secondary fermentation (compared to several weeks for the average Prosecco). It has a light straw color and a nose redolent of limestone and minerals. Dry yet luscious in the mouth, with flavors of citrus and stone fruits buoyed by good acidity, it makes an elegant and memorable statement on the palate. The finish is long and mouthwatering. An excellent match for fish, shellfish, poultry and other white meats, it would be a graceful addition to anyone’s table.