Le Vigne di Alice - Tajad Brut NV
40% Boschera, 40% Verdiso, 20% Glera
From the importer-
Tajad means “blend” in local Veneto dialect, and this kind of blend of local varieties used to be the daily drinker in the Veneto. Tasting it makes one question the wisdom of abandoning those antique varieties for a single-minded, conformist focus on Glera. (Wine now must be at least 85% Glera to be labeled Prosecco.) Tajad shows a little spiciness, a touch of rusticity, and a lot of character. It makes you wish you could be standing at Nonna Alice’s bar, asking her for another glass.
Sisters-in-law Cinzia Canzian and Pier Francesca Bonicelli started Alice in 2004 to fulfill their dream of bottling artisanal Prosecco thatʼs all their own: estate fruit, pre-Dolomite, grower Prosecco. We call it Prosecco for non-Prosecco lovers (a category that includes us). Cinzia logged 15 years at her and Francesca’s husbands’ famous winery Bellenda. She also worked at the official Prosecco Consortium of Treviso, an experience that allowed her the rare privilege of years of tasting the range of sparkling wines made by the areaʼs producers. Francesca studied at Italyʼs oldest school of enology in nearby Conegliano; she has vast experience as a local enologist, which is quite different from being an expert Italian enologist. She knows her local grapes and how to vinify and bubble them. Alice, named after Cinziaʼs grandmother, has in just a few years become a rising star.
We’ve known Cinzia and Francesca almost since PortoVino was born — in a certain way PortoVino and Alice have grown up together. It didnʼt take long to understand that these women are joyful, caring, and possessing a passion for life and fine wine (including grower Champagne and Jura wines). At the same time, they are utterly serious, precise, and determined to produce amazing Prosecchi. Although it’s less fashionable nowadays to talk about cellar work, making any sparkling wine requires a degree of technical know-how and follow-through. You don’t just just dump grapes into the Charmat tank (where the secondary fermentation takes place) and push the Bubbles Now button! These women are to be counted on and trusted, from vineyard care and rootstock and clonal selection to longer fermentations and proper use of Charmat tanks. They are a small winery, working in small batches with exceeding precision. Their work in their nine hectares of vineyards is what the Italians call lotta integrata, more or less what we call sustainable. And in fact, Cinzia defends the use of that too-often weasel word and wants to make it really mean something in the Prosecco zone. Besides their choices in the vineyard, they’ve constructed a green winery with grass on the roof and solar panels that supply more than half of their energy.
It’s easy to make fun of Prosecco, as a majority of it is made in factory-sized cantinas to be pumped out by industrial producers in million bottle quantities. You cannot compare a small producer with a mega-producer in Prosecco, any more than you can in Lambrusco, Catalunya… or Champagne. If you are making millions of bottles of bubbles, you canʼt control the quality as you would if you were making thousands of bottles. And you certainly can’t make distinctive wines that speak clearly of place, soil, and tradition. In 2009, Italian wine law tightened the geographical zone and reduced allowable yields for wines labeled Prosecco. The new law also limited the term “Prosecco” to the zone and certain wines made therein; the grape formerly known as Prosecco, which must constitute at least 85% of wines labeled Prosecco, is now legally known as Glera. The tightened rules help weed out some inferior, high-yield wines and sparkling wines from outside the zone that used to be labeled Prosecco. But mega-production remains the rule, and we think that it’s grower-producers like Alice who will raise the quality and reputation of Prosecco, just as Récoltants-Manipulants have done in Champagne in the last decade or two.
Alice’s growing range of wines starts with an elegant and pure Extra Dry Prosecco and a serious single-vineyard Brut thatʼs a leader in its category (and, in a battle of the sexes, has taken the top award from Cinzia and Francesca’s husbands several years in a row). Cinzia and Francesca recently added two wines made with secondary fermentation in the bottle: .g (Metodo Classico, or Champagne method) and P.S. (Metodo Integrale; i.e., not disgorged). Rounding things out are two Vini Spumanti that, because of the grape varieties in each, can’t be labelled Prosecco (although all of the grapes come from Alice’s own vineyards within the Prosecco zone): Tajad, from local antique varieties that Cinzia’s grandfather made into wine for her grandmother’s osteria, and Osé, a Brut rosé and the only pink wine from the Prosecco zone that’s made with Marzemino as the added red variety.
As Alice’s motto encourages, “Life is a Bubble”, and as we like to say, “sparkling wine is wine“. Taken together, these two mottoes remind us that Alice, and all good sparkling wine, isn’t just for overt celebrations like weddings and graduations. When you’re drinking wine, whether as an aperitivo or during brunch or dinner, there’s no reason that some of it shouldn’t have bubbles in it. And if you’re drinking sparkling wine, like any other wine, there’s good reason to have it be good wine.