Bring on More Bubbly: Bele Casel and "Colfòndo"

Luca Ferraro exudes ebullient, even adolescent enthusiasm for his old vines and his wine, but behind that bright smile, there is also a lot of wisdom gleaned by hard work and tough experience.

His parents began making sparkling (spumante) Prosecco wine forty years ago in the hills near the town of Asolo according to the ancestral method called “col fondo” (Italian meaning “with yeast in the bottom” like the French “sur lie”): first, ferment the grapes in vats, then, bottle the wine and allow a second fermentation in the bottle without removing the spent yeasts afterwards (as described in previous post)

This is how Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco DOCG Colfòndo looks in the bottle.
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And in the glass.
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Danilo, Luca’s father, who learned about winemaking from his father-in-law, Ilario, started out making this wine with his wife in a makeshift cellar after both of them had worked full days in other jobs. Their wine was authentic and delicious, but nobody bought it. Back in the seventies, people only wanted to drink the inexpensive, slightly sweet Prosecco made in the large cooperatives in the area. To make wine that was salable, the Ferraros abandoned “col fondo” Prosecco in favor of the Charmat Method (second fermentation in large vats allowing the yeasts to be filtered out).

In 1998, Luca, started working full-time with his parents. Ten years later, in 2008, he and his father made the first experimental batch of “Colfòndo”. They decided to try after the inspiration of tasting one of Danilo’s bottles from the seventies that a friend randomly pulled out of his cellar one night. Even after so many years, it was fresh and full of aromas and flavor.

In Luca’s words, “It is simpler to make but still more difficult.” That is because once the wine is in the bottle fermenting for the second time, there is no way to make any adjustment. It ferment when it wants to, starting and stopping. He continued, “When you make Prosecco in closed vats, you have more control. You can taste the wine, take samples to analyze, control the temperature if necessary.”

Whether for “Colfòndo” or Charmat Method Prosecco, the secret of the wine is really in the grapes and the vineyards. Luca questioned the use of chemicals when he joined his parents full-time in 1998. Gradually changed to organic methods and also sought out vineyards with old vines on steep slopes for the family to rent or buy.

In this video, he talks about a vineyard they have recently bought and why the old vines, the “caranto” soil (compacted limestone unique to Asolo), the steepness, the altitude and the exposition to morning sun are all so important.

Luca also explained a traditional pruning method he learned from old “contadini” (farmers) that keep the energy of the vine concentrated and the stalk growing vertically. This vine is healthy, strong and productive at more than 80 years old. (I hope people will say the same thing about me at that age even if I look a little gnarly).
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He showed me the steel cables he has run down the hillside to hold his vine stakes in place.
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And how he tightens them by twisting this wooden “x”.
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I tasted Bele Casel wines with a rich and earthy mushroom risotto at the family dining table, with Luca, his parents, sister, wife and two sons.
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Danilo made a remarkable comment as we were tasting, “Our goal is to allow the wine to mature without getting old…to become complete without going into decline.” We all agreed that this was a good objective for life in general, much better than the opposite, “Get old without ever maturing.”

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From left to right:
Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco Spumante DOCG Brut
Slightly less dry
Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco Spumante DOCG Extra Dry
Very dry
Bele Casel Asolo Prosecco Spumante DOCG Dry Millesimato

All of these are soft-pressed, fermented in large steel containers, left to clarify (yeast drops to the bottom without added chemicals), then, fermented for the second time in pressurized vats before bottling. All have 11% alcohol.

To find Bele Casel in the US, check out these sources or Wine Searcher. All Bele Casel wines sell for around $15.

Luca is a member and leader in FIVI, the The Italian Federation of Independent Winegrowers (Federazione di Vigaioli Indipendenti). To learn more about the organization, click here.

FIVI copy

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