Sunday, November 23, 2008

Villa Sandi Winery

Villa Sandi Winery lies nestled in the valleys of the Veneto region of Italy best know for its prosecco sparkling wine. The villa and winery on the property date back to the 17th-century and seeps history from every corner of the property. As you walk through the cold, dark cellars, you start your time travel through history in the 17th-century. The first cellar was built underground for the original owners and winemakers of the winery, the Sandi’s. The cellars are built with old stone brick cracked with age. The temperature is kept consistently between 13 and 14 degrees Celsius making a jacket required and a scarf advised. The dingy aroma emanated from the mold in the walls and the bottles. Dark green wine bottles lined the walls of the cellars, sometimes seeming to extend as far as you can see. The next cellar dates back to World War I and connects to the historic, palatial villa. During the war, these cellars were used as tunnels for soldiers in the Italian army. Today, they are homes to thousands of bottles of prosecco laying in rest to age for three, five, or seven years until they proceed to the distilling process.

The process of making prosecco is unlike any that I have ever seen. I was surprised to see the prosecco does not age in French oak barrels or stainless steel vats, but in their own bottles. After up to seven years of aging untouched, they are carefully moved to steel cages where a machine slowly turns them upside down, shaking them slightly in the process. The task takes many weeks and used to be done by hand, requiring workers to turn the bottles every 30 minutes everyday for a couple weeks. Once the bottles are turned completely upside down, all the sediment is left in the neck of the bottle. From there, the bottles are putting into a specialized freezer upside down. The freezer turns the liquid in the neck to ice, capturing all the left over sediment in the prosecco. Once the sediment is frozen, the bottle can be turned upright and have the cap released. The bottle naturally expels the frozen impurities and is topped of with more of the same prosecco. From here, the bottles can be thoroughly topped, cleaned and labeled for sale.

The prosecco made by Villa Sandi is known worldwide for its excellence and floral tones. The sparkling and still wines are renowned and the Moretti Polegato family, the current winemakers, have received hundreds of awards and recognition for their wines and prosecco. Learning more about the prosecco-making process has been very valuable to me as someone interested in wine and winemaking, and I am thankful to have learned more from one of the best in Italy.


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