It is often that the most prominent story can sometimes come from the smallest place. And such is the case when I roamed in the broad landscape of Valdobbiadene, where many wineries produce close to a million bottles per year, a small miniature winery by the name of Silvano Follador stood out despite its pea-sized production.
Silvano Follador and his sister, Alberta Follador, started making Prosecco in the early 2000s after inherited vineyards from their grandparents. Then having just graduated from secondary school education, the siblings had to rely on an external consultant to produce their wines. Like many wines of those times, the consultant ensured the wines were squeaky clean, fault-free, and correctly manufactured, everything the market expected. This was after all the not so distant past when the domestic market prefers insipid white wines.
Attention to details, unbound by standards
In 2007, the Follador siblings took over the winemaking and decided to interpret their understanding of Prosecco with a straightforward principle, and that is to show the best wine possible.
Today, they adopt some organic and biodynamic practices after observing the results and understanding the different effects on the vineyard. Despite that, they still apply copper and sulphur judiciously on the vines, and sulphur dioxide in both grape juice and wine when necessary.
They opt for the initial alcoholic fermentation to take place with natural yeast in cement tanks while only selected yeast is employed during the second sparkling wine fermentation to achieve the desired character in stainless steel vessels. The remaining juice derived from the second pressing goes into a non-sparkling still Prosecco, which even though permitted, is a seldom seen product.
Alberta gave me the impression that the decisions were often made conscientiously, even when these differ from the norm. Among these, one is to produce wines for the Prosecco Superiore DOCG using grapes from one and a half hectares vineyard grown on the premium site of Cartizze hill and blend with other plots.
Another decision was to have a small production of classic method Prosecco which needs slightly more than half a year of yeast contact in the bottle. This method produces a noticeable weightier density on the palate without overpowering the delicate fruit and floral aromas of Glera grapes; a delicate balance that incorporates the best of Prosecco typicity and the texture of its Col Fondo cousin.
Lastly, wines are bottled either with zero dosage or brut nature. And because of the absence of residual sugar in the wine, the product is exposed entirely in its primal, most basic form, bare and naked, with any possible flaws being blatantly obvious. And yet the wines were beautiful like “The Birth of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli.
Talking to Alberta, through a translator whom she had arranged for our meeting, was an honest, open and direct experience. Without any marketing jargon, or boastful words about her winery history. Occasionally she sneaked a child-like grin, knowing those who know their existence appreciates their efforts. But for Silvano Follador this is a journey, not a destination. For I am sure, there will be more challenges with climate change, and only innovative new ideas can overcome these hurdles.
“It’s always about the wine, not the method.”
For the siblings at Silvano Follador winery, Prosecco is a unique product of both Glera grape and the earth. Instead of following trends to be in the cool crowd, they choose whichever that best represent the wines. With only close to 30,000 bottles produced a year, I think it will take some time before people will taste these wines. And for me, I will always be on the lookout for another bottle of their unforgettable Prosecco.