Nothing says more about summer quite like a pop of Prosecco, the bubbly fizz that seems to have taken over the world.
Its effervescent charm and crowd-pleasing nature earned the wine a large following but the more serious bottles made by producers on the slopes of Valdobbiadene-Conegliano area between Venice and the Dolomites are the ones that truly linger on Oenophile’s tongue and mind.
One of such is Nino Franco, nestled within the gentle undulations of the Veneto region, a sanctuary where time-honored traditions and the allure of Prosecco DOCG intertwine.
A Tapestry of Time
The story of Nino Franco began more than 100 years ago when Antonio Franco, returned home from World War I to find the family home destroyed. In 1919, he bought a home with a winery in the rolling hills of Valdobbiadene and launched a négociant business, buying grapes as well as wines.
This pivotal moment marked the inception of the Franco family’s journey into the world of winemaking. Antonio’s legacy was carried forward by his son, Giovanni who undertook the first vinification operations.
Yet, it was the arrival of Primo Franco, Antonio’s grandson, that ushered in a “quiet revolution” in the world of Prosecco. Armed with an oenological diploma from the Conegliano Veneto School and fortified by travels, observations, and contemplation, Primo instigated a modernization of Prosecco production and was the first in the region to pioneer single vineyard Proseccos in 1999.
Primo’s vision chiselled out a niche for his family estate. Through mass selections, using low-yielding Gelera grapes – the heart and soul of Prosecco production – and precise winemaking, he elevated Prosecco Superiore and his wines became standard bearer of the region’s best wines.
Today, the family’s legacy is carried on by fourth generation family member Silvia Franco and much of the winery’s effort is focused on small quantity production of three single-vineyard wines from plots totalling 4 hectares. They are the walled and Valdobbiadene’s first clos – Grave di Stecca, the steep Riva di San Floriano and the windy and knotted vines that defined Nodi.
A Bond with Land
Antonio Franco’s conscious direction aimed at attaining high-quality production has tightly bound his sparkling wines to the terroir of Valdobbiandene. While mass-produced Prosecco DOC emerges from sprawling plains that span two regions and nine provinces, Conegliano-Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG emerges from hillside vineyards across 15 communes within this specialized zone.
A mesmerizing labyrinth of hills, valleys, and ridges define the region—a landscape so steep in places that viticulture is hailed as a “heroic” endeavour by locals.
The UNESCO World Heritage designation bestowed in 2019 upon Conegliano-Valdobbiadene attests to its unique cultural tapestry, a panorama shaped by the labor of its vintners.
Contrasting with the richer clay and sandstone soils of Conegliano in the east, Nino Franco’s home in the steeper Valdobbiadene to the west boasts predominantly rocky and sandy conglomerates enriched with clay, minerals, and iron. These soils impart a leaner, more floral, and mineral-driven character to the wines—a true reflection of their unique terroir.
Its range of wines vary with personalities from its flagship Rustico to the trio of single vineyard gems to the prestigious DOCG Cartizze, where yields are strictly limited to a max of 12 tons per ha as opposed to 13.5 tons for DOCG.
Different from other Italian sparkling wine production, winemakers here use Charmat method or tank fermentation where second fermentation starts after sugar and yeast are added in autoclaves. At Nino Franco, for the top cuvees, they go through longer contact with lees to give extra texture and complexity in wine, and extra ageing in bottle after autoclave.
One of its signature wines is its Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut. A 100% Glera, selected from grapes grown on the steeper and more eroded slopes in the denomination, the wine is elegant and creamy with strong staying power. The wine has earned many high ratings from critics and magazines. It was rated 91 points by Wine Enthusiast, and 90 points by Wine Spectator and James Suckling respectively.