Meet Col Fondo, the Bottle-Fermented Prosecco | Wine Enthusiast
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Meet Col Fondo, the Bottle-Fermented Prosecco

Like the better-known Prosecco, Col Fondo is an Italian sparkler that must be made with a minimum 85% of native grape Glera. Rather than create bubbles in steel tanks, however, these more traditional versions undergo second fermentation in the bottle. They aren’t disgorged, either—these wines are bottled on their lees.

The yeasty residue leaves a fine sediment on the bottom, fondo in Italian, which imparts complexity and intense flavors, including Alpine herbs, apples, mineral tones and citrus notes. Col Fondo has less exuberant bubbles than its tank-fermented sibling, and, as such, is classified as frizzante.

The characteristic dry profile and light bubble makes Col Fondo worth seeking out.

The bulk of Prosecco was made this way until the 1970s, when steel tanks were introduced and many producers switched to the new, temperature-controlled option. But as interest in more traditional methods and terroir-driven, earthy tastes grows, Col Fondo has returned to the spotlight.

Christian Zago, winemaker at the family-owned Ca’ dei Zago in Valdobbiadene, Veneto, is one producer who focuses on this style. “Perfect grapes are essential to make Prosecco Col Fondo,” he says, “so scrupulous vineyard management and harvesting at the right moment are key.” He uses the techniques passed down from his grandfather, who started making Prosecco in the ’50s.

His family has never used chemicals in their vineyards, and there’s neither selected yeasts nor filtration involved in his winemaking. “We keep back a small percent of grapes after the harvest and let them dry naturally,” says Zago. “Just before bottling, we press these to get a small amount of concentrated juice that’s naturally high in sugar, which we add to the just-bottled Prosecco.”

The process results in the characteristic dry profile and light bubble that makes Col Fondo worth seeking out. Just don’t shake the bottle: The sediment at the bottom adds even more flavor to the last glass.

Bottles to Try

Ca’ dei Zago 2016 Col Fondo (Valdobbiadene Prosecco); $25, 93 points. This lightly sparkling, terroir-driven wine is loaded with soul and finesse. It’s ethereal and bone dry, with delicately alluring aromas and flavors of white spring flower, ripe apple, Bartlett pear, citrus and Alpine herb. Crisp acidity and a silky mousse provide balance and finesse while a mineral note energizes the focused finish. The sediment at the bottom of the bottle adds even more flavor to the last glass. Ethica Wines. Editors’ Choice.

Case Paolin NV Col Fondo (Asolo Prosecco Superiore); $25, 92 points. Slightly fizzy and incredibly fragrant, this radiant sparkler boasts heady scents of honeysuckle, lemon blossom and white stone fruit. The crisp dry palate delivers green apple, Bartlett pear, citrus zest and a saline note alongside vibrant acidity and lightly foaming bubbles. Fermented in the bottle, it has some sediment at the bottom that adds flavor and complexity. T. Elenteny Imports. Editors’ Choice.

Albino Armani NV Casa Belfi Col Fondo (Prosecco); $20, 91 points. Yeasty aromas of bread dough, toasted hazelnut, pressed wild flower and an earthy whiff of brimstone follow over to the crisp palate along with citrus and yellow apple. Made with grapes cultivated according to biodynamic farming practices and fermented with wild yeasts, it’s a fascinating expression of Prosecco. Mise.