Giol, the oldest winery in Italy

Prosecco is arguably Italy’s most famous wine export and with demand growing all the time what makes it so it popular? According to the OIV (International Organisation of Vine and Wine) Italy produced the highest volume of wine in the world last year at 50,900Mhl (million hectolitres) outstripping France’s output comfortably. It is also home to some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world and as our producer Giol says, ‘experience matters!’

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Veneto in Northern Italy is one of the most important winemaking areas, thanks largely to Prosecco. The region produces more bottles of DOC (controlled designation of origin) wine than any other area in the country. Prosecco is named after the northern Italian village within the area where the grape variety is also believed to have originated. Today, Prosecco production spans the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions and is protected by the DOC and DOCG classifications. In 2010 further steps were taken to protect the name; the main Prosecco producing grape name ‘Prosecco’ was changed to ‘Glera’. Prosecco therefore became a geographical location exclusively, ensuring there would be no confusion with the grape being used in other areas.

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Unlike Champagne, Prosecco is usually produced using the Italian Charmat-Martinotti method. This means that rather than the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle, it takes place in stainless steel tanks. The method is not only far quicker than the method used to produce Champagne, it’s also far more efficient making the final product less expensive to produce. The use of the steel tanks also mean that the wine has less contact with the yeast, resulting in a lighter and less complex tasting drink than champagne, making it a favourite regular tipple around the world.

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Nestled in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, just north of Treviso, the Giol vineyard has produced quality wine ever since 1427 making it the oldest winery in the country. The beautiful vineyard complex hides a colourful past filled with history. The settlement dates back to Roman times. It was rebuilt in 1850 by the Papadopoli Counts in the English Gothic Revival style and it also underwent a stint as a military garrison under Austrian occupation during WW1. Bullet marks are still visible on barrels and the metre thick walls.

The complex was bought by Giovanni Giol in 1919 and the family have been innovating with wine and Prosecco ever since. Giovanni Giol returned to his native Italy in 1919 after the end of WW1 and purchased the complex from the Papadopoli family. He had moved to Argentina at a very young age to find his fortune and there he built the largest winery in the world at that time. He returned with a vast knowledge of winemaking that he quickly put to good use in his native land.

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Today the winery is owned and run by fourth generation winemaker Vittorio Carraro. His Mother, Luisa Giol, is the last Giol in the family. Vittorio’s innovative streak means he is always experimenting with his vines and wines. In 1987 they moved to producing only organic wines. Driven not by fashion or marketing, Vittorio simply did not understand why people would chose to use weed killer near their precious vines. He believes passionately that science and technology can help produce the very best wine naturally and he works to encourage biodiversity and a natural vineyard ecosystem.
‘Organic agriculture does not fight; it experiments with allies in the form of friendly insects and bacteria.’

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Since 2007, Giol has also banned the use of all animal derived products during the fining process which stabilises and delivers clear final wines. Products such as isinglass, gelatin, casein and albumin are commonly used in wine production but Vittorio chooses instead to use animal friendly agents such as carbon, clay and limestone that deliver clear and stable wines that vegans can enjoy. Two years later the winery stopped adding sulphites to their wine. Sulphites are widely used to prevent oxidization and keep wine fresh. However, Viittorio believes the best tasting wine is made without the addition of sulphites. This does mean that Giol wine is best drunk young rather than leaving them to age.

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And what does the future of this great vineyard hold?
Vittorio’s innovation shows no sign of slowing down! He has invested in weather stations to find out more about the unique micro-climate in his vineyards and he is also working to develop cultivars that have natural resistance to common diseases that vineyards are susceptible to, such as mildew. He considers that these will be the ‘cultivars of the future’ from which ‘super-organic wines’ are made.

We think Vittori’s current collection is already fantastic so we can’t wait to see what he produces next! You can find a range of Giol Prosecco and wine in Gloucester Services and Tebay Services Farmshops now.

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