The families looking after Prosecco’s future fortunes

Conegliano Valdobbiadene is home to some of Italy’s best Prosecco. Jacopo Mazzeo delves into the approaches that shape the region's quest for quality and offers a guide to the family producers you should know

Words by Jacopo Mazzeo

The Marchiori family
Umberto, Sara and Giuseppe Marchiori

Prosecco has been the world’s bestselling sparkling wine for some time. Its widespread popularity can be attributed mainly to the extensive production of uncomplicated sweetish wines produced with grapes from the 30,000 hectares of Glera vineyards in the Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions of northeastern Italy.

But the ever-growing demand for simple, inexpensive fizz has also benefited the smaller, quality-focused production of Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG that emerges from the panoramic, verdant hills surrounding the historic villages of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene.

With a past marked by prolonged periods of severe poverty, struggle and migration, the commercial success of Prosecco has brought financial prosperity to this quality wine producing region. The increasingly positive economic outlook of Conegliano Valdobbiadene has encouraged the younger population to remain, contributing to a distinctively vibrant environment rarely found in such historical viticultural areas. The region even boasts an official ‘Young Club’, consisting of under-35 oenologists, growers, salespeople and marketing professionals. The group convenes regularly to bring fresh perspectives, foster innovation, and engage in discussions about sustainability and the communication of the value of the denomination’s wines.

While the widespread popularity of Prosecco has brought about a positive economic uplift to the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, it also poses a challenge to the recognition of its best expressions

Yet, while the widespread popularity of generally lower-quality Prosecco has brought about a positive economic uplift to the hills of Conegliano Valdobbiadene, it also poses a challenge to the recognition of its best expressions, meaning that producers must put in continuous effort to earn the respect and acknowledgment that their wines deserve.

A significant step in this direction occurred just before the pandemic, with the introduction of 43 rive, exceptionally challenging slopes where viticulture is so demanding that it is aptly referred to as ‘heroic’. These rive designations identify the best plots in Conegliano Valdobbiadene, enabling Prosecco producers to showcase the inherent qualities of their prime terroirs.

Beyond a tangible viticultural aspect, the quality of these wines carries a significant human value too, the social fabric of this region being characterised by numerous small family businesses that have been tending to the vines on these hills for centuries – as opposed to large corporations.

Five of Conegliano Valdobbiadene’s family producers to watch


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Conegliano Valdobbiadene was once home to a variety of grapes, each possessing distinct organoleptic characteristics that could enhance a wine’s complexity. Many of these, however, posed significant viticultural challenges to growers, leading to Glera – with its higher yield potential and robust vigour – emerging as the region’s predominant grape.

In 2008, recognising the importance of preserving Conegliano Valdobbiadene’s biodiversity, Marchiori initiated a project focused on rediscovering its historical native grapes. Today, this family winery located in Farra di Soligo, right at the heart of the Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG, is acknowledged as a leader in the use of neglected indigenous grapes. Its blends include the region’s primary grape, Glera, alongside four historical varieties: Glera Lunga, Perera, Bianchetta, and Verdiso.

In addition to its commitment to grape diversity, Marchiori is also dedicated to sustainable production. The winery specifically focuses on mitigating its impact on the surrounding environment, promoting biodiversity and fostering positive relationships within the community.

Anna Nardi


Close to Marchiori, Perlage is a pioneer of organic wine production in the area. In 1985, seven brothers of the Nardi family, now in its third generation, founded the winery with the explicit intention of championing organic practices at a time when such concepts were not yet prominent in the area or public consciousness.

Over the years, Perlage has continued its pioneering spirit by venturing into biodynamic and vegan wine production. It was also the first winery in Italy to achieve B Corp status, an international certification that promotes a modern and holistic commitment to sustainability across all aspects, from environmental considerations to social responsibility.

Perlage serves as an exemplary representation of the youthful vibrancy within the wine sector of Conegliano Valdobbiadene. Anna (pictured), the youngest of the Nardis, returned to the family business after gaining diverse experiences elsewhere. While juggling multiple responsibilities, she plays a pivotal role in external communications and is actively involved in the Young Club too. ‘Carrying on the legacy of my grandparents every day makes me feel happy and fulfilled,’ she says, ‘and doing this alongside the other members of my family’s third generation is wonderful.’

Gemin family


Situated at the western end of the denomination, Gemin was established by Guglielmo ‘Gemin’ Bortolomiol, a member of the renowned Bortolomiols, one of the most significant wine families in the region. Upholding the family legacy today is the young and dynamic winemaker, Luigi Stramare Bortolomiol (pictured with his mother, Paola Bortolomiol, his sister, Elisabetta, and brother, Luca).

Gemin is a quality-driven establishment, which adopts a meticulous approach to production. All parcels are vinified separately, with each vinification tailored to the intended final wine style. For instance, for DOCG wines with medium-high residual sugar, such as extra dry and dry, fermentations are kept short, resulting in a fresh, fruity and floral character. Conversely, in the case of low dosages like brut, extra brut, and brut nature, Luigi extends the rest period on the lees, aiming to structure the wines for diverse evolutions in the glass over time. For its rive wines, Luigi maintains the liquid on the lees for seven to eight months.

With a substantial production scale of approximately 500,000 bottles annually, this commitment to quality positively impacts not only Gemin’s own business but the entire denomination of Conegliano Valdobbiadene.

Such positive influence on the broader region’s wine sector is further manifested through its engagement in communication with both consumers and wine professionals. Gemin is also involved in lobbying efforts to effect changes in production regulations, advocating for quality by suggesting a delayed release of the wines. Luigi argues that this would help convey the premium nature of the region, even if it means telling clients they must wait when stocks are frustratingly low. ‘This is to tell people that we are a premium area,’ says Bortolomiol, ‘and sometimes we just need to say “I’m sorry we’re out, you’ll just have to wait.” We’ve been discussing this for some years, but there’s resistance from some of the bigger producers.’

Pruning in the vineyards at Bival


Located in the vicinity of Conegliano Valdobbiadene’s renowned Cartizze hill, Bival is a champion of old vines. A remarkable 70% of the winery’s plants can be classified as old, with over a third aged between 80 and 100 years, another third around 60 years and a notable 5% reaching centenarian status.

For Bival, preserving these vines means a commitment to history, heritage, and identity. ‘We continue to preserve old vines in an almost maniacal and perfectionist manner,’ says Bival’s Elisa Biz. ‘Knowing how to treat a historic vine is an art, it takes practice, passion, hard work, and respect for nature.’

Leading the production is third-generation winemaker and Elisa’s husband Paolo Biasiotto but his uncles, now both in their 80s, are still involved in the operations, playing crucial roles in passing on knowledge and providing assistance. One uncle (pictured) concentrates on vineyard activities, especially pruning, key for ensuring high-quality fruit at harvest. The other is deeply engaged in cellar operations and is instrumental in maintaining meaningful human relationships with visitors.

Toni Dori vineyards

Toni Doro

Toni Doro is situated at the north-eastern edge of the denomination, near the town of Vittorio Veneto. The Doro family’s connection to this land and its vines dates to at least the end of the nineteenth century, with a proud tradition of passing it down from father to son. The current proprietors, brothers Silvano and Massimo, have established the current business, naming it after their grandfather Toni, a choice that reflects the profound importance of family in this region.

The atmosphere at Toni Doro radiates tradition and a simpler way of life. Rows of vegetables planted alongside the vines for the family’s personal use reflect an era when working the land was more about sustenance than commerce. Championing traditions at the winery also involves the Panein, a frizzante that pays homage to the ‘Panevin’ (contraction of ‘pan’ and ‘vin’, meaning bread and wine), a bonfire crafted on the night of the Epiphany that symbolises the burning of the old year.

Toni Doro’s commercial philosophy is anchored in cultivating profound human relationships, both with its workers and with visitors, who often drop by unannounced. ‘In short,’ says Massimo, ‘the direct relationship with people is the foundation of our commercial idea. First of all, we are lucky enough to have people in the company who are passionate about our small business. This allows them to perceive the beauty and value of our territory. The positive sensations they bring back home allow them to communicate to friends and family what they felt in the cellar. The basis of positive word of mouth that allows us to grow.’