FROM ITALY WITH AMORE
Enjoy The Best Prosecco In The World at Ram’s Head Inn
David Noto, ALTANEVE Founder at the opening of Ram’s Head Inn
By Lori Zelenko
Chances are you’ve sipped Altaneve, the luxury Prosecco (https://altaneve.com) exquisitely crafted by former financier David Noto, perhaps at a favorite NYC restaurant sitting elbow to elbow with Justin Timberlake (an Altaneve fan). Or maybe at The Ram’s Head Inn on Shelter Island as you relax after an afternoon of cheering on a random royal at a Southampton Polo match? No matter where or when you may have tried this Italian bubbly, it’s time to head on out by the water’s edge to try The Ram’s Head Spritz — Altaneve Sparking Rosé with muddled strawberries picked from the Inn’s garden and garnished with fresh basil.
But no matter if you haven’t yet encountered this luscious bubbly, beautiful in its presentation, elegant and award-winning, deemed “best prosecco in the world” by The Wall Street Journal Marketwatch. The story behind this Italian sparkler as told by the charming entrepreneur who brought it stateside from the snow-capped mountains in the north of Italy intrigues as much as this effervescent wine’s delicious taste.
Q. Let’s start at the beginning. Why did you start making Prosecco? What was the catalyst for your career change?
A. The answer is simple, Prosecco is my favorite wine. But there is more to it than that. I grew up in a wine-making family, where my father was the first generation that did not make wine, so instead of making it, he taught me about it: wine regions and varieties. After careers in the business world – engineering, finance, etc. – I was unhappy with the direction of my life. So I looked for something more meaningful and gratifying. This quest led me to an Executive MBA, and after graduation, I did some soul searching – that’s when I chose to start producing my favorite wine: Prosecco! We launched Altaneve informally in the USA in 2012.
Q. How did the name Altaneve come about?
A. When I chose to produce Prosecco, I decided that I was only interested in producing the highest quality possible. To this end, there is only one town, Valdobbiadene, Italy, with the best vineyards and terroir for growing Prosecco’s Glera grapes; it is a beautiful little town located in the steep foothills of the Dolomites.
When searching for a name for my new company/brand, I knew I didn’t want to use my family name, but rather one that was unique and evoked wonderful imagery. My father and myself came up with “Altaneve” [which in Italian means, high snow, or deep snow,] because it was reminiscent of the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites that you can see above the Valdobbiadene vineyards. The snow is there eight months of the year, you can see it when approaching from Venice, Padova or Vicenza.
Q. Most Prosecco is affordably priced and seen as something of a commodity. Yet for Altaneve, you have crafted a luxury positioning. What was your thinking in separating your brand from the Prosecco pack?
A. As it turns out, when I launched the company nine years ago, there was no other company that was targeting the luxury segment of Prosecco, especially in the US, so the positioning turned out to be a perfect fit. It was apparent from the start that if I were to make the highest quality Prosecco, crafted in the most exclusive Prosecco-producing region, I could not cut corners; the only way to make the company feasible was to target the luxury market.
Q. You chose specific terrain to grow and harvest the grapes for Altaneve. What are some of the advantages to the land in this part of Italy?
A. At Altaneve, we currently make three Proseccos and one sparkling rosé. Without delving too deeply into each vineyard, the real difference is the uniqueness of the terroir in Valdobbiadene – this little town has the ideal soil, rainfall, and sunlight to grow the finest Glera grapes (the predominant grape in Prosecco wine).
In the whole Prosecco growing region, Valdobbiadene is the only town to have tall mountains immediately behind it on two sides, which trap the salt-laden rainclouds as they roll across the Veneto plain, so their rainfall continually replenishes the salinity in the limestone soil. In addition, the town’s soil contains magnesium, dolomite and quartz adding a wonderful floral elegance and a complex minerality to our wines. Prosecco made from grapes grown in other regions, by contrast, are very fruity, and often lack depth and complexity.
This terroir yields the wine we launched initially, Prosecco Superiore DOCG (the highest certification of Prosecco), which has a highly refined taste and complexity. And more recently, we released a Prosecco DOC, which retains the crispness and fine bubbles of its other siblings, but at a lower price point. A sparkling red will be coming in 2022. And we have Altaneve Z the pinnacle of what Prosecco wine can be. We only produce 1,500 bottles each year of this wine which offers both the depth and complexity of a Champagne, while maintaining the signature crisp freshness of a great Prosecco.
Q. Altaneve parallels champagne in some respects, yet there are differences. Can you help us understand what sets your Prosecco apart?
I love Champagne, and I appreciate the comparison, but Prosecco and Champagne are completely different. However, the special Glera grapes, the selective hand harvesting and the longer fermentation process used to produce Altaneve, gives our wine more complexity and a softer, more delicate bubble. These features do more closely resemble Champagne than our peers’ Proseccos.
If there are three things to remember about Altaneve, I would like all who enjoy our wine to understand and appreciate that our Prosecco is highest-in-quality, natural (no additives) and healthy (low in sulfites and calories). However, I also think these are the tenets of great wines everywhere. Altaneve is pleased to be considered among the coveted drinks found on the cocktail menu at Ram’s Head Inn.