Prosecco and Asiago
Throughout the Euganean Hills (Colli Euganei in Italian), wine production is a living art, aided by the natural features of the vineyards, the area's favorable climate and rich volcanic soil. These rolling hills have been famous for their wines since the Roman times and were the private vineyard of the "Serenissima Republic of Venice".
Evidence of the production of wine in the area goes back to the first millennium BCE, and grape growing and wine making has been conducted without interruption since then. The Italian poet Francesco Petrarca became so fascinated by the Euganei Hills, that he bought a house in the hills, at Arquà, in 1373. His choice was dictated in part by the excellent quality of wine produced in the immediate area.
According to a custom that was widely used throughout Italy, shoots of several varieties of grape were planted in a single vineyard. Today, most vineyards have been replanted and employ modern methods of grap growing and winemaking. Several also specialize, with space reserved for Moscato, Tocai, Merlot and Cabernet vines.
The variet of wines from the Euganean Hills include the classic Colli Euganei White, with its typical straw-yellow color and jasmine scent, the full-flavored Cabernet Franc and robust Cabernet Sauvignon, the Chardonnay, a very sweet, yellow Moscato, the elegant Merlot, the pleasing Novello, the dry Pinello, Pinot Bianco, the sparkling Serprino, the Tocai Italico, and the citrusy Fior d'Arancio.
Wine enthusiasts can sample local wines in charming inns in old boroughs or in atmospheric cellars of the prestigious Veneto villas that dominate the countryside. Winemaking activity is also silently carried out in hermitages and abbeys.
Like other sparkling wines, Prosecco is served chilled. Most commonly it is served unmixed, but it also appears in several mixed drinks. It was the original main ingredient in the Bellini cocktail, and it can also replace champagne in other cocktails such as the Poinsettia. Prosecco is also used in the Italian mixed drink Sgroppino (with vodka and lemon sorbet).
According to the different aging, asiago cheese can assume different textures, from smooth in fresh Asiago Pressato to a crumbly texture in aged Asiago d'allevo whose flavor is reminiscent of sharp Cheddar and Parmesan. Dolce describes a mildly spicy asiago, several months old; medio describes a stronger cheese, aged longer; and piccante asiago is a hard, aged cheese with a piquant flavor, suitable for grating or enjoyed as a flavorful table cheese, eaten in paper-thin slices.
The only "official" Asiago cheese is produced in the alpine area of the town of Asiago, in the province of Vicenza. Asiago is produced in local dairies which provide premium quality grass-fed cow's milk, and alpine milk is what makes Asiago a special cheese. Alpine meadows have a larger variety of grass species, medicinal plants and flowers which contribute to a better tasting milk with a higher protein content. An American-made Asiago-type cheese, usually made in Wisconsin, tastes completely different from the original Asiago.
Asiago is enjoyed as a complement to hearty bread, salami, or such fruits as fresh figs or pears, and it goes well with a variety of beverages such as red wine, cranberry juice, and sparkling grape juice.