It’s a story of Prosecco, a man’s passion that has its roots in the town of Valdobbiadene in the north-east of Italy.
Like many people of his generation, Otto Dal Zotto aspired to travel, and in 1967, at age 21, he emigrated from his native town of Valdobbiadene to Australia with his younger brother. And it was the urge to continue the connection, to make wines that he grew up with that led to the establishment of Dal Zotto Wines in Victoria’s King Valley.
Otto and his wife Elena were initially tobacco farmers before they transitioned to grapes. His family had vines in Italy and it was always a passion of his to start making wine. Starting out as growers supplying wineries, the couple initially planted mainstream French varietals such as chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon vines before they moved to Italian-style wines they know so well.
Otto remembers growing up sipping Prosecco with the family, a tradition that continues with his grandchildren around the table having a smell of the family wine to appreciate its character. His dream was to produce Prosecco in Australia which led to an extensive search for the vines which he found near Adelaide. After DNA testing to prove they were genuine Prosecco vines, he planted them in 2000, production began four eight years later and saw the birth of the first Dal Zotto Prosecco.
Otto Dal Zotto in the Prosecco Vineyard
Dal Zotto produce two types of Prosecco. L’immigrante was the first they produced then Pucino came along a year and half later. “It’s a fun, easy to drink wine which sells as soon as it’s made,” Simon Dal Zotto says.
Pucino Prosecco is made by the traditional Charmat style which is secondary fermentation under pressurised tank and bottled in batches as needed. The wine has about 10g of dosage. L’Immigrante Prosecco is made by the methode champenoise, with secondary fermentation in the bottle. The latter is a drier wine with about 6g of residual sugar and is bottled when the fruit has reached a certain standard before it sits on lees for secondary fermentation.
The Dal Zotto passion for Italian-style wines goes beyond Prosecco. Their Barbera can be described as a heavy red, strong on aroma with many layers such as the savoury characteristics running through the middle palate with great acidity which gives it good length. And there is the Immigrante Barbera Reserve, the kind of wine you decant for an hour to appreciate the two years it has spent in oak before ageing another two years in the bottle.
Christian, Otto, Mick
Dal Zotto Wines is a family business, with Otto, Elena and their four sons. Michael, the eldest of the four brothers is an accountant who left the King Valley for some time before returning with his wife Lynne to raise a family. Julian is the viticulturist and you often find him hands-on in the vineyards. Christian is the Sales and Marketing Manager and has been there since the early days. His twin, Simon takes on the role of part-time brand ambassador in between other directorship roles.
Growing up, the four brothers were not pressured into taking part of the business but organically they grew up wanting to be involved.
“When you’re close and grow up like that, it’s an easy decision to work in a family business,” Simon explains. “Growing up, you don’t grow up in a business. You grow up in a family. And everything else stems off that.”
Dal Zotto Wines in the King Valley have a cellar door trattoria which opens on Saturdays and Sundays for lunch and serves traditional Italian fare. The menu changes every week and the produce is sourced from the garden that Elena looks after and Christian’s brother in law who is a butcher, from cattle and sheep on the property.
“When you come to visit, you’d be hard-pressed not to meet someone from the family,” Simon says. Family traditions, values and the closeness of growing up and sharing in all the fun are intrinsic forces that bind them together.
“It’s a family before it’s a business, but it’s also a business. Everything that is there and growing is because of family, and it will always be a family business.”
With thanks to Simon Dal Zotto for his generous time. All images are courtesy of Dal Zotto Wines, used with permission.
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