BISOL 1542: The Pinnacle of Prosecco


Having introduced those now ubiquitous bubbles to the UK some 35 years ago, Gianluca Bisol returns with a tour to launch their latest, perhaps greatest, release. Sophie McLean joined him for a dinner in London for the opening night…

‘Evening Phil,’ a well-dressed, tall, white-haired man utters as I cross his path descending the staircase to the dining room at Soho’s Bocca di Lupo. Phil is the sommelier, a chap I’ve met before and with whom I’ve shared delicious wine on the fronds of an Italian marina, in another life of mine, some years ago. This gentle warmth he is offered is warranted.

The tall man, I realise, is Bill Nighy, actor of many a rom com and repeated character in the movies of Richard Curtis. I’ve seen Bill round these parts a few times, most notably in the café at the Royal Academy where I sometimes like to sit and type up dinners like these. He is a character of the neighborhood. A character of life.

Tonight, we are being hosted by another character of storytelling success, Gianluca from BISOL 1542 – a wine estate in the Veneto, first founded by his family. The Bisols, remarkably, have been crafting wines for our enjoyment for nearly 500 years. Indeed, Gianluca Bisol begins to tell us he is the 21st generation of the family to proffer these wares worldwide, though uniquely here to the U.K comparatively recently, where he was once monikered ‘mad’ for such wild attempts. In the late 1980s when the British were themselves thirsty for bubbles of a more Champenoise nature, Gianluca had aspirations to open up this Anglophone country to his own, to Prosecco. To another side of the sparkling world, as then yet ‘sconosciuto’ to most. As yet then not recognised as it is today.

As we gather around the table with glasses poured of the Jeio Brut DOCG – a Prosecco Superiore – a wine dubbed ‘the inspiration’, Gianluca fills us up with other inspirational anecdotes of another project of his – growing grapes on the tiny island of Mazzorbo, one of the many that make up Venice’s famous archipelago. He talks of Venissa – a wine he makes here captured in only 3,000 bottles a year since he first started making it a little over a decade ago. With the little-known grape Dorana di Venezia, he uses amphorae to age this quite unusual white wine, one that gives the impression of genuine uniqueness in a world dominated by more readily recognisable styles. This, for the wine geek that I am, helps pave the way into talking more about his more ‘readily available’ wines, but consolidates the fact that any winemaker worth their salt wants to get the best from the land that they own into a glass for other people’s enjoyment ‘of the moment’.

We talk about grape varieties and soil, something that when ‘wine is geography’ comes close to my own heart, but granted not to those who perhaps like to simply pour themselves a glass at the end of the day, or indeed to mark anything of simplistic celebration. But, for these reasons the wines become so. This is where the magic lies. In 1989 Gianluca tells us the family bought their own bottling machine, more readily guaranteeing the quality of what they were making.

He then took a plane to London, arriving at Cecconi’s, famous then as much as now (perhaps our Bill tried a glass), thus listing his wines amongst the Mayfair cognoscenti, before also introducing it to the Italian bar at the Dorchester. Today, Prosecco is still poured at Cecconi’s, but also across the country as a more ubiquitous tipple, an indication of where Prosecco has come since then, and surely in no small part thanks to Gianluca’s temerity to bring this style of wine to a new audience.

When I lived in Piemonte in 2006, I still remember going into my local bar in Italy and being poured a glass of Prosecco thinking I’d somehow gatecrashed someone else’s drinks party. But in Italy it signifies the end of any day. Even if, like tonight, it is simply a Tuesday. Today it is known worldwide for being a soft celebratory drink, and to that we can doff our caps. Granted, the quality differs vastly now, but we learn that Bisol had quality nailed from the start – and have not budged since. As with all wines of generic terminology – Malbec, Chablis, Champagne, Port – there is a wild array of quality. What surprises me also about these wines is their lower alcohol profiles across the board – none are higher than 12% – which leaves another mark of quality to consider.

Our onward travels take us through the range, from the pretty Valdobbiadene hills, to delight us with the elegant Jerio Rose Brut DOCG, given a classy, pretty, dry pink hue from 15% Pinot Noir (planted, Gianluca tells us, thanks to esteemed English wine man, Tom Stevenson) alongside the classic Glera grape. And possibly my favourite of the evening, the Bisol 1542 Crede, paired with a ‘fritto misto’, grown on clay soils. It has floral characteristics, is crunchy, crisp, and serious. It is also the most successful of their five, so we’re told.

The main wine of the evening is identified by its homage to Venice, BISOL 1542 I Gondolieri – borne through its label depicting images of gondoliers, to which Gianluca likens the ‘handicraft’ of those who make the wine; “it is a craft to steer the gondolier, much like it is to make the wine.” he says, as it is versed into our large, Burgundy balloon glasses. This showstopper comes paired with a similarly showstopping main course of salt-baked cod, brought to the table with appropriate aplomb, and paired with a polenta that glows white in its brightness. The official tasting notes suggest ‘the salty notes of the lagoon are echoed by the vegetal essences that emerge from the glass, a summary of the flora of Valdobbiadene.’ This wine, unusually, goes through a second fermentation for 30 days, giving it an added creaminess that is not quite found in the others, while remaining a humble 10.5% in Abv. It is a homage to Italy, a tribute to Venice.

One more wine concludes the evening – the Bisol 1542 Cartizze, a Superiore di Cartizze – from a vineyard with marine soils on the top of the Cartizze Hill. The wines from this part of the Veneto are grown on marine soils, within a microclimate that produce wines with dry and fragrant characteristics such as jasmine and wisteria. The acidity is high, along with the impressions of the wine. We sip this final expression against a delicious Sicilian blood orange granita, turning the page of our tasting booklets over to a lady sailing on a gondolier, dressed in gold, with bright blue skies behind her as well as a stripy gondoliere, and deep tassle-fringed red cushions. And I wonder, if Phil can get Bill on the phone, Richard Curtis may need to rethink his next location.

Gianluca’s tour continues next week as he visit Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and York. Bisol 1542 Prosecco Superiore and Jeio is available through selected retailers and online at VINVM as well as in bars & restaurants nationwide including Bocca Di Lupo, Nobu, Shangri La Hotel, Brutto Trattoria, The Dorchester Hotel & Novikov. For more information, please visit