Friday, August 25, 2017

Italy’s Premier Bubbles

                      Nearby Lake Iseo & the Alps both help moderate the wine district’s climate

Serious lovers of Italian wines know that in addition to Barolo, Barbaresco, and Super-Tuscan, Franciacorta’s sparkling wines ranks among the primo wines produced in all of Italy.  If you have never heard of Franciacorta you’re in store for a magnifico experience, especially if you’re a connoisseur of top of the line French Champagnes. (BTW:  Don’t even think, however, of putting Franciacorta in the same category as Prosecco.  Franciacorta is about complexity, depth, breadth, finesse, and terroir.   Light-hearted Prosecco is about simplicity.)

The Franciacorta wine district is located approximately half way between Venice and Milan.  Although relatively unknown on the world-wide sparkling wine market, it’s well known among knowledgeable European wine consumers that Franciacorta produces Italy’s highest quality bubblies.  But, Franciacorta hasn’t always famous.  While this district had been producing wine for centuries, it was only for local consumption.  In the 1960’s experiments showed that the terroir was perfect for sparkling wines. Franciacorta was officially recognized as a serious sparkling wine district in 1967 when it was awarded a DOC (its own wine appellation).  Over the past 60 years the district’s growth has been impressive and quality has been pushed to the maximum.  Franciacorta is now a coveted DOCG, Italy’s highest honor for a wine district.

Like Champagne, the Franciacorta bubbles are produced with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.  Both wine areas use the same labor intensive process (Methode  Champenoise) where secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle.  In both wine districts sparkling wine is bottle-aged on its lees (spent yeast cells).   This aging of wine on its lees is a crucial step in the process of creating quality.  Because of E.U. laws protecting the Champagne brand, this method of making sparkling wine in Franciacorta is called Metodo Classico.  

There are two distinct differences between Franciacorta and Champagne---the first being scale, the second being history.  Champagne produces 100 times more bubblies than Franciacorta (in fact, some of the larger Champagne houses actually produce ten times more bottles than all of Franciacorta wineries combined).   While Champagne has been producing sparkling wine for about 350 years, Franciacorta is a bambino at a mere 60 years. 

Pricing?   Like Champagne, Franciacorta is not inexpensive.  Franciacorta sparkling wine begins in the $40 US range and leaps up to nearly $150 for its priciest single-vineyard bottles.   My favorite Franciacorta producers (in alpha order) are:  Bellavista, Ca Del Bosco, and Ferghettina.  

Next Fall (2018) Wine-Knows will visit Franciacorta on its tour through Northern Italy which begins in Venice and ends in the wine area famous for Barolo and Barbaresco (Piedmont).  This trip has been perfectly timed for Italy’s most famous foodie event, Piedmont’s Truffle Festival.  There are only two spaces available on this trip.  For details visit

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