RAISE A GLASS
THERE’S a bottle of sparkling wine displayed in a centuries’ old cellar in the north of Italy, behind locked gates, which marks a moment in history for the wine region Franciacorta.
I’ll bet you think of prosecco when you think of Italian sparkling wine. I’m asking you to put Franciacorta on your radar.
It is made in the same traditional way as champagne, in the heart of Lombardy about an hour from Milan.
Nobleman Guido Berlucchi and oenologist Franco Ziliani first spotted the sparkling wine potential of the landscape and the result of their collaboration was the vintage of Franciacorta in 1961. The bottle in Berlucchi’s ancestral home is the last remaining bottle of that vintage.
The rest they say is history. In 1990 the Franciacorta Consortium was formed and in 1995 the region was awarded DOCG status (the top recognition for Italian wines); in 2017 the region sold 17.4 million bottles.
In Franciacorta, sparkling wine production, a base wine (the only grapes allowed are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot blanc) has a second fermentation in bottle with added sugar and yeast. Then the wines are left to sit on the lees (the dead yeast) for many months to develop flavour and texture. At Ferghettina winery I saw baby-blush rosé wines, all pink and perky in a line waiting to be bottled. The bottles were upside down, the lees clustered at the neck (about a centimetre deep) waiting to be removed before final bottling and labelling. I shared a few tastes at Ferghettina and one of my favourites was that very style of pink, Ferghettina Franciacorta Brut Rosé DOCG (£29.66, Tannico. co.uk, 12.5% abv, left) in a distinctive square-based bottle, which allows more flavours to develop. It has tickles of strawberry, redcurrants and lemon.
In all the Franciacorta wines I tasted, the landscape was there too; a lick of the lips brought a salty note and there was minerality in the mouth.
There’s a selection of wines from Berlucchi at Tannico, including Franciacorta DOCG
‘61 Brut (£21.98, 13% abv) which is 90% chardonnay and 10% pinot noir, which is crisp with apples and pears and velvety in the mouth. Also seek out the classy bottle designs of Contadi Castaldi. Their Franciacorta Brut DOCG (£21.14, Tannico,12.5% abv) is fresh, fruity, with spring blossoms and lime. On your Big Shop look for Tesco Finest Franciacorta Docg Brut (£15, 12.5% abv, below) with its ripe fruit and citrus flavours and a hint of brioche. At Ocado Fratelli Berlucchi Brut 25 Franciacorta DOCG (£24.95, 12.5% abv) is so-named “25” because of the number of months that pass from grape to glass. Try sipping a glass of sparkling Franciacorta throughout dinner, not just as an aperitif. It’s what they do in Italy. Enjoy. For more, go to franciacorta. net’ @FranciacortaUK (Twitter) and @ Franciacorta (Instagram) and the hashtag #blendofpassions
Jane is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers. Find her on social media and online as One Foot in the Grapes.