The Chronicle - - Food & Drink - WITH JANE CLARE

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.

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