Bellavista from Franciacorta:
Italy’s Challenge to Champagne
Italy’s Franciacorta DOCG, located in the rolling hills south of Lake Iseo in the province of Brescia, arguably makes the best European sparkling wine outside Champagne itself. The Bellavista winery has played a critical role in transforming the region into one of Italy’s most famous DOCGs. The transformation process began over three decades ago when Proprietor Vittorio Moretti started making wine as a hobby. In 1984 he produced his first sparkling wine, and today he manages a 190 hectare wine estate comprised of 107 different, organically farmed vineyard parcels. As in Champagne, grapes from diverse parcels are blended together to create a house style that remains relatively constant over time.
Winemaker Mattia Vezzola uses the metodo clasico (similar to the methode champenoise) to produce several vintage and non-vintage sparkling wines. These wines are produced following DOCG regulations. Non-vintage Franciacorta wines must spend 18 months on the lees in bottle, while vintage Franciacorta wines must spend a minimum of 30 months on the lees.
We earlier tasted Bellavista’s sparkling wines and reported the results in Report # 14, The World of Sparkling Wines and Champagne. In both that tasting and our current tasting, reported here, we find that Bellavista has a distinctive house style. Elegance, refinement and a super fine, creamy mouth feel are the hallmarks of that style. One is unlikely to mistake Bellavista for vintage French Champagne, but in terms of quality it compares favorably. Bellavista is imported by Empson USA Inc. of Alexandria, Virginia.
Bellavista NV Cuvee Brut Franciacorta DOCG ($48) 91
The Cuvee Brut is a delicious, predominantly Chardonnay sparkler with the elegante, lush mouth feel typical of Bellavista. It has a refined and elegant bouquet of lees and ripe pear and a beautifully balanced palate of pear and apple with integrated toast notes. Very creamy and rich without being heavy. We like this bottle even more than the one we tasted in 2008. In general, there is little variation over time as several vintages are blended together to produce a wine that is consistent in flavor and character.
Bellavista 2004 Gran Cuvee Brut Franciacorta DOCG ($69) 92
The 2004 Gran Cuvee is a beautifully balanced sparkler with delicious hazelnut and creamy custard on the palate. There’s yeast and toasted brioche on the nose along with pear and apple notes. It offers a creamy palate and a very long, flavorful finish. This is a great food wine to have with roasted fowl. Made from a blend of 72% Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco and 28% Pinot Noir aged 7 months in small oak casks. We gave this wine a 91 in our Report # 14, but it’s even more delicious with an additional year of bottle age.
Bellavista 2004 Gran Cuvee Rosé Franciacorta DOCG ($77) 90
The crisp, clean and elegante 2004 Gran Cuvee Rosé is made of 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay. It’s medium salmon in color with aromas of fading roses and yeast with an anise note. There are distinct autolytic notes on the palate along with dried cherries. This is a delicious sparkler, but it comes with a price tag.
Bellavista NV Gran Cuvee Saten Franciacorta DOCG ($77) 93
The Gran Cuvee Saten is full-flavored yet elegant with a distinct creamy character. The nose shows melon, hazelnuts, and lees, while the palate reveals delicate melon flavors . This is a beautifully balanced and integrated wine. The fruit for this wine comes from a single vintage and is especially selected from the best vineyards in the Erbusco district. According to the rules of the DOCG, Franciacorta Saten must be 100% Chardonnay.
Written by Don Winkler and Mike Potashnik, January 2010