Future Reports

California Zinfandel: A New Look

Franciacorta: Italy’s Luxury Sparkling Wines

The International Wine Review celebrates its tenth year of publication in 2015. To celebrate, we revisit many of the regions we’ve reported on over the past decade. Our focus in this series of special reports and articles is our favorite producers and their wines. We provide updated reviews of selected wines.

Franciacorta

The sparkling wines of Franciacorta are frequently compared to premium cuvées of Champagne in terms of quality. They’re made the same way (méthode champenois), use the same grape varieties, employ reserve wines to blend across vintages, and do small scale fermentation of different vineyard plots that are later blended into the final cuvée. Unlike Champagne, most Franciacorta producers are also growers (récoltant manipulant in Champagne). The wines are spectacularly good and an exciting alternative to other premium sparklers for Holiday toasts. We’ve written about Franciacorta several times, including Report #14 The World of Sparkling Wines and Champagne. With this article we kick off the 10th anniversary of the International Wine Review by celebrating our favorite producers from around the world. In Franciacorta, these include Bellavista, Ca’ del Bosco, Enrico Gatti, Ferghettina, and Montenisa.

Franciacorta

Bellavista Riddling RacksBellavista Riddling Racks

Franciacorta is a young sparkling producer—the first bottling of Franciacorta was only in 1957—and it’s relatively small with just 106 producers. Its international visibility is limited by the wine’s popularity in Italy, leaving little for the rest of the world. However, some 20 producers now export Franciacorta, giving those living outside Italy the opportunity to experience this delicious sparkling wine. Franciacorta sparkling wines are made in 19 communes located in the Province of Brescia, Lombardy. The grapes for the wine are grown on hillsides located south of Lake Iseo, which was created by Europe’s last ice age. The glaciers that created the valley ending at Lake Iseo left moraines south of the lake and gave the vineyards of Franciacorta its glacial alluvial soils.

Winter in FranciacortaWinter in Franciacorta

Since the first bottling in 1957, the quality of Franciacorta sparkling wines has impressively improved, in good part due to the creation of the Consorzio per la Tutela del Franciacorta in 1990. The Consorzio has implemented rules delimiting the varieties grown (predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir), production methods (hand harvesting, bottle aging requirements), and yields (60 hectoliters/hectare), some of the lowest in the world. In addition, growers changed their trellising from the traditional pergola to Guyot and spurred cordon, reduced yields with low vigor rootstocks, and planted at higher densities (4-5 thousand vines/ha). These measures significantly improved the quality and reputation of the wines and, also, resulted in Franciacorta being given DOCG status in 1995. Currently, Franciacorta produces about 10 million bottles annually.

In our tastings reported below, we review all five types of sparkling Franciacorta:

  • Non-Vintage: Must be aged on the lees at least 18 months.
  • Satèn: Non-vintage must be aged at least 24 months; usually 100% Chardonnay. The bottle pressure must be less than 5 atm.
  • Rosé: A minimum 25% Pinot Nero is required; the non-vintage rosé must be aged on the lees at least 24 months.
  • Millesimato: A vintage wine with at least 85% of the wine coming from the stated vintage; up to 15% can come from reserve wines. Must be aged at least 30 months.
  • Riserva: A Millesimato, Satèn or Rosé that spends at least 60 months on the lees in bottle.

The International Wine Review celebrates its tenth year of publication in 2015. To celebrate, we revisit many of the regions we’ve reported on over the past decade. Our focus in this series of special reports and articles is our favorite producers and their wines. We provide updated reviews of selected wines.

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