Sparkling from Franciacorta is punching above its weight class
People are drinking more sparkling wine. In Ontario, demand for sparkling wine grew over 14 percent in the last year. And these people are looking beyond Champagne in the quest to quench their thirst. We are fortunate to have many options at our disposal when looking for something affordable that has some fizz — Prosecco and Cava have become staples at brunch establishments. You can also often find a bottle of Canadian bubbles in my home when I’m looking for outstanding quality and great value. However, my search for something new in the sparkling realm has brought me back to Italy.
On the south side of Lake Iseo, in the Lombardy region of Italy, you find yourself in Franciacorta. This region produces 20 million bottles of sparkling a year, which pales in comparison to the more than 300 million produced of Champagne and Prosecco. If you aren’t familiar with this region, you’re not alone. Nestled into the foothills of the alps, warm growing days are met with cool nights, which allows the fruit to retain the acidity necessary to make sparkling wine.
Wines here are made in the traditional style, requiring at least 18 months on lees before they can be labelled as Franciacorta. The region is heavily planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Noir) and Pinot Bianco (Blanc). It’s clear that this region draws inspiration from Champagne. But when I put the wine in my glass, I am thinking of anything but. There are aromas of brioche and bread. The ripe fruit flavours of peach, pear and apple unravel on the palate and make these wines very un-Champagne. The ripeness of the fruit aromas and flavours in these wines signal a little more heat in the vineyard than their French counterparts. In spite of the heat, these wines have beautiful acidity and great balance. I have fallen in love with this mysterious stranger.
While I’m enjoying this new attraction, I can’t help but ask myself: is it fair to compare these wines to Champagne? Do I even need to compare them to the French? Just because the wines are made in a similar style doesn’t make them similar. Just because Champagne has created the mould doesn’t mean it can’t be broken, or at least tinkered with. Limited as it is by geography, there will never be enough space in Franciacorta to plant enough vines for to match the production of Champagne or Prosecco so these bottles will always be a bit of a rarity in the global picture. However, they offer great value and something out of the ordinary. So, when a bottle makes an appearance at your local wine shop, it’s worth seeking out.
Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige NV ($43)
This is one of the most widely available bottles of Franciacorta outside of Italy. Flavours and aromas of apple and white flower are met with citrus on the finish.
Ca’ Del Bosco Zero Dosage 2009 ($53)
4 years on lees brings a nice toasted bread note to the wine. White flower and vanilla open up and linger.
Ricci Curbastro Brut NV ($25)
There’s a spice note mingled with McIntosh apple that will have you yearning for roast pork and apples.
Ricci Curbastro Extra Brut 2013 ($25)
A 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero. Restrained and subtle with a bread note layered over apples and spice.
Ricci Curbastro Rosé NV ($27)
In Franciacorta, Pinot Nero needs to make up at least 25% of the blend in rosé. Strawberry is mated perfectly with a nice bread note. The fruit tastes candied but this is bone dry with only 4 g/l of sugar left.
Barone Pizzini Golf 1927 ($32)
The nose is apple and brioche. The palate is rich and pushing into citrus. A perfect match for risotto or lobster.
Barone Pizzini Satèn Edizione 2011 ($42)
Bottles labelled “Satèn” are made using only white grapes; with this wine, that means often made only with Chardonnay. Bone dry with a mineral note that pokes through from start to finish. Rich and Complex.
Barone Pizzini Rosé Edizione 2013 ($40)
The red fruit is strawberry jam and maraschino cherry that’s met with pink grapefruit. Perfect acidity ties the wine together.
Berlucchi ’61 Satèn NV ($23)
A subtle vanilla note is met with apples and peach. Pair this with Parmesan cheese straight up to add some umami to the orchard fruit.
Berlucchi ’61 Brut NV ($40)
A mineral note and slight salinity to this wine make it stand out. There is a lot of complex flavours layered over the fruit in this bottle.
Berlucchi ’61 Rosé NV ($27)
Raspberry is front and centre in this bottle. Slight citrus starts to poke its way through on the finish.
Mosnel Brut Nature NV ($31)
No dosage is added to this wine, leaving only 1 g/l of residual sugar. Even with no sugar in the glass, it feels rich and sweet on the palate.
Mosnel Satèn 2012 ($50)
3 years on lees with 40% of the wine being barrel fermented brings a nice vanilla note to this bottle.
Rosé Pas Dosé 2011 ($47)
This wine has spent 4 years on lees and is made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. A nice bready note is layered over subtle strawberry and raspberry.