About two weeks ago, a tasting of Franciacorta was on the schedule in our wine tasting club AuZone. Franciacorta is Italy’s probably best-renown sparkling wine district (although Prosecco may be the best known), and sports a DOCG classification and some Champagne envy, in the best meaning of the word. Franciacorta is located in the Brescia province in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. Franciacorta is a sparkling-only DOCG of some 2 000 hectares/5 000 acres. Still white and red wines from the same area are produced under the DOC Curtefranca, formerly known as Terre di Franciacorta.
Franciacorta is produced using the so-called traditional method (second fermentation in the bottle, as in Champagne), and at least 18 months on the lees is required for non-vintage Franciacorta (the same as the recently increased requirement for Champagne), 30 months for vintage wines, and 60 months for Riserva. Grape varieties used are Chardonnay (85% of plantations), Pinot Nero (i.e. Noir, 10%) and Pinot Bianco (i.e. Blanc, 5%). The rosé version (rosato) must contain at least 15% Pinot Nero, and there is a version of blanc de blancs called Satèn (“satin”) that may contain the two white varieties and with a maximum pressure of 4,5 atmospheres instead of the usual 6 atm.
Franciacorta is rather new on the sparkling wine scene. The pioneer Guido Berlucchi released his first wine under the designation Pinot di Franciacorta, then a still wine, in 1957. In 1961, the first sparkling wine followed under the same name, and was produced by a young winemaker at Berlucchi’s called Franco Ziliani. The DOC status was awarded in 1967, at which time there were 11 producers of sparkling wine in the area, and the DOCG status in 1995.
Olle was our host, and he had made on-location research during a previous trip. We tasted six wines, of which four Franciacorta and two references – another Italian bubble and a Champagne – and as usual they were served blind. All four were similar in price.
Fratelli Berlucchi Franciacorta Satèn 2007
70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Bianco
Light yellow. The nose is rather smoky with burnt match, yellow apple and other yellow fruit with a small touch of tropical fruit. Rather fruity on the palate, citrus, some pear and passion fruit, good acidity, dry, slightly spicy. Rather long aftertaste, good balance. 86 p.
0 best and 1 worst vote.
Fratelli Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut 2007
90% Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, 10% Pinot Nero
Light yellow, with a little depth of colour. Nose with pear, white currants, some red berries and hints of smoke and mineral. On the palate red apples, pear, red berries, some spice, good acidity, a hint of bitterness, rather dry. Foody style. 88 p
2 best votes including mine and 1 worst vote.
To me, this wine seemed defintely Pinot Noir influenced in style, so I was surprised that it only had 10% Pinot Noir in the blend. But then again, several other wines only contained Chardonnay or Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc.
Il Mosnel Franciacorta Satèn 2007
100% Chardonnay, 60% fermented in steel tank and the rest in small oak barrels.
Light yellow. Nose with hints of smoke, citrus, some passion fruit, some hints of green notes, honey. Palate with citrus, other yellow fruit, mineral, good acidity, a hint of bitterness (of the earthy type) that goes rather well together with the minerality. Rather long aftertaste, fresh style. 86 p
1 best vote.
Il Mosnel Franciacorta Extra Brut 2006
100% Chardonnay, 30 months on the lees.
Light yellow. Initially quite clear smoke notes in the nose, yellow fruit including apple, mineral. Palate with citrus, high acidity, some mineral, some grapefruit bitterness. The bitterness lingers in the aftertaste. It would have shown a rather fresh style, if it wasn’t for the bitterness. 84 p
2 worst votes, including mine.
Ferrari Perlé 2006
Trento DOC in the Trentino-South Tyrol region, grape variety Chardonnay.
Bright yellow. The nose is slightly smoky, definitely bready, with yellow and red apples including winter apples, some mineral. To me a wonderful and classic Champagne nose with Pinot Noir notes. On the palate yellow apple, pear, good acidity, some spice, a hint of bitterness. The palate didn’t quite live up to what the nose promised. 87 p
2 best and 1 worst note.
This vintage version is not the basic and most common Ferrari. It is interesting to note that it wasn’t Champagne and didn’t contain any Pinot Noir. I wasn’t alone in getting clear Champagne vibes from this wine.
Leclerc Briant Cuvée de Réserve Brut NV
Champagne, 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.
Bright yellow, with some depth of colour. Nose with citrus, other yellow fruit, rather noticeable green notes, mineral, some development. Palate with yellow and red apples, good concentration, good acidity, some spice. 86 p
1 best and 1 worst votes.
Next to the other wines, it wasn’t obvious to me that this was a Champagne, since it was the Ferrari that showed the most classical Champagne notes. It did however show the second-most developed notes (also typical of Champagne) after the Ferrari, but it didn’t rise above the average quality level of the tasting, and the green notes disturbed me slightly. A weak vintage in the blend?
Judging from this tasting, the sparkling wines from Franciacorta are generally good. Some of them were more aperitif-styled and some of them more in the style of food wines. Compared to e.g. Prosecco and spumante from some other parts of Italy they are reasonably similar to Champagne, but far from identical. Their aromas are more fruity than what I typically find in Champagne – probably an effect of the more southern location of the vineyards – but despite the same cellar treatment they don’t quite show the complexity and the whole palette of Champagne aromas. Their acidity is somewhat lower, but definitely high enough for them to taste dry and fresh. The tasting mostly confirmed my previous impression of where these wines are quality-wise, but it actually made me think that they were less similar to Champagne compared to what I thought before.
Swedish version of this post here.