Franciacorta is a fantastic Italian fizz produced by the same method as Champagne. Only three grape varieties are allowed Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. It is a premium sparkling wine commanding relatively high prices due to the very low levels of production. Not much is exported to the UK but it is certainly worth looking out for.
Still interested? Delve deeper….
What is Franciacorta?
Franciacorta is a fantastic Italian fizz produced by the same method as Champagne. Franciacorta only has one DOCG which can produce all of the permitted styles. Again, like Champagne, it can be labelled solely as Franciacorta (rather than Franciacorta DOCG). The most common grape variety is Chardonnay followed by Pinot Noir, two important Champagne varieties. There are many similarities between these two premium sparkling wines. Pinot bianco (blanc) is also permitted but only a maximum on 50% is allowed in each style.
How is Franciacorta made?
Franciacorta is produced by the traditional method. This means the first fermentation- producing alcohol occurs in a tank, much the same way as a normal white or red still wine. Once the fermentation has finished the wines can then be bottled. Once bottled an addition of sugar and yeast occurs, the bottles are then sealed. The second fermentation in the bottle creates carbon dioxide (CO2) which creates the wines’ signature fizz. After the fermentation has finished the wine stays in the bottle with the dead yeasts. The yeasts will die when they have eaten all of the sugar in the wine! Dead yeasts are called ‘lees’ and these give the signature flavour to ‘traditional method’ sparkling wines. The time the wine spends on its lees is determined by legal requirements and the producers’ style.
After this the wine is disgorged. This simply means the dead yeasts (lees) are removed by slowly tilting the bottle so the lees locate in the neck of the bottle. Once all of the lees are located the neck is quickly frozen and the cap is removed. The pressure from the CO2 expels the frozen lees and they are removed. The wine is then topped up with the ‘dosage’ which is a mixture of sugar and wine. The amount of sugar added determines the sweetness level of the final wine e.g. Brut. The final wine can then be labelled and enjoyed!
The region of Franciacorta
Franciacorta is produced in the Italian region of Lombardy. It is one of the most famous wines produced from Lombardy and has a premium reputation. Lombardy is located in Northern Italy.
The History of Franciacorta.
Grape growing in the region of Franciacorta has a very long history dating back to the Roman times. Sparkling wine production began much later in the 16th century. However, it wasn’t until the 20th century that rules were put in place to govern the production. Sparkling Franciacorta was first made in 1961 and the name was protected in the same decade. In 1995 it became an official DOCG.
The styles and tastes of Franciacorta.
Franciacorta can be made in a number of styles. Ageing, grape variety and the pressure are some of the differences however, they all fall under the Franciacorta DOCG.
The most common are non-vintage meaning the wines are blended from different years and varieties. This means that the winery can create a more consistent ‘house style’. It must be at least 25 months old before it is sold with at least 18 months in bottle. It can be made as Brut Natural, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Dry or Demi-Sec depending on the dosage. Typically, the wines are crisp and fresh with flavours of pastry and brioche from the time spent on its lees. This style can have more fruit flavours as it legally has to spend the shortest amount of time ageing.
This is traditionally called Millesimato in Franciacorta. All the wine is produced from grapes harvested in the same year. This means that the conditions of the year have a large role on the final wine. Most producers will only make Franciacorta Millesimato in the very best years. The ageing for a vintage wine is longer than non-vintage. The minimum age before release is 37 months and at least 30 months or 2.5 years in the bottle. This means the final wine develops rich biscuit and pastry flavours and could start developing more savoury notes.
This is a style with extra maturation. The wine must spend a minimum of 60 months or 5 years in the bottle and therefore can only be released after 67 months! This is a very long time and therefore only small amounts are produced. The wine will have developed many tertiary (ageing) flavours such as savoury mushrooms, honey and even waxy notes. There will also be flavours from the dead lees.
Pink in colour this can be produced from any of the three permitted varieties but must include Pinot Noir.
This is a blanc de blanc meaning it is only produced from white grape varieties. In the case of Franciacorta this means it is produced from Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (blanc). Strangely it must be at a lower pressure (less fizzy) than the other styles.
- Both rosé and Satèn can be non-vintage, vintage or even Riserva.