Franciacorta, Italy’s Premium Sparkling Wine

By Liz Palmer

What and Where is Franciacorta?

Franciacorta is a sparkling wine from the Province of Brescia, Northern Italy with DOCG status. It was first referenced as Franzacurta in the Eighth Book of Brescia in 1277. Guido Berlucchi produced the first Franciacorta in 1961, and during 1995 the sparkling wines of Franciacorta were awarded DOCG status. This tells you that Franciacorta has some history but it’s is a very young wine appellation and it has some serious merit.

Franciacorta’s layered geological formations boast complex microclimates. The wines are defined by both a sub-Alpine and Mediterranean-type climate due to the proximity of Lake Iseo.

The wines are produced using the Méthode Champenoise, or ‘Traditional Method’, in which the second fermentation takes place in the bottle, using a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco grapes This gives the wine more yeast contact, and results in a drier wine with biscuit and brioche notes creating a long finish.

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to visit this beautiful wine region and here is an overview.

I visited Ca’ del Bosco and was fortunate to see the harvest and quality control taking place.

Founded in 1969, is an icon of Italy’s Franciacorta region. The winery’s state-of-the-art cellar, unique in Franciacorta, has allowed the winemaking team to produce the best wines possible and with the highest quality. Their wines have collectively earned 41 “Tre Bicchieri” awards by Italy’s Gambero Rosso, since 1998, the second-highest awarded winery in history by the publication.

Here is my video of what we saw on our tour.

Wines Tasted:

Vintage Collection Saten
Tasting Notes: silky smooth, soft, and well-rounded

Cuvee Prestige
Tasting Notes:  a well-balanced wine, fresh and crisp

Vintage Collection Brut
Tasting Notes: structured, full-bodied, intense and persistent.  

Other Wines In The Region

On my second day, I visited the co-op of  Cantine La Pergola. This winery is certified organic and uses a small percentage of sulfite.

Founded in 1979, Cantine La Pergola is made up of 45 members, 30 of which confer grapes, and control 80 hectares of vineyards, 90% of which are organic: with the annual production reaching 300,000 bottles (50% certified organic).

Wines Tasted:

VALTÈNESI DOC CHIARETTO – SELENE (2016)
Note: This wine is known as the “wine of the first night” because it is literally produced in one night.
Tasting Notes: beautiful floral notes; well balanced; light elegant wine

La Pergola Lugana
Tasting Notes: soft floral notes, excellent balance some hints of jasmine

La Pergola – Eos (2012)
Note: autochthonous grape varietal Groppello (cultivated 1300) with small percentages of Marzemino, Barbera and Sangiovese.
Tasting Notes:  bright ruby red; aroma and taste recall spices, herbaceous notes, and minerals and persistent almond aftertaste

La Pergola – Brol (2010)
Notes: Aged 18 month in second-hand oak barrels; limited production (5000 liters per year)
Tasting Notes: Red fruits with some spice notes; high acidity

In addition to producing delicious local wines, Cantine La Pergola also produces olive oil and organizes bike tours.

 Azienda Agricola Ricci Curbastro. This winery is quite historical with a history of 17 generations. The owner, Mr Cubastro introduced me to the soon-to-be 18th generation, his eldest son.

The most impressive aspect of this vineyard is that it is one of the few family-owned in the region. I also toured their museum which incorporated historic winemaking tools. Cubastro winery owns 32 hectares of vineyards and has created solar energy panels that help run and maintain the winery. The next step for this winery is to convert all of their production to organic.

Wines Tasted:

Franciacorta Brut
Note: blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Nero
Tasting Notes: Light, easy to drink, hints of floral notes

Franciacorta Rose Brut
Note: This salmon pink wine is perfect for the nice warm summer day
Tasting Notes: Light; refreshing, hints of floral note

Sebino IGT Bianco ZeroNote: No preservatives or chemical treatment
Tasting Notes: Nice minerality and freshness; good balance

I also visited Azienda Barone Pizzini, the first organic winery in the Franciacorta region. Silvano Brescianini, General Manager and Vice President of the Consortium provided us with a tour and details about the winery.

We started our session watching a video about the historical aspect of the winery. The video can be viewed here. The most impressive aspect of this winery is how organized it is and how the facilities are arranged. Is it no surprise that this winery is a Biodiversity award winner! They produce 70-80 different types of wines.

Wines Tasted:

Golf 1927 Franciacorta Docg
Tasting Notes:  Nice mineral and floral notes with delicate notes of honey; elegant,
creamy and fresh – well-balanced

 Satèn Franciacorta DOCG Edition 2014
Note: name familiar to the word “silk”
Tasting Notes: Some nice citrus notes, with pressing minerality

Rosé Franciacorta DOCG 2013 Edition
Tasting Notes: Pinot Noir is transformed into hints of rose petals in the glass; The structure and balance of this wine are interwoven in a lingering tension between its rich flavor and acidity.

I had lunch at Agriturismo Corte Lantieri with a menu dedicated to Franciacorta Festival and the area’s traditional food.

Thereafter I went to Azienda Guido Berlucchi , a beautiful medieval-looking vineyard. Berlucchi has been producing certified organic wine since 2016. It took the winery about four years to fully convert to organic wine. And today, it is known as the largest producer of wine in the region I was happy to learn that the sparkling Berlucchi 61 Brut Franciacorta wine that I tried can be found at LCBO / Vintages (Ontario, Canada).

http://www.lcbo.com/lcbo/product/berlucchi-61-brut-franciacorta/514323#.WsK1ErYrIWo

VINTAGES#: 514323

Wines Tasted:

Palazzo Lana Saten (2008)
Tasting Notes: refined notes of apple and pear, with an appealing acidity and firm structure, along with delicious, crisp notes of fruit.

Berlucchi ‘61 Brut
Tasting Notes: fragrant notes, crisp with hints of apple and pear and citrus, with a long finish

Berlucchi ‘61 Saten
Note: 100% Chardonnay
Tasting Notes: hints of citrus fruit, some tangy acidity, full and firm structure

The last winery I visited was Azienda Agricola Mosnel which was located in the open and fresh area of Franciacorta where the grapes are exposed to a lot of breezes coming off of the alps. The grapes will ripen a week earlier here than other areas. In this vineyard, 20% pinot blanc is harvest more than other regions and wineries due to climate region.

If you are ever in the Franciacorta region, visit the vineyards mentioned and also check out theFranciacorta Festival September 2018.

Shadi Yazdan and Liz Palmer

Spotlight interview: Jim Pagiamtzis sharing journey on Networking and Speaking

Check out this short interview with Tonya Hofmann CEO of the Public Speakers Association as Jim Pagiamtzis sharing insights on journey of Networking and Speaking. Watch until the end to hear some hilarious stories.

HOW TO READ A CHAMPAGNE LABEL

Champagne labeling laws differ from other parts of France because the entire region falls under a single AOP, the protected term ‘Champagne’ and the wines are categorized according to styles rather than designations. Here the status of the producer is more important than the vineyard sites.

To distinguish between the numerous different styles, Champagne labels use a range of terms as described below.

* Level of sweetness:
o Ultra Brut – Bone dry or very dry
o Brut – Dry
o Sec – Literally dry but has higher sugar level than Brut
o Demi-sec – Medium dry
o Doux – Sweet

* Non-vintage: A Champagne made from a blend of wines from different years.

Some Champagne houses may use up to hundred reserve wines from previous years to produce a consistent house style.

* Vintage: A champagne made from a single year’s harvest. The label must show the year of the harvest.

* Blanc de Blancs: This term on the label means that the Champagne has been produced entirely from white grapes, in other words, Chardonnay.

* Blanc de Noirs: Refers to Champagne made from black grape varieties (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).

* Rosé: This is often made by blending a little red wine with whites.

* Grande Marque: Means ‘Great Brand’. A producer may use this term but according to AOP rules does not guarantee quality or any style.

* Cuvée de Prestige: These are the top-of-the-range releases from the Champagne houses and may come with a vintage on the label. Some examples include ‘Dom Pérignon’ from Moët et Chandon, ‘Cristal’ from Louis Roederer and ‘La Grande Dame’ from Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.

* Marque d’Acheteur: Means ‘Buyer’s Own Brand’. These are often seen on Champagnes sold within a retail or supermarket chain that sells them using their own brand name.

Apart from these there are other non-mandatory terms that may appear on the label that specify type of Champagne producers, maturation time etc.

wine-searcher.com

CHAMPAGNE AFFECTED BY CHARDONNAY SHORTAGE

During the London launch last week of Dom Ruinart 2006 and Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004, Ruinart’s Chef de Cave, Frédéric Panaïotis said that supply was now being constrained by the amount of Chardonnay grapes it could source for the house – a specialist in Blanc de Blancs Champagnes.

“Everything is going well but my boss would be happier if we could get more Chardonnay grapes,” he began.

“Chardonnay is still less than 30% of the planted area in Champagne, and the price is not cheap for Chardonnay grapes, while buying vineyards is not easy, so we have to grow slowly: demand is faster than the growth we could have, but we are used to it,” he added.

Frédéric Dufour, the president & CEO of Ruinart, said that the supply of Chardonnay was limiting growth for the house, describing the grape as a “precious raw material” in Champagne.

“The hardest grape to get is Chardonnay, because even if you have Pinot Noir, you need Chardonnay, and Chardonnay is the least planted grape [in Champagne],” he said.

He then commented, “And for great Chardonnay you need chalk, and certain slopes, and the quantities of Chardonnay produced can be tricky – the grape is fragile because it blossoms early; so great Chardonnay is the most challenging to get.”

He also recorded that, despite the shortage, no more Chardonnay is being planted in Champagne, commenting, “Everything that can be planted to make good Chardonnay has been planted.”

Having observed that “everyone is after good Chardonnay,” he stated, “Good Chardonnay is the most precious raw material in Champagne today.”

Of the 34,000 hectares of vineyards in Champagne today, approximately 10,000ha are planted with Chardonnay, an area that has gradually risen almost 30% over the past 20 years.

Chardonnay is the least planted grape in Champagne, with more than 13,000ha devoted to Pinot Noir, and around 11,000ha given over to Meunier.

Ruinart is a specialist in Champagnes made from Chardonnay: Its ‘R’ de Ruinart NV contains a minimum of 40% Chardonnay; its Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay, sourced predominantly from Premier Cru vineyards, while the Ruinart Brut Rosé is typically 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot, of which 18% is red wine.

Meanwhile, the prestige cuvée Dom Ruinart is made entirely with Grand Cru Chardonnay, predominantly from the Côte des Blancs (70%) and the remainder from the Montagne de Reims. And the Dom Ruinart Rosé has the same basis as the blanc, to which 15%-20% red wine (Pinot Noir from Verzenay and Verzy) is added.

The suggested retail prices for the current releases from Ruinart are as follows:

Dom Ruinart Blanc 2006 – £140.00

Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004 – £200.00

HEIDSIECK’S “CHAMPAGNE CHARLIE” IS MAKING A COME BACK

Under EPI ownership, Charles Heidsieck is planning to resurrect its prestige cuvée called Champagne Charlie, which was axed in 1985 when Rémy Martin bought the brand.

Champagne Charlie was launched with the 1979 vintage, and was named after the founder of the house, Charles-Camille Heidsieck, known as Champagne Charlie.

According Stephen Leroux, “Champagne Charlie will come back”… “We have made the wine, but it won’t hit the market for 5-6 years.”

Explaining why the prestige cuvée was discontinued, he said that Rémy stopped producing Champagne Charlie in 1985 after acquiring the house because the group included Krug, which was prioritized as the top-end Champagne in the stable.

“There was Krug, Charles Heidsieck and Piper [Heidsieck], and Krug was the prestige Champagne, Piper the commercial one, and Charles was supposed to be the niche and good-value Champagne, but there was no focus on it,” he recalled.

While Krug was sold to LVMH in 1999, Charles and Piper were acquired by EPI in 2011, under the new owner both houses have been undergoing a repositioning as the company, which is 100% owned by the Descours family, is bringing the houses back to their former glory.

But for those unable to wait for the rebirth of Champagne Charlie, Leroux said that the house is releasing historic vintages of the vintage-dated prestige cuvée from its cellar.

“In the meantime we are selling some of the old Champagne Charlie from five vintages, ’79, ’81, ’82, ’83 and ’85, and this will be under an oenoteque concept in very small quantities.”

The price of these late releases, some of which have already been disgorged, will range from £300 to £600 per bottle, according to Leroux, who also said that all late-releases direct from the Charles Heidsieck cellars would, from this year, receive a special label.

“We are coming up with new labelling for our older vintages, so whether it is Champagne Charlie, Blanc de Millénaires, or Royal Cuvée, there will be new packaging for these wines, which will be released in tiny quantities,” he said. (Charles Heidsieck released a Royal Wedding Cuvée to celebrate the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981).

 

Discrete Art Show and Networker – Nov. 28, 2012

Discrete EXPOSURE Art Show and Networker

This exhibition will showcase the modern and sensual paintings created by Lisa Cripps, Canadian Artist.  Lisa’s artwork is a continuance of her creative life’s journey as she pursues an evolutionary life path. As she evolves, so does her art! Please visit her website to see all her different styles of art.  The website is www.lisacripps.com .

One complimentary glass of wine or bar rail drink and complimentary light hors d’oeuvres will be offered.

This event will be focused on the Bay Street banker/financier community and the upscale Yorkville community.  Come enjoy the ambiance, meet new connections and see some great art!

We will also be auctioning off an Original Lisa Cripps Painting.

Live entertainment and art critics will also be present.

The event is limited to 90 lucky individuals.  Please R.S.V.P. us at info@metroactive.org with the heading ‘Art Show‘.

Wednesday November  28,  2012 –  6:30 PM  – 10:00 PM

C  House Cafe’ Lounge
70 Yorkville Avenue
Toronto, ON M5R 1B9
Tel: (416) 333-2220