I’m a sucker for sparking wine and particularly partial to Champagne. A while back I wrote about Prosecco which is made from the charmat method, but now let’s up the ante with a fizz to challenge Champagne.
You don’t have to travel far from the Prosecco’s Northern Italian homeland in the Veneto to find the small wine growing region of Brescia in Lombardy where they make Franciacorta . This has a higher price tag than Prosecco, but it’s a pucker bottle fermented sparking wine.
And boy, is a time consuming process.
After fermenting in stainless steel the wines put into bottle for the second fermentation. In fact the minimum maturation on lees for Franciacorta is 18 months for a non-vintage, 24 months for rosé and 30 months for Millesimato, ‘vintage’ wine and this cannot be released until 37 months after harvest. In other words the winery has also got to keep it for a while in bottle after its been disgorged. Actually all styles require some bottle age. ’Reserve’ classification requires a whopping 60 months of ageing.
Franciacorta is a DOCG area – ie a recognised top spot for wine production (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita or Controlled and Guaranteed Origin.)
It’s cool region is a few km south of Lake Iseo where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are happily ensconced in the calcareous soils. While is the classic fizzy duo, up to 50% of Pinot Blanc can join the party and even 10% of local Erbamat is welcome.
The climate is mellowed by the small lake, and the wind which blows across it prevents the vines from freezing in the winter and provides a cooling and healthy breeze in the summer.
This basic Franciacorta and the rosé can be dry or sweet or anything in between. A blanc de blanc brut style called Satèn is currently very trendy. It has a softer – satin-like – fizz than most Franciacorta (4.5 x atmospheric pressure or 4.5 bar) while generally Franciacorta has around the Champagne level of 6 atm. Millesimato and Reserve are also drier styles with higher pressure fizz.
At a recent tasting I met Federico Fossati who left behind his job as an accountant in the Veneto for Franciacorta in 2009. Here’s a man who bubbles with excitement for his wine.
It was a chance meeting with an experienced winemaker Pierangelo Bonomi, that set Federico on his new and sparkling path. The ‘ever so enthusiastic’ accountant and the experienced oenologist established a new label Corteaura in Adro.
Adro is the hot spot for quality vineyards. They have been making wine here since the C13th, but sparkling wine production is relatively new. Federico has some vines of his own, but also sources from local growers.
The Champenois have spent some centuries establishing a reputation for a decent sparking wine, so it will take time for Franiacorta to gain a global following. However if Federico Fossati is anything to go by, the energy is there to fast forward the process. In the meantime the wines remain very reasonably priced for the quality, so it’s a good time to enjoy them.
Time for some wine
Corteaura Franciacorta Brut
This is 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir. This has biscuit flavours blended with nettle notes in a very appetising way. It has a refreshingly tart finish. There is no lack of finesse. Score 17
Corteaura Franciacorta Pas Dosé Brut
This 20% Chardonnay and 80% Pinot Noir blend has 50 month ageing. Plenty of rich, nutty autolytic characters. Notes of marzipan. It is creamy and full, quite firmly structured, with a delicious dry finish. Score 18
Frederico also makes this delicious rosé. It’s not currently available in the UK
Corteaura Franciacorta Rosé
This rosé has a pretty colour and a hint of rose petal on the nose which belies its structured palate. After a vibrant jump onto the palate, it is rounded, silky, well structured with good intensity and some tension on the floral finish. This is the sort of fizz that would see you through from the aperitif to main course.
Corteaura Franciacorta Insé
This is a vintage wine from 2012. I love the rich and creamy texture. It has generosity, ampleness and is wonderfully mellow.
My local wine merchant – Lea and Sandeman https://www.leaandsandeman.co.uk
Corteaura Franciacorta Brut £19.95 (Price per bottle as a case £17.95)
Corteaura Franciacorta Pas Dosé Brut £23.95 (Price per bottle as a case £21.95)