Franciacorta: Italy's Answer to Champagne

Move over moscato and prosecco, Franciacorta might be the next big thing in Italian sparkling wine
Franciacorta: Italy's Answer to Champagne

Bonfadini Vineyards

This picture is worth 1,000 sips.

A territory situated within the Province of Brescia in northern Italy's Lombardy region, Franciacorta is renowned for panoramic village views, castles, and rolling hills that naturally inspire artistic expression and overall joie de vivre.

For 16 days in 2016, during the months of June and July, over one million visitors "walked across water" on a pop-up art installation on Franciacorta’s Lake Iseo called Christo Floating Piers. It was a 1.9-mile modular floating dock system constructed of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes covered with shimmering yellow fabric undulated just above the water's surface connecting the villages of Sulzano, Monte Isola, and the island of San Paolo.

Another more enduring work of art in Franciacorta is its namesake sparkling pinot noir-chardonnay blend made using secondary in-bottle fermentation, a.k.a. Méthode Champenoise, the same process used in making Champagne.

Many of us are familiar with Italy's better-known sparkling classics like moscato and prosecco, as well as France's Champagne, but Franciacorta remains an outlier across much of the globe due to its recent heritage and limited production. Franciacorta's winemaking history dates back just 50 years, while Champagne stretches back nearly 350 years. Also, Franciacorta has 100 wineries on 5,400 acres, compared with 19,000 vignerons and Champagne houses on 80,000 acres in France, giving the former region 20 times lower production, resulting in only 11 percent being exported.

But for what Franciacorta producers lack in volume, they make up for in distinction. Consorzio per la Tutela del Franciacorta, a collaborative community of growers, obsesses over quality aspects such as improved standards for gentler grape-pressing techniques, and recently established aging periods for different styles ranging from extra brut to demi-sec. It also helps that Lake Iseo's moderating effects combined with warm, sunny, summer days followed by cool nights perfectly ripen grapes to retain ideal acidity levels vital for producing DOCG-caliber sparkling wines.

Here's what I experienced with their Nobilium Bonfadini Franciacorta Brut:

Straw yellow with golden tints, fine yet persistent effervescence that's complex and crisp with hints of sweet cherry on the nose and honey on the bouquet. Bubbles are consistent and plentiful. A mélange of tart peach and strawberry runs strong on the palate finishing with melon and lime zest giving it depth. The resulting magical aroma and signature silky-smooth mouthfeel translates into a regal drinking experience.

Coverage made possible by participating in a sponsored tasting.

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