Get to Know Franciacorta in 6 Quick Questions Gallery
December 6, 2018
Italy’s sparkling answer to French Champagne
Get to Know Franciacorta in 6 Quick Questions
While prosecco dominates much of Italy’s sparkling wine limelight, one tiny wine-producing region in Lombardy has staked its claim to fame with high-end bubbly. Wines from Franciacorta are made using the same method as Champagne and even built on the same key grapes as those from the prestigious region of France, leaning heavily into chardonnay and pinot noir.
As Italy’s savvy sparkling wine answer to French Champagne, Franciacorta also carries Italy’s highest classification designation of DOCG, which ensures that the wines are made from vineyards that have lower yields and a keen focus on quality measures in both the cellar and vineyard. Strict grape variety selection, scaled bottle-aging requirements, and the use of méthode champenoise are all part of the DOCG requirements for Franciacorta production. Curious? Want to learn more about this hidden, sparkling gem of northern Italy? Get to know Franciacorta in six quick questions.
Prosecco vs. Franciacorta: How Do They Compare?
Well, for starters, both prosecco and Franciacorta are Italians at heart. Prosecco’s homeland lies just north of Venice in the picturesque villages of Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Meanwhile, Franciacorta calls the region of Lombardy, north of Milan, home. In terms of grapes, prosecco is built on the high-acid, ancient glera grape while Franciacorta leans heavily into the classic Champagne grapes of chardonnay and pinot noir with a splash of pinot blanc and the indigenous erbamat in the mix.
As far as the bubbles go, prosecco’s second, bubble-capturing fermentation takes place in quick and economical large pressurized tanks. For upscale Franciacorta, the second fermentation takes place in the bottles (more on that in a minute). Finally, ranking, hierarchy and classifications always come into play for Italian wines. Prosecco is typically classified as a DOC wine and Franciacorta carries the elevated DOCG label lingo, letting consumers know that Franciacorta producers must follow the most stringent guidelines of production in terms of vineyard yields, quality measures and aging requirements.
Champagne vs. Franciacorta – Are They Similar?
Yes and no. Both wines are certainly sparkling and made in the traditional method known as méthode champenoise, where the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and the carbon dioxide quickly created during the fermentation process is captured within the bottle (instead of a sealed tank). This method of production tends to bring about a dry, complex wine with more yeasty, brioche notes and toned-down fruit character. Both Champagne and Franciacorta also rely on the classic grapes of chardonnay and pinot noir as key building blocks in their bottles of bubbly.
Sur lie (literally “on the lees”) aging is generally a component of the aging process for both Champagne and Franciacorta. This is where the wine rests on the spent yeast to extract additional flavor and creamy textural components.
Now, some differences. While Champagne has been produced for over 300 years (and perhaps even a bit longer), Franciacorta is relatively new to the wine scene with closer to 60 years under its winemaking belt. In terms of sheer volume, Champagne production is close to 100 times the volume of Franciacorta, making this sparkling gem a treasure to find. Pricing also plays into the distinctives, with Franciacorta often offering more wallet-friendly finds starting in the mid-$30s and topping out closer to $65-$70 a bottle (where many Champagnes tend to start).
What Sets Franciacorta Apart?
Franciacorta crafts ultra-elegant, hand-harvested, bottle-aged sparkling wine with an aggressive and increasing focus on organic viticulture along with distinctive dosage philosophies. These terroir-inspired wines are produced in a quaint growing region (only one-tenth of the size of Champagne) and carry the distinct opportunity to truly reflect the people and the place. Franciacorta was the first Italian sparkling wine to receive the highest designation of quality — the prestigious DOCG.
Is Franciacorta Sweet or Dry?
Franciacorta’s wine styles are dependent on dosage, the mix of sugar and base wine that’s added post-disgorgement. While styles carry a range of sweetness levels (with brut being the most common), current trends are leaning towards zero-dosage for many producers to amplify the wine’s innate liveliness, minerality and purity of fruit.
- Pas Dosé: Zero-dosage or “non-dosed,” representing the driest Franciacorta on the market
- Extra Brut: Considered very dry (sugar up to 6 grams per liter)
- Brut: The most versatile style (sugar less than 12 grams per liter)
- Extra Dry: Actually a touch sweeter than brut (sugar levels at 12-17 grams per liter)
- Sec: Slightly sweet (sugar 17-32 grams per liter)
- Demi-Sec: Carries a noticeably sweeter profile (sugar 33-50 grams per liter)
Are There Various Styles of Franciacorta?
Franciacorta wines tend to be crisp, complex, and refreshing along with being incredibly food-friendly. The wine’s diversity shows up in a variety of styles ranging from non-vintage to riserva bottles. Nonvintage Franciacorta is aged for a minimum of 18 months and can showcase a range of dosage levels. Satén (blanc de blancs) and rosé (at least 35 percent pinot noir) both spend at least two years aging prior to release. Vintage (designated as “millesimato”) and riserva wines continue to increase the aging requirements and grape quality levels, and they may only show dosage up to extra dry.
Franciacorta Finds : What Should I Buy and Try this Holiday Season?
The holidays are a prime time to introduce new wines and regions into the festive mix. Serving as easy conversation starters and classy glass goodies, bubbles whisper “‘tis the season.” Enter Franciacorta. Franciacorta comes with a tale to tell. A sparkling Italian traveler from an historic wine growing region — rich, versatile and completely capable of engaging both new and seasoned wine lovers, Franciacorta delivers an easy, “go-to” bottle of bubbly to kick off the holiday season. Here are a handful of bottles that won’t disappoint:
- Lantieri Extra Brut Franciacorta DOCG. Carrying 85 percent chardonnay and 15 percent pinot noir, Lantieri’s Extra Brut shows serious citrus and a slice of D ’Anjou pear with lively acidity and ongoing perlage.
- Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige. A classic blend of chardonnay, pinot blanc, and pinot noir, the cuvee shares a heady mix of ripe apple, warm spice and elegant aromatics.
- Berlucchi Franciacorta Rose. Fresh, racy and linear with a touch of ginger and a lovely blend of red berries and white peach.
- Ferghettina Franciacorta Cuvee Brut. A bit more understated with herbal nuances and a subtle nutty character that provide the backdrop to the more forward aromas of sweet citrus and apricot. Besides Franciacorta, another Italian wine region worth discovering is Sardinia, an island whose rich array of distinctive wines is increasingly easy to find in the U.S.
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