Two Sensational Holiday Sparklers that Won’t Break the Bank
Berlucci Franciacorta ’61 Brut
This 90-percent chardonnay, 10-percent pinot noir Franciacorta ‘61 Brut is an amazing value (despite its name, this is a non-vintage wine). In a blind tasting it blew away the competition, including some non-vintage Champagnes from well-known French houses. Unlike lesser Italian sparklers, this wine is made by the methodo classico, in which the wine experiences a second fermentation in the bottle (as opposed to a stainless steel tank).
The Fraciacorta ’61 Brut is a pretty, pale straw yellow in the glass, with a delicious, rich nose redolent of apple, pear, and a bit of kiwi, all revisited on the palate. But the element that presages the extraordinary quality of this wine is the bubbles — an extravagant foamy mousse of tiny, fine points that delight and engage the taster from the very first sip. This Brut is elegant, fresh, with a gorgeously crisp citrus finish. It was unanimously praised.
Franciacorta, where the Berlucchis grow the grapes for their sparkling wines, is located in Lombardy, in eastern Italy, just south of the shores of Lago d’Iseo. The land is sandy soil over bedrock and is rich in minerals; the alpine chill is tempered by the vineyards’ proximity to the lake. The area also experiences wide fluctuations in the daily temperatures, which secures the ripe fruit-acid balance in the wine.
You could drink this wine as you would Champagne — it is an elegant apéritif, fine enough for caviar, rich enough for turkey. I’d be happy to have it on my Thanksgiving table, or offer it to friends to ring in the New Year.
Berlucchi Franciacorta’61 Rosé
The Franciacorta Rosé is explosive; from the lovely pale salmon pink color to the almost aggressive mousse of pinpoint bubbles, this is a big wine. Created from 60-percent pinot noir and 40-percent chardonnay grapes, it is redolent of ripe dark fruit, tempered by yeasty notes and a moderately long, pleasurably acidic finish.
The structure is surprisingly full-bodied for a sparkling wine; it literally fills the mouth, perhaps due to the maceration of the pinot noir skins, which also contribute to the very pretty color. Like the Brut reviewed above, the ’61 Rose is a non-vintage bubbly created by the methodo classico, which puts it in a different league than other sparkling Italian wines, such as the simpler prosecco.
And while the rosé is perhaps a bit less elegant than its drier brut sister, it more than makes up for it with a generous flavor profile that I’d pair with almost any food likely to appear on a Thanksgiving table. It could also more than stand alone as an apéritif; there’s plenty to engage the senses without introducing food. And the color is crowd-pleasingly gorgeous!