Franciacorta DOCG, Lombardy

Ca’ Del Bosco Vineyard in the Franiacorta region of Lombardy

Ca’ Del Bosco Vineyard in the Franiacorta region of Lombardy

The sparkling wine segment has been bubbling over with growth in recent years and there are many worthy competitors bidding to take on Champagne as the apex producer of bubbles. Cava is an obvious contender, likewise California and the sparkling wines of England have become one of the favourites as well. But Franciacorta is maybe the most compelling choice among Champagne’s top challengers. Franciacorta has lots going for it: terroir; climate; innovation; and unique style. Plus a history of intense passion for sparkling wine.

Quality and innovation are real hallmarks of Franciacorta’s drive to make the best sparkling wine in the world. The region’s still wine making history goes back to ancient times and even sparkling wine has been made in the area for centuries. However, the single-minded focus on making metodo classico bubbly of the highest possible quality had its genesis with a young winemaker named Franco Ziliani. He convinced his boss Guido Berlucchi to let him make a metodo classico wine and from the 1st vintage in 1961 it was a sensational success. Other wineries emulated the wine and thereafter the drive to make sparkling of the highest order seized the regional consciousness with a kind of fanatical grip. At this point we have to mention the other great personality of Franciacorta, Maurizio Zanella of Ca’ del Bosco. Of the zealots of Franciacorta, Zanella is the charming lead man. And his approach to pushing innovation to ever new heights has helped lift the reputation of Franciacorta.

Why Franciacorta For Sparkling?

Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Chardonnay (together with Pinot Bianco) are the main varieties

Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Chardonnay (together with Pinot Bianco) are the main varieties

The Prosecco sensation has helped propel the dramatic rise of the sparkling wine segment but has also tended to overshadow a range of better quality bubbles. For wine drinkers outside of Italy, Franciacorta has been a bit lost in the Prosecco din. But Franciacorta occupies a much different niche. Not only is it made in the “champagne method” but more importantly Franciacorta’s passion is to produce innovative and expressive wines with individual personality (something that is not central to Prosecco’s market niche). Whether it is the constant large-scale innovation of Ca’ del Bosco or the drive to zero-dosage wines from smaller producers, Franciacorta is marked by its passion to produce distinctive wine driven by flavour and aroma more than “trueness-to-type”. With a warmer climate but diurnal temperature changes from the cooling effect of the nearby alps, Franciacorta’s grapes tend to be very expressive. And perhaps less acidic than some competitors.

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Where Is Franciacorta?

The location of Franciacorta is one of the sexiest elements of the wine. We are not far from the outskirts of Milan, the fashion capital of the world, and on the shores of one of Europe’s prettiest mountain lakes. Style and grace can’t help but infuse the wines. The climate here has a unique aspect as the area around the lake is a sort of bowl which captures the cool air moving down from the Alps to the north. So there is enough warmth to mature the grapes to ripeness and sugar balance but the cool nights lengthen the ripening period and help the fruit to keep sufficient freshness. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that go into Franciacorta thrive in the location.

Who Are The Winemakers?

The vineyards of Bellavista

The vineyards of Bellavista

As always it is impossible to list all of the winemakers or to try to sift down to the best ones. We can only give a representative sample so here goes (but see www.franciacorta.net for a full list):

Fratelli Berlucchi

Bellavista

Ca’ del Bosco

Villa Crespia

Ferghettina

When Is The Best Time To Visit?

A visit to Franciacorta is likely to be combined with time in Milan, Piemonte or Venice. Any time is wonderful. There is fantastic skiing nearby in the winter, the scenery is gorgeous through each season and the food is, of course, perfect. July and August might be the best months to avoid because of the summer vacation rush.

Useful Links:

www.franciacorta.net provides great history and knowledge about the region and the wines as well as links to all of the wineries.

www.italia.it provides useful travel information for all of Italy.

Mountains, lake and valley bowl combine to create Franciacorta’s own special climate

Mountains, lake and valley bowl combine to create Franciacorta’s own special climate

Map and photo credits: www.franciacorta.net; Ca’ del Bosco; Bellavista; Pixabay