FABULOUS FRANCIACORTA – The next in the World of Fizz
Watch out champagne and Prosecco.
Those of you who have flown into Bergamo [or Milan as a certain, ‘well-known’ budget airline calls it – he he] will be aware just how beautiful the region is and that there are a number of lakes in the area. Best known is Lake Como but if you travel a little further south you will find Lake Iseo not far from the city of Brescia and wine region of Franciacorta.
Franciacorta ‘Sparkling Wines’ are made in exactly the same way as that well-known & ‘famous’ region in France! Here they use the same grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir also including some Pinot Blanc too.
The region is part of Italy known as Lombardy and when making Franciacorta these can only be sparkling wines if to get the official approval or designation ‘DOCG’. The wine must be made by bottle fermentation and most importantly have Zero Dosage. This is the wine that is used to ‘top up’ the bottles once they have removed the sediment. They must use the same wine as already in the bottle whereas in some regions the flavour can be adjusted for dryness or sweetness at this stage.
One big difference is that they add less sugar with the yeast to the base ‘still wine’ that is then bottled. They close the bottle with a ‘crown cap’ and put the bottles into the cellar so that the second fermentation can begin. This produces a mousse that has tiny bubbles and is almost creamy on the tongue so that despite being dry still offers a gentle lovely creamy flavour drawing the consumer into its spell.
The Franciacorta I love is Ferghettina, a family business set up by Roberto Gratti after 20 years as cellarmaster with one of the early pioneers of the region. He created Ferghettina in 1990 and built their stunning new winery that overlooks Lake Iseo between 2002 and 2005 where they now produce 3000,000 bottle a year. He is now assisted by his daughter Laura and son Matteo whose has developed an amazing new bottle shape – it has a SQUARE bottom.
Their passion is paramount and managing 120 hectares of vineyards in 6 localities with the DOC region they select to use only half of the grapes available. Meticulous selection, skilful blending and long bottle ageing give these wines finesse and elegance that I think, outstrips their price.
That square bottomed bottle
When I first saw this bottle I thought it was a marketing gimmick BUT NO it isn’t. Not easy to explain in writing but during a ‘second fermentation’ the yeast cells [lees] fall to the bottom of the bottle that is now laying on its side. The wine now begins to develop and mature as the dead yeast work together producing its aroma, flavours and colour. The longer ‘on the lees’ the better the wine and with Ferghettina’s Milledi Vintage that is a full 36 months.
The benefit of the special bottle is that there is more wine in contact with more lees which adds to the maturation process. I am told the winemakers in Champagne are keeping their eyes on this, let us see how long it is until one the Champagne House take the idea on board. You heard if from me in Countryside La vie remember!! Ha ha
Ferghettina Brut sells for a little under £20 and is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir ageing for 24 months. You should get hints of white flowers and a touch of hazelnuts on the palate.
Fergehettina Milledi Blanc 2012 is £32.45 in its Gift Box and is solely from Chardonnay and as I say above has 36 months on the lees. This is very elegant, touches of citrus on nose and palate with some brioche character too – pure joy!
[some parts of the year we do special offer with around £5 per bottle off – yippee!]
Salut folks – Andrew