By Shalom Chin.
Franciacorta is a wine region situated in the province of Brescia, Italy where Milan is 1.5 hours away. The region is known for its bottle-fermented sparkling wines made in the similar manner as Champagne in France. Some Italians would like to refer to the region as the Champagne region of Italy and ascribe to it similar prestige as Champagne. Unfortunately, knowledge of this wine region still has not been marketed well outside of Italy. From speaking to many wine-drinkers, only a select few knows about this region that makes high quality sparkling wines.
I would like to explore some points which makes Franciacorta special and yet different.
Similarities between Franciacorta and Champagne
- Both regions produce sparkling wines which are bottle-fermented. This means that the bubbles are produced in the individual wine bottles and not by carbon gas injection.
- Both regions use mainly Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay to make their base wines.
- The designation for sweetness levels of Franciacorta is similar to that of Champagne.
- Franciacorta and Champagne produces Non-vintage sparkling wines, vintage and rosé sparkling.
A Franciacorta vineyard located at Brusati.
- Franciacorta produces a measly 13 million bottles compared to 300 million bottles of Champagne.
- Franciacorta has about 2,200 hectares where else Champagne has 34,000 hectares. Champagne has more than 15 times the area of production than Franciacorta.
- Non-vintage Franciacorta is aged for a minimum of 18 months on its lees (simply, it is bottle-fermented) and a total of 25 months from the date of harvest. Champagne is aged on its lees for at least 12 months and needs a minimum of 15 months aging before release.
- Vintage Franciacorta is aged for a minimum of 30 months on its lees (simply, it is bottle-fermented and untouched) and a total of 37 months from the date of harvest. Vintage Champagne is aged on its lees for at least 12 months and needs a minimum of 36 months aging before release.
- Franciacorta has a sparkling wine called Satèn which is different from Champagne’s Blanc de Blanc. Although both are made from Chardonnay (some Pinot Blanc is allowed in Franciacorta), Satèn is made only in the Brut style and up to 5 atmospheric pressure, lower than that of Champagne, making the wine creamier in texture.
- For both NV and Vintage wines, the minimal aging requirement for Franciacorta is more than Champagne.
- Because the climate of Franciacorta is warmer than Champagne, the grapes are riper. This produces wines which are fruitier and softer than Champagne.
- Some parts of Franciacorta have limestone soils similar to Champagne, producing wines of fine minerality matched with fruitiness.
- Franciacorta has a Vintage Riserva which is a sparkling wine aged for a minimum of 60 months on its lees and a total of 67 months from the date of harvest. This is the equivalent aging as many Prestige Cuvées from Champagne Houses.
Calcerous and volcanic rock structure of Franciacorta
The unique thing about Franciacorta wines is its taste. I find the minerality in its vintage wines more distinct compared to its NV wines. At the same time, there is fruitiness on the palate that you don’t usually find in Champagne unless it is a warm year or the dosage is zero. When it comes to the aromas of autolysis (baked bread aromas) that originates from the process of bottle-fermentation, I find that Franciacorta is less pronounced that Champagne due to the interference from the fruit. This is why it took me a long time before I came across our producer, Castelveder, who has achieved a fine balance of both fruit and autolysis aromas.
To know more about Castelveder, sign-up on https://www.bnulicious.com/signup or book an appointment to taste the wines at our space at Kreta Ayer through firstname.lastname@example.org / whatsapp +658322395