See also my major regional profile from a visit to Franciacorta, but preceding that I rounded up four examples of these previously rarely seen sparkling wines that have started to make something of an impact on UK wine shelves. The UK’s first trade and press tasting of Franciacorta was held in London in July, and the wines have continued to gather column inches and a following amongst fizz lovers since.
From Lombardy in the north of Italy, the grapes for Franciacorta – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc – grow in a moderate climate amongst softly rolling hills. The wines must only be produced by the traditional method of secondary fermentation in bottle à la Champagne, and in 1995 when they were awarded DOCG’ status. A very different kettle of fish from Prosecco, the wines are regarded by many as the best dry sparkling wines in Italy’s armoury. Another couple of samples have recently landed on my desk, so here is Franciacorta Take 2 – though I have appended the tasting notes from my earlier article at the end for convenience.
Ferghettina, Franciacorta Brut NV, Italy
A blend of 95% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Nero, weighing in with 12.5% abv, this has a lemony/gold hue and plenty of small bubbles. There’s a nice sense of yeastiness here, a gentle almond toastiness and something like cider apples. On the palate that apple quality dominates, the wine is fresh and has a rich leesiness, the sweetness of the fruit offset by a bone dry finish. Not the longest finish of the wines here, but as it is substantially the cheapest, very good value. 88/100. £17 – £19, Corks of Cotham, WoodWinters, see all stockists on wine-searcher
Majolini, Franciacorta Electo Brut 2005, Italy
The blend in this vintage wine is 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Nero, with some of the Chardonnay fermented in small barrels and the wine spending 36 months on the lees. The colour is quite a rich but pale gold, with streams of tiny bubbles. On the nose baked apple pie and pastry, creamy ground almond and a background of apple fruit. In the mouth this has quite a structured, concentrated feel, with grapefruity acidity and a mouth-filling richness and texture. The clarity of line is there, the core of sour lemon and grapefruit keeping the tension in a really nicely done, serious yet approachable style that is very Champagne-like. Long and delicious. 91/100. £25 – £27.50, Bat & Bottle, see all stockists on wine-searcher. The wines below tasted July 2013.
Fratelli Berlucchi, Franciacorta Brut 25 NV, Italy
100% Chardonnay and 12.5% abv, this has a pale lemon colour and is imbued with a stream of pinpoint bubbles. It is immediately fresh, lively and appetising with aromas of apple and delicate blossom, and a little nutty note adding a hint of vanillin, creamy richness. On the palate it is direct and delicious, a very dry (8g/l dosage) sparkling wine with white fruit and lemon acidity and that nice balance between the zesty fruit and a saline tang of freshness. Not complex, but alive, bright and most enjoyable in an aperitif or shellfish-friendly style. 88/100. £19.90, Vini Italiani, see all stockists on wine-searcher
Il Mosnel, Franciacorta Brut NV, Italy
The blend is 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir, with 30% of the base Chardonnay fermented in small oak barrels. There’s no real impression of the oak on the nose, which is fruity and fresh, with a little bruised pear note that adds pleasing hint of depth. On the palate the mousse is lively and fine, and whilst this has a little more robustness and some of that bready character, it is another ultimately very crisp and fresh, aperitif style, with good acidity and clean lines. 87-88/100. £19.50, Vini Italiani, see all stockists on wine-searcher.