The wines of Franciacorta

These notes accompany a in-depth feature on Franciacorta. For profiles of all of these estates please see Regional report: Franciacorta’s sparkling wines.


BIONDELLI

Biondelli, Franciacorta Brut NV, Italy
All Chardonnay with 6g/l dosage and 12.5% alcohol, though Joska Biondelli tells me some parcels can come in at 14% potential alcohol. Quite a leesy, rich, autolysis nose, with pure apple fruit, seems quite fat and has an orangey character. It has a sense of roundness and meaty power, with the palate displaying a toasty richness and real suggestion of sweetness, with such a full, mouth-filling mid-palate and a cushion of full, creamy mousse that all comes together in to a fine, balanced, juicy but tremendously fresh finish with a touch of salty minerality. Delicious power and sweet-fruited appeal, though the combination of ripeness and that touch of dosage means it is not quite as fresh in finish, without quite having the élan of the Satèn. 89-90/100.

Biondelli, Franciacorta Satèn NV, Italy
All Chardonnay, this cuvée is sold through BBR in the UK. No dosage, so less than 1g/l sugar, bottled under lower pressure. Nice cream and vanilla touches, but also nettle and delicate flowers and herbs, with those subtle complexities showing beautifully. The palate has real intensity: given that there is no sugar, it has an intense inherent sweetness and attack: a big grapefruity thrust of acidity, the sourness biting into the finish as a lovely counterpoint and an intensely dry finish. A fascinating style, very dry and authoritative, but it shimmers with edgy freshness and acidity in the finish. 91/100. £26.95, Berry Bros. & Rudd.

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BARONE PIZZINI

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta Brut Animante NV, Italy
The blend is Chardonnay 78%, Pinot Nero 18%, Pinot Bianco 4%, with a dosage of 6.8g/l. Very fresh and refreshing nose, with lovely creaminess and soft, quite biscuity autolysis. Silvano says 25% of the blend is reserve wines back to 2008, on 2010 base. Really attractive palate, so fresh and appetising, but beautifully creamy fruit of custardy apple and a lovely line and tangy citrus to the finish. Delightful. 90/100.

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta Satèn 2009, Italy
All Chardonnay, 33% of which was fermented in oak. The dosage here is low again, at around 7g/l. Very gentle lemony aromas and creaminess. The palate has beautiful balance, so gently mouth-filling, but crisp and vital ,beautiful harmony. 90/100.

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta Nature 2009, Italy
A zero dosage blend of 70% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir, fermented in stainless steel. Lovely floral touches to this, a little honey too, with such a fresh, salt-licked, bracing palate. Real lemon zest tang, lime peel, and beautiful harmony again. 89-90/100.

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta Rosé 2010, Italy
100% Pinot, an assemblage with 25% of red wine, made in stainless steel and barrique. Very bold, pomegranate colour, lovely hint of bread character against dry redcurrant and berries, and a delicate smokiness. Lovely palate, with such beautiful rose hip and cranberry, a hint of strawberry, and such a long, harmonious flavour. 91/100.

Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta Riserva Bagnadore Decimo Terzo Pas Dosé 2006, Italy
The name is a mouthful, but then so is the wine. This zero dosage blend comes from a single vineyard and spends 60 months on the lees. It’s a 50/50 blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, 40% of which was fermented and aged in barriques. Beautiful golden colour, masses of miniscule bubbles. What a terrific wine, with a very Burgundian, serious and vinous appeal. There is biscuity and delicious ripeness to the fruit, but the core of nutty, beautifully oxidative fruit with orange and a hint of hazelnut and chocolate. Fabulous stuff. 93/100.

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VILLA FRANCIACORTA

Franciacorta sparkling wines

Villa, Franciacorta Satèn 2009, Italy
An all-Chardonnay cuvée, made in stainless steel with 36 months on the yeast. It is ‘Satèn’, so is bottled at low pressure, at around 4.7 bar (it’s more like 5.8 – 6.0 bar for regular Franciacorta), and with 8g/l of residual sugar. Very fresh, lovely, touch of cream and brioche on the nose, but also golden apples and hints of toast. The palate has a soft creaminess, the softness and ripeness suggests sweetness, but it is dry, striking the palate with a fresh, lemony zestiness and acidity and a real tang and good intensity. 89/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Emozione Brut 2009, Italy
This wine picked up ‘3 Bicchieri’ from Italy’s leading wine guide. It is 85% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir, all fermented in stainless steel and spending 36 months on lees. With 100,000 bottles, it’s Villa’s biggest production and has 7g/l residual sugar. Lots of very small bubbles. Fresh, if slightly neutral nose, with a tang and bright fruit character, though it is noticeably a little coarser than the Satèn. 87/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Extra Blu, Extra Brut 2007, Italy
This wine comes from a soil “influenced by an ancient sea,” according to Villa, so I guess with seashells and other marine deposits. It is bottled with only 3.5g/l sugar, and 30% of the base wine is fermented in barrel. It stays on the yeast for four years and is 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, all from the 2007 vintage. Quite a rich colour, very small streaming bubbles. Lots more yeasty, bready aromatics, a touch of honey and vanilla. Fresh and bright apple and lemon. The palate has a bracing freshness, it is ultra dry, with pink grapefruity notes, but the creaminess comes through as well as the tantalising, dry and mineral flecked acidity. 90/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Diamant Pas Dosé 2006, Italy
85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, again this has a 30% barrel component. It is kept on lees for a full five years. It has 1g/l of natural residual sugar. A touch less honey on the nose, more a salty mineral freshness, but a nutty apple character and yes, a touch of light honey and toast does come through. The palate has a bracing, fresh and very dry character, but not a lot of autolytic character, more green and herby notes. There’s a creaminess, but purity and again the hint of minerality. 89/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Cuvette Brut 2006, Italy
85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir, again 30% in small barrels, and 54 months on the lees. It has 7g/l of sugar. Cuvette is a single vineyard, planted on the hills above the winery. Quite a deep, rich yellow colour. Hugely creamy and buttery nose, with brioche and buttered toast, with ripe apple and pear and a certain weight and richness. The palate has a bracing dryness, the pithy grapefruit and lemon really grips this, the fat and texture of the wine, the impression of sweetness conferred by the sweeter, quince-like fruit and lower acidity giving this an intensity and concentrated character. Quite serious and layered stuff. 91/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Rosé Brut 2009, Italy
A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir made as a saignée, with colour coming from 8 to 10 hours of skin contact. 30 months on the lees and 7g/l residual sugar. Onion skin/light bronze colour. Very attractive nose, with a touch of earth and truffle, and that inherent fruit ripeness and lightly buttery quality coming through. On the palate the flavours are quite robust, a touch earthy, but not terribly complex or long – that rip of pithy acidity sweeps through, leaving this pretty lean. 87/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Rose Demi-Sec NV, Italy
Actually a 2009 vintage wine, but Demi-Sec is not allowed to state vintage on the label. 30 months on the lees for this blend of 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir with 35g/l sugar. A more bold colour, a touch more depth to the colour. Light, fresh, sherbetty with gentle vanilla and toasty background notes. On the palate lots of sweetness really comes through, a little toffee and plenty of soft berry fruit sweetness. 87/100.

Curtefranca and other still wines

Villa, Campei Bianco 2012, Italy
This is an IGT Sebino wine, not from the DOC Curtefranca. From a Cru called Campei, it is all Chardonnay. Lovely fresh nose, lots of rosy apple and lemon, but very dry and pithy on the palate with lemon rind flavours and huge grippy acidity and mineral acidity. 86-87/100.

Villa, Curtefranca Pian della Villa 2011, Italy
All Chardonnay Curtefranca, with some ageing in older barriques. Lovely hint of honey and nutty richness, but it is also about an extra orangey brightness and hint of pithy, bittering grapefruit acidity. Very nicely balanced and pitched. 88/100.

Villa, Curtefranca Gradoni 2009, Italy
Grapes from the steep, terraced Gradoni hill behind the winery. The blend is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 35% Merlot, aged in barrique for 18 months, then 18 months in bottle before release. 14.5% alcohol from a hot year. Hugely spicy nose, lots of deep, slightly resinous oak aromas, but a welterweight of fruit and almost minty, violet character. The palate is rather sour, the fruit having a sharpness and sour, shorter flavours that are a touch burnt and not really harmonious. Plenty of weight and power, but lacks harmony and subtlety, a slightly overripe character that does not add up to a terribly attractive whole. 84/100.

Villa, Curtefranca Quercus Merlot 2009, Italy
Again from the terraced vineyard of mineral-rich clay soils. This cuvée is produced only in the best years. Quite a deep, resonant nose, chocolate and ripe red berries, and a lift of smokiness and hint of the floral, the oak is very evident, but it is more attractive here. The wine is creamier, riper and more integrated, though it is still a little baked, and a touch burnt too, but there is more harmony and a touch more elegance. 88-89/100

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MAJOLINI

Majolini, Franciacorta Satèn 2009, Italy
100% Chardonnay, bottled with 8g/l of residual sugar. Lovely touches of lightly baked, vanilla-scented apple, and delicate floral notes come through. Very dry, searing core of acidity that has a lovely sherbet brightness but also that really fresh apple crunch and crispness and loads of lemon rind and pithy cut. 89/100.

Majolini, Franciacorta Brut NV, Italy
90% Chardonnay, part in aged barrels, 10% Pinot Noir. 7g/l dosage. There is a lightly earthy, slightly bruised apple note that is lovely. In the mouth really quite full and palate-filling freshness, and again that touch of the oxidised, bruised apple and pear. Nice hints of sweetness here, in a wine that is long and quite complex. 90/100.

Majolini, Franciacorta Pas Dosé 2006, Italy
100% Chardonnay with only 1.7g/l natural residual sugar. A small proportion was fermented in older barrels. Lovely bruised fruit hints of maturity and oxidation, and there is a nettle and herb touch to this. A lovely palate, riven by that grapefruity tang and cut of citrus, plenty of acidity here, but there is a burgeoning hint of sweetness too. 91/100.

Majolini, Franciacorta Electo 2006, Italy
80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, part of the Chardonnay aged in barrel. Dosage 4g/l. Very sophisticated, tiny bubbles, quite deep and nutty with a touch of coffee and toast, and a sense of richness and ripeness. The palate is full and rich, has that nuttiness, and a squirt of fresh lemon and lime juiciness. The acidity a little less pithy and tart than the pas dosé, a refined, long finish. 92/100. Disgorged end of 2013.

Majolini, Franciacorta Electo 2005, Italy
Similar, glowing bright golden colour. Extra dimension of freshness and beautifully bright, flower-touched aromatics, with yeastiness and biscuit and a lovely fruit clarity. There’s a burst of tangerine and bright, crunchy green apple acidity, giving this a thrilling vibrancy on the palate, though still with that hint of toast of the barrel and autolysis in the finish. 93/100.

Majolini, Franciacorta Blanc des Noirs Brut NV, Italy
100% Pinot Noir from the 2009 vintage. A slightly more vegetal and mushroomy character here, though it comes through with masses of sour lemony acidity. A really nice sherbet lemon brightness and load of tang and freshness, lovely stuff with terrific bright acidity in the end. 90/100. label

Majolini, Franciacorta Brut 1994, Italy
Made by Simone’s uncle. 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot and a burnished golden colour, with a touch of caramel and bruised fruit, lots of apple and spice and pastry. Delicious, rich and sumptuous sweetness. The palate has such lovely full fruit, and such a delicate lacework of acidity, giving this a long, fresh and balanced character. Absolutely gorgeous stuff, drinking fantastically, but from the Majolini’s library cellar. 94/100.

Majolini, Majolina 2010, Italy
Hand-crushed, into a 500 litre barrel for one year. This is the indigenous grape of which Majolini have 500 of the 1000 plants still in existence. Simone thinks the wine needs at least two years in bottle before drinking. Amazing nose, loads of lift and gaminess, the highish acidity seems to really add to the lift and game-touched, bright fruit of cherry. Such lightness and freshness on the palate. Delicious and typically northern Italian bite, but an unusual wine with a touch of chocolate and that cherry intensity filling out the fruit. Not for sale. 90/100.

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BELLAVISTA

Bellavista, Franciacorta Cuvée Brut ‘Alma’ NV, Italy
The main product line is 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, sometimes with one or two percent of Pinot Blanc. It is bottle with 8g/l dosage and Mattia says that there is a small proportion of reserve wine in this, with the cellars having reserves that go back for around eight years. There’s a herbal note to this, charmingly golden wine with a steady stream of bubbles. A touch of butter and marzipan, with a touch of something like melon skins or lemon rind, a touch of phenolic. The palate has loads of grapefruit and bittersweet orange. There is a perceptible sweetness to this, with a clean, fresh finish of apples and lemons giving a tangy finish. 88-89/100.

Bellavista, Franciacorta Satèn Brut 2009, Italy
All Chardonnay, delicate gold and delicate stream of bubbles. From high vineyards facing south. More than 50% fermented in barrels, with four years ageing. 8g/l sugar. Just a tiny addition of sulphur at the end of fermentation. Really soft custard creaminess, that butter and fresh cream is backed up by a little ripe, fresh apple. The palate has real bite: a zippy, dry, citrus squirt of acidity that braces the finish, playing again the softness and sweetness. 88-89/100.

Bellavista, Franciacorta Brut Rosé 2008, Italy
South facing vineyards, 48% Pinot Noir, the rest Chardonnay. Very pale but bright pink. Very fresh, a touch of watermelon perhaps, a touch of redcurrant, but again that creamy vanilla touch comes through. On the palate it is rounded and fruity, a tiny nod towards strawberry, but the acidity is again so bright and lemony crisp, pushing through and a savoury, earthy touch with a nice raspberry tartness and good length. 89-90/100.

Bellavista, Franciacorta Brut ‘Vittorio Moretti’ 2006, Italy
In the last 33 years this cuvée has been produced only nine times. According to Mattia it represents “the ‘behaviour’ of owner Vittorio Moretti: genuine, straightforward and masculine.” The blend is 48% Pinot Noir, 52% Chardonnay from 25-year-old vineyards. It spends seven years on the lees and is 60% fermented in oak. Lovely bright colour. Custardy and gentle on the nose, with a certain meatiness and depth, there’s a lemon rind lift and a nuttiness – complex stuff, with unfolding layers. The palate is dry, with a big lime and fresh orange blast of riper citrus – not lemon, but touching the more tropical side of citrus, with a steely, salty core of mineral freshness and dryness. Long, shimmering stuff, and powerful. 92/100.

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VILLA CRESPIA

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta Brut ‘Miolo’ NV, Italy
From the 2007 vintage. All Chardonnay. “Comes from a simple soil,” according to Michela Muratori. 24 months ageing and 12g/l dosage. It has a sweet, gentle peachiness on the nose, floral notes too, very charming without a lot of creamy autolysis character. Pleasing, mouth-filling palate, with bright, fruity flavours. Arguably there’s a slightly coarse character with a slightly sherbetty fizz, but this is pleasing and easy to drink, fresh, and ripe, though not fantastically complex. 87/100.

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta Brut ‘Novalia’ NV, Italy
All Chardonnay, “From a more structured, stony soil.” 24 months ageing and 7g/l dosage. Again that soft, delicate flower and stone fruit ripeness. The palate has a more harmonious feel. The lower dosage does have a fresh, clean, zest freshness, with a nice balance of sweet fruit and clean acidity. 88/100. In UK.

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta Brut Satèn ‘Cesonato’ NV, Italy
All Chardonnay, 28 months in bottle with 7 or 8g/l dosage. Has a little more apple and bruised fruit quality, a slightly less clean and expressive nose in some ways, a slightly baked quality, but the sweetness of the palate is perceptible, I guess due to lower acidity here. Juicy and very easy to drink, citrus and orchard fruits, but with nice acidity leaving the finish fresh. 87-88/100.

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta ‘Numerozero’ NV, Italy
2006 vintage, disgorged in 2014. No dosage, “The truest expression of the terroir.” All Chardonnay, part fermented in oak. The yeastiness and lightly oxidised bruised fruit quality is more evident, a nice sense of earthiness and a dry, English apple quality. Lovely bright palate, with racy and pithy acidity, but there’s no shortage of that pear and apple fruitiness, the nuttiness of the autolysis and the zippiness of the zero dosage. Very nice wine. 90/100. In UK.

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta ‘Cisiolo’ NV, Italy
Available in Tirage and The Fat Duck. This is a Blanc de Noirs with no dosage, all Pinot Noir with a minimum of 30 months in bottle. I find the nose on this slightly dull, slightly muddied, but there is an earthy pinot character there the light oxidation with some pastry touches. Not a lot of fruit in this. The palate has weight and toasty richness, a full texture, but again perhaps a little lack of fruity charm, ending with a fat lemony acidity though not huge length. Savoury and full, and a nice food wine. 88-89/100.

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta Rosé Extra Brut ‘Brolese’ NV, Italy
70% Pinot with Chardonnay, saignée method, and long ageing of at least 36 months in bottle. 2g/l sugar. A touch of coppery tint to a fairly bright pink. A big, toasty nose, lots of coffee and cream, and a feeling of ripeness and richness, a touch of strawberry and of Pinot earthiness. The palate has lovely fruit, a decisive brightness, lots of charm here that is slightly missing in the Cisiolo for me. Long and delicious, with both serious structure and charm. 90-91/100. In UK.

Villa Crespia, Franciacorta ‘Simbiotico’ NV, Italy
From the 2011 vintage, this is the zero added sulphur cuvée. All Chardonnay. “The grapes have higher phenolics as tested by the university of Pisa, which helps in using no sulphur.” Very fresh, a nice touch of controlled oxidation and yeasty character, but apple and lemon to the fore, a suggestion of floral background. A clean cut, abundantly fresh wine with very good acid balance and a pleasing, very natural feel. Lovely wine, and fresh as a daisy. 89-90/100.

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LO SPARVIERE

Lo Sparviere, Franciacorta Satèn NV, Italy
100%chardonnay, 20% of which was fermented and aged in big old barrels. Made with 7g/l of sugar and a low pressure of 4.4 bar, it spends 36 months on the lees. The nose offers gentle toast and honey with lots of creamy richness and buttered Brazil nut notes. The palate has huge natural sweetness, and that silk and butter fatness is beautifully cut through by slicing grapefruit acidity. Delicious stuff, fishing with lively citrus freshness. 90-91/100.

Lo Sparviere, Franciacorta Brut 2008, Italy
Only 6g/l of sugar for this 100% chardonnay cuvée that spends 36 months on the lees. Bold yellow/gold. Beautiful smoky minerality, less honey than the Satèn, and has a cool sense of precision as well as fruit intensity. The palate shows that smoky, flinty mineral style, the fruit sweetness is very pronounced: a really full and rich style but the grapefruit sharpness of the finish punches through the concentration. 91/100.

Lo Sparviere, Franciacorta Rosé Monique NV, Italy
A saignée of Pinot Noir with a bronze tinged, onion-skin, delicate colour. Nice Pinot earthy and truffle vinosity, and that touch of mineral again, wisping smoke comes through. It has a touch of baked apple pie pastry, but then the vinous, truffle-touched meatiness though there is elegant balance and length. The wine is fermented very cool indeed, and even though it has 12 hours of skin contact, the idea is not to express red fruit, but Pinot texture and the terroir. According to Costantino their oenologist worries constantly about the delicate bronze colour, but they are determined to bottle with a natural Pinot ‘partridge eye’ colour. 90-91/100.

Lo Sparviere, Franciacorta Extra Brut 2007, Italy
Comes from the oldest vineyards, 30 years old and at 400 metres altitude, giving a very low yield. It is given 60 months on lees. All chardonnay, with a low yield of 40hl/ha, around 40% is fermented in 450-litre barrels. Lovely light gold colour. Brazil nuts and butter flood from the nose. A honey and vanilla weight and yet such pleasing mint leaf and floral nuances. Luxurious on the palate, it retains that pleasing green herb edge, with delicious toast and authority. Not austere, but dry and salty on the finish. 93/100.

Lo Sparviere, Franciacorta Riserva 2004, Italy
From magnum, this had 10 years on the lees. Salts and dry, very fresh aromas. Very, very taut and finely chiselled, white fruits and a hint of cappuccino softness just in the background. The freshness and concentration is on the palate, with a really firm and concentrated core, a touch of that creamy, smoky quality and lovely mineral grip. There’s a taut almost meaty character in a singular wine. 94/100.

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LA MONTINA

La Montina, Franciacorta Rosé Extra Brut Non Dosato 2008, Italy
All pinot noir. Zero dosage, lovely red berry fragrance with pomegranate and lifted raspberry. Then a clear, fresh palate that is very racy and aperitif fresh, if modestly flavoured. But I do like the purity and little sense of creamy texture. 88/100.

La Montina, Franciacorta Brut NV, Italy
Chardonnay from a 2009 base, with reserve wines from 2008. Discreetly perfumed but a lovely creamy and gentle roundness, tiny floral and butter notes, very appealing. The palate is deliciously pitched, long and complete. 90/100.

La Montina, Franciacorta Satèn Brut 2009, Italy
35% of this Chardonnay Satèn is fermented in barriques. A much more buttery, rich, vanilla – infused with little floral touches too. Lovely sweet character to this, with a silky mouthfeel. 89-90/100.

La Montina, Franciacorta Millesimato 2007, Italy
Baked apple pie aromas and lovely fat lemony fruit. Such lovely floral lift and suave, beautifully pitched wine with delicate creamy oak background and shimmering clarity and freshness. Gorgeous. 92-93/100.

La Montina, Franciacorta Demi-Sec Rosé 2010, Italy
Light cherry colour and lighter cherry and fresh sweet red fruit flavours. Nice sense of richness onto the palate, beautifully balanced, with weight and texture. A really lovely elegance across this range. 90/100.

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LA VALLE

La Valle, Franciacorta Satèn NV, Italy
Made with Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Bianco, this has some barrel fermented component and a slightly higher dosage that most of La Valle’s cuvées at just over 10g/l. It has a pale colour and streaming small bubbles, and a pleasantly custardy note to the aroma with crushed almond and lemon. On the palate it is dry, with a softness to the fruit though the racy mousse keeps it lively in the mouth. Balanced and long, a touch of vanilla or custard matches with good acidity in the finish. 90/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Brut ‘Primum’ NV, Italy
Chardonnay 75%, Pinot Nero 20% and Pinot Bianco 5%, all fermented in stainless steel and aged 24 months on the lees plus six more post-disgorgement. Around 9.0g/l residual sugar. It has a similar biscuit and custard note on the nose, a pleasing nettle or floral hint too. In the mouth it is dry and has a grapefruit and lemon tang, not quite the smoothness of the Satèn, but it is quite long and robustly fruity and savoury. 89/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Rosé NV, Italy
A blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, like the Brut, all in stainless steel with 30 months of total ageing and 9.5g/l or sugar. It has a pretty and vivid colour, and plenty of tiny bubbles. The nose is gently earthy, with a dry redcurrant fruitiness and hint of cherry. In the mouth it is a dry style, a great core of lemony acidity driving the wine along rather than any red fruit character, though that hint of Pinot earthiness and of red berries does show through on the finish. 89-90/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta ‘Regium’ 2006, Italy
Produced only in top years, this vintage wine is cellared for a minimum of 60 months, and is 100% Chardonnay. The dosage is 8g/l, and the wine is fermented in stainless steel. The colour is a pale lemon, with masses of tiny bubbles. It has a cool, fresh, Asian pear and delicately floral nose, with a taut, steely character though there’s just a hint of brioche richness in the background. On the palate a lovely bruised fruit quality comes through, a fine yeasty richness, and the sweet apple and custard ripeness fills the mid-palate. Long and shimmering with acidity, this is beautifully done. 92/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Extra Brut ‘Naturalis’ 2006, Italy
A blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Bianco, with minimum dosage of less than 4g/l, this spends 30 months on the lees plus six more in bottle before release. Once again, a very pale and delicate colour, the nose showing plenty of yeasty and bready notes, a certain dry, nut husk quality and a cool apple fruit. On the palate this is razor sharp, not searingly dry, and a ripe apple fruitiness fills the mid-palate, but there’s a nicely mineral and citrus thrust through to the finish. 91/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Riserva ‘Zerum’ Zero Dosage 2002, Italy
All Chardonnay, this top of the line wine receives a minimum of 78 months ageing – 72 on the lees and a further six post-disgorgement – and has less than 2g/l of residual sugar. A pale golden colour, the nose is delicate, with some glacé fruits, flowers and soft, yeasty notes. On the palate it is intense stuff, tight and grippy, with a little lemon rind phenolic note and plenty of acidity, real pithy grapefruit and lemon powering through. Even after 12 years this is very tightly-focused, and would be a fascinating wine to try again after considerably more cellar age. 91/100.

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FIVE WINES BACK TO 1979

Berlucchi, Franciacorta Brut Cellarius 2008, Italy
Beautifully refined, very clean and racy-fresh with lovely streaming bubbles and small creamy mousse. Really racy, taut, apple and citrus freshness. A little touch of biscuit and toast comes through. Delicious. 90-91/100.

Ferghettina, Franciacorta Satèn 2009, Italy
36 months on the yeast, 100% chardonnay. A delicious, open and nutty oxidised style with lots of bruised apple and pear, delicious rich autolysis style. Admittedly very Champagne like. The buttery richness of the palate is there, perhaps not the silky creaminess that one normally expects from Satèn. but I just think it is lovely in a richer style. 91/100.

Gatti, Franciacorta Brut 2005, Italy
A slightly tired, maybe slightly rotty feeling to the oxidation on the nose here, though the palate comes through beautifully, with rich toast and custard ,delightful apple fruit. So nicely pitched with fresh acidity and a long, poised finish. 89/100.

Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta Anna Marie Clemente 1995, Italy
Cappuccino, marmalade orange and a fresh herb touches to lighten the nose here as well as a lovely buttery shortbread character. Fine fruit beneath still, and onto the palate real precision, with a twist of endive bitterness and palate of pure citrus. Stays focused and mineral too, with some flecks of tangerine and orange. 93/100.

Ca’ del Bosco, Franciacorta 1979, Italy
90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, disgorged three minutes before tasting! (Watch the video at http://youtu.be/CHIOMl5CDWQ). Beautiful nose. Caramel, cabbage, coffee and tobacco, such beautiful complexity. The palate has seamless freshness and clarity, pinpoints of lemon zest and crisp, racy apple, and that delicious toffee richness again. Long and endlessly elegant. 95/100, and what a treat.

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