Whilst Prosecco and Champagne continue to rule the roost in terms of sparkling wine sales in the UK, there are a handful of places around the world making – or capable of making – traditional method sparkling wines of the very highest quality. More and more I am convinced that England is one of them, as vineyards mature, knowledge builds and perhaps global warming plays a hand, there are English fizzes now from a whole bunch of producers that really can go toe to toe with Champagne.
In Lombardy in the north of Italy lies another: Franciacorta. It is a unique landscape – an amphitheatre dominated by Lake Iseo which forms its northern boundary, and chains of hills that extend to the east and west – with morainic soils rich in minerals and fossils. Here they grow mostly Chardonnay, with Pinot Noir and small amounts of Pinot Blanc too. Wines are made by a similar method to Champagne, and aged for a minimum of 18 months for non-vintage wines and 30 months for vintage wines.
Earlier this year I was delighted to be asked by the Consorzio of Franciacorta to present a masterclass tasting to sommeliers and wine retailers, so this brief report presents the eight wines that were featured – and very much enjoyed – by the tasters.