From the heart of Lombardy, Franiacorta was the first traditional method sparkling wine in Italy to be awarded DOCG status. I reported extensively from a visit to many of the top estates in 2014, and again from a brief visit in 2016. After a few years absence it was great to have this opportunity of a tasting with the Consorzio’s President, Silvano Bresciannini (pictured).
Silvano began by describing the conditions that make Franciacorta an ideal region for the production of sparkling wine, particularly its proximity to the huge Lake Iseo. Though massively popular in Italy, Japan is their leading export market with rapid growth in the past few years.
Silvano is also proprietor of Barone Pizzini. He gave a brief overview of the production of the region. In 2019, 17.5 million bottles were sold. Although the Coronavirus and closure of so much hospitality dented production and sales, since 2021 things have looked promising.
On my 2014 visit Silvano was very positive about an indigenous variety called Erbamat. He had hoped it would be allowed to join Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero as permitted varieties. That permission was granted, and the first wines using Erbamat are likely to appear from the 2020 vintage. The grape ripens up to six weeks later than Chardonnay or Pinot, though still does not accumulate too much sugar. For now it can be up to 10% of both Franciacorta and Franciacorta Rosado.
Our first wine was one of my favourite Franciacorta styles called ‘Satèn’. Satèn is a blanc de blancs, bottled with slightly lower pressure – below five atmospheres – to give a creamier mouthfeel. We also tasted a Rosé, where there must be a minimum of 35% Pinot and maximum of 65% Chardonnay. Both Pinot Bianco and Erbamat are also allowed.
We finished with a zero dosage vintage wine from 2013. To qualify, residual sugar must be below 3g/l, though in fact Franciacorta tends towards dry wines; Silvano pointing out that even the Brut wines of the region typically have only 6 – 7 g/l. This certainly suits the wines which tend to be made from slightly riper fruit than might be typical in Champagne for example.
“In Franciacorta the fathers did not travel widely and experience other regions,” Silvano told me, “but the new generation of winemakers are 25 or 30 years old. Many have travelled in New Zealand, or America or Champagne to learn. They will bring new energy to the region.”