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Bubble up, Lombardy

Franciacorta, the next wine destination

Forget about Tuscany, Piemonte and even Lazio for a wine escape. If there’s one place to explore while enjoying Dionysus’s nectar, it’s Franciacorta. 

Nestled in northeastern Lombardy’s verdant rolling hills, Franciacorta is both a bubble-lovers paradise and naturalist escape.  And it’s the ultimate dynamic duo – gorgeous location and gorgeous wine. Here’s the story.

A landscape for bubbles

In the undeniably gorgeous countryside between the Lago Iseo and Brescia is the niche territory of approximately 3000 hectares of vineyards. It’s the kind of landscape where you’ll find farmers and ferraris, weekend cowboys and working hikers.  And it’s real wine country whose sparkling nectar pushes all bubbles aside.

Franciacorta first hit the bottles in 1961 when Guido Berlucchi and enologist Franco Ziliani teamed up to make the first Pinot di Franciacorta using metodo classico, the classic Champagne-making method.  Dopo loro, il diluvio, to paraphrase an old French saying.  Or better yet, right time, right place.

Cellars of sparkling Franciacorta at Berlucchi Borgonato di Cortefranca.

Climate, soil and a desire for quality inspired producers to follow Berlucchi and Ziliani’s lead, and by 1967, Franciacorta earned the DOC label.  Grapes are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc.  In 1995, Franciacorta was recognized with DOCG protection status, the highest level of Italian wine classification. Today, there are about 116 wineries in the Franciacorta consortium producing an annual 17.5 million bottles, with the majority of azienda organic and biodynamic. 

Bubble, bubble, soil and trouble

It would be easy to lump all of Italy’s bubbly’s together, but not all sparkling wines are created equal and Franciacorta is a standout. Comparing  Prosecco,  Asti and Franciacorta  is like comparing apples, oranges and diamonds.  Each are made with, different winemaking processes and grapes, and come from distinct territories.  In essence, Franciacorta is Lombardia in a bottle.  It’s subtle, sexy and focused. Made by metodo classico, the secondary fermentation occurs directly in the bottle, giving us a drier and more yeasty wine.  You can enjoy a glass of Franciacorta as an aperitivo, accompanied with dinner or even in your Negroni Sbaglato.

The antique cellars at Mosnel Vineyard.
Maurizio Zanella in the sculpture garden at Ca’ del Bosco, with the Igor Mitoraj sculpture Eroi di Luce.

Wineries to visit

Start with where it all began at Giorgio Berlucchi, 500 hectares of vineyards and visit the  16th century Palazzo Lana. Explore Ca’ del Bosco for Maurizio Zanella’s incredible in situ art collection with works by Arnaldo Pomodoro, Rabarama, and Rado Kirov. Mosnel, with its gorgeous woods and cellars and of course, Cavalleri, pioneers in biodynamic winemaking.

By Erica Firpo.

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