Nothing says festive like a bottle of sparkling wine. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Chanukah, Festivus, or any other holiday, we all love to ring in the new year with a sparkling libation. Sparking wines are made all over the world. From the world famous Champagne region in France, to surprising sparkling Shiraz from Australia, there are delicious options everywhere. But none of my favorite classic sparklers comes from Italy. No, it’s not Prosecco, or even Asti Spumante, but rather something that is made in the Methode Classico (or champagnoise), from the Lombardy region in the north: Franciacorta. I have been fortunate to experience the many colors and flavors of Franaciacorta with Franciacorta USA’s partnership with Balzac Communications. We have been treated to an annual tasting of several different examples of this iconic Italian bubbly; recently, I was able to attend an informal and delicious tasting of three very special wines at A16 in San Francisco. Frst up, one of my favorite producers from previous tastings, the Contadi Castalidi Franciacorta Brut Rosé NV, which is a blend of 35% Pinot Noir and 65% Chardonnay. This budget friendly pink is a great example of why you should pay attention to this region. With light fruity flavors, brioche notes, and velvety plum notes, you will love the holiday wallet friend price point of under $25. The next selection was a gorgeous 2012 Le Marchesine Saten, which in the DOGCG of Franciacorta, must be a Blanc de Blanc from Chardonnay and or Pinot Bianco (Blanc). Slightly more expensive than the the other two at $30, it’s still a very friendly price point for sparkling of this quality. With spicy white flowers and bright notes of citrus layered over fresh cream, this is the perfect mid point in this lovely trio of wines. Finally, the all-star of the evening was the Biondelli Franciacorta Brut, an elegant 100% Chardonnay start hat is bottled aged no less than 2 years. Officially certified organic since 2014, the 8 hectare vineyard is hand harvested and gently pressed and fermented in stainless steel barrels. The gorgeous floral notes of this sexy sipper give way to peach blossom, toasted almonds, hazelnuts, and just a hint of citrus. This is my top pick and even at an average price of $20 (if you can find it) you should be buying it by the case. Franciacorta is not the poor man’s Champange. Despite the user friendly price points on many of these fine wines, the quality and flavor profiles are world class. Franciacorta wines are widely available at better wine shops as well as online. Experiment, try a few, and enjoy this holiday season! Special thanks to Franciacorta USA for sharing these delights!
Next up, we celebrate Sunday, and the arrival of my dear friend from another continent, by traveling to Italy in our glass. While many people know about Proscecco, and perhaps the magic of Franciacorta, Lombardy’s sparkling wine, Ferrarri Trento has been making sparkling wines in the Italian Alps since 1902. At ony $25, the Brut, which is 100% Chardonnay, is a steal, and will leave your guests wondering – “Is it Champagne, or is it Ferrari!” Unlike Prosecco, which is typically fermented in bulk, Ferrari bottle ferments (just like Champagne), and is aged for at least 24 months. Delicate and lively, with bright citrus and apple notes, enveloping the bouquet of white flowers. Slight hints of freshly baked bread, this is a wonderful way to end the evening, or just get it started, Ferrari Trento is one of the best values in sparkling wine outside of France. This is the base level for Ferrari, but if you want to explore more, try this European Winery of the Year’s delicious reserve wines. Still affordable luxury, and oh so delicious. Thank you to my friends at Gregory White PR for this scrumptious way to ring in the New Year!
During the holidays, more often than not, we celebrate with something sparkling. For some it might be the old classic Champagne; others, California Sparkling. But have you tried Franciacorta? Franciacorta, the DOCG region in Lombardy, Italy, is known for it’s excellent sparkling wines made in the traditionally method – meaning, the secondary fermentation occurs int bottle and not by, shall we say, the soda stream for wine or a bulk method. Lombardy is perfect for sparkling wine, where the Alps meet the Lago d’Iseo, moderating temperatures and making the traditional grapes for sparkling wines grow so well. Since Franciacorta was the first Italian sparkling wine to have the secondary fermentation int he bottle, and since the producing region is the first traditional method sparkling wine in Italy to reach DOCG status, they really are a treat. Since becoming a DOCG (the highest level of regional wine designations in Italy) in 1995, Franciacorta has set strict rules governing the production of it’s sparkling wines. Using the same Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc (Bianco) and Pinot Noir grapes that are traditionally used in France, Franciacorta requires lengthy aging and hand harvesting, to maintain in increase quality. With five distinct styles, there is something for everyone! Some of my favorite products that I have been enjoing this season are reviewed below. So this holiday, go out and say Cin Cin to Franciacorta! Berlucchi Franciacorta Brut – 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero (Noir). Yeasty, buttered toast, crisp lemon curd. Beautiful bright acidity with the richness of cream and ripe pears. This would be fantastic with oysters or brunch, and at $30, an affortable alternative to Champagne. With only 12.9% ABV, this is a sipper you can enjoy all day! Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut – 80% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero (Noir), 10% Pinot Bianco (Blanc) – a field of flowers, with rich yellow and green hues, Tuscan melon and lime jump out of the glass along with stone fruit and a slight green herbal note. $23 for this beauty rivals some of the better Proseccos and would be lovely in a Spritz or other cocktail. If you would like to check out some of the other styles of Franciacorta, they range from dry to sweet, and have a host of other style elements such as the typically 100% Chardonnay Saten. A Millesimato is vintage sparkler that is aged at least 30 months. So, the next time you are having a party, consider stocking up on some Franciacorta, and wow your party guests with Italy’s fastest growing sparkling wine category! These bottles of deliciousness were provided as PR samples, but all sips and tips are mine!