The wine that has made of the traditional method its vocation

by Rebecca Foscarini
Franciacorta — Lombardia Secrets

A wine that embodies the promise of a special toast, the charm of an area dotted with villages and castles, and the important culinary heritage left by the great Gualtiero Marchesi.

The term Franciacorta immediately brings to mind an elegant toast and an important evening. First DOCG in Italy made by the traditional method, or Champenois, which involves the refermentation of the wine in the bottle through the introduction of selected sugars and yeasts, it differs in various ways from Champagne, to which it is often associated. Both denominations are the representation of a particular territory: in the case of Franciacorta the hilly area between Brescia and the southern end of Lake Iseo, while for Champagne an area 150 km east of Paris. The two wines are distinguished, therefore, not only for the terroir, but also for the use of different vines: Franciacorta is obtained, in fact, from Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco grapes and is produced in three types, Franciacorta, Franciacorta Satèn and Franciacorta Rosé, and in the Millesimato and Riserva varieties that require longer aging. If we then enter into the technicalities of the production process, the differences between Franciacorta and Champagne are really many more.

The legend tells that the name Franciacorta comes from the great Charlemagne who in 774 settled in the area of ​​Rodengo Saiano, in the province of Brescia. These lands reminded him so much of his hometown to the point of giving them the nickname of “Little France”. Other theories, however, take us back to the Middle Ages when Benedictine monks settled here and the area was called Franzacurta, with the Latin word francae curtae, meaning free courts, exempt from episcopal taxes.

Franciacorta — Lombardia Secrets
Franciacorta — Lombardia Secrets

Although viticulture in this area has very ancient origins, the first written records date back to Roman times, the production as we know it today originated in the 1960s when various entrepreneurs began to invest in vineyard cultivation. The first production took place in 1961 by Guido Berlucchi and the oenologist Franco Ziliani who suggested that “to create a traditional method in the manner of the French”. This is how the first bottles of Pinot di Franciacorta were produced, which in 1967 was officially recognized as DOCG.

The peculiarity of the traditional method is the refermentation in the bottle, which is induced by adding sugar and natural yeast, creating fine bubbles, the distinctive feature of Franciacorta. Its quality depends on the various stages of this process such as, for example, the remuage technique.

Franciacorta — Lombardia Secrets

During this operation, the bottles are placed upside down on special stands and rotated so that the yeasts accumulate in the neck. This is followed by disgorgement during which the cork and therefore the accumulated yeasts, which would otherwise make the wine cloudy, are removed. The wine is then topped up with a syrup based on Franciacorta and sugar (each manufacturer has its own secret recipe) which will determine the type: Non Dosato, Extra Brut, Brut Extra Dry, Dry, Demi-Sec.

Why you will love it
Together with Marsala and Asti, it is the only Italian wine to have a specific denomination, without other qualified terms, and can therefore be simply called Franciacorta. Characteristic that unites it to Champagne.

Where to taste it
There are many wineries that you can meet throughout the Franciacorta region. A must-see is the Berlucchi company, where the first Franciacorta as we know it today was produced.

The perfect pairing
A very versatile wine, from aperitifs to desserts, it is just perfect with the typical products of its territory, such as salami from Monte Isola or fish from the lakes.

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