The American Wine Society, Pittsburgh regional area, has arranged a Skype tasting with the Berlucchi winery. Berlucchi is an icon in the world of Italian wine and a pioneer of the classical method in Franciacorta, whose passion gave origin to the very first Franciacorta in 1961.
What is Franciacorta?
Most wine drinkers assume “if it’s Italian and bubbly, then it must be Prosecco.” If you like sparkling wine and Italian wines, you’re probably already know about prosecco (and Lambrusco). Well, there’s another Italian sparkling wine: Franciacorta.
If you haven’t heard of it, don’t worry. Franciacorta is one of Italy’s best kept secrets because they keep most of it for themselves. And, unlike places with a history of winemaking such as Tuscany, Franciacorta got its DOCG status as recently as 1995. But that doesn’t make it any less of a wine. It means is there’s more to discover.
Franciacorta Is Made in The Champagne Method
Named for the region where it's produced, Franciacorta wine is made in the “Champenoise” style or Traditional Method, so Franciacorta has a lot more in common with Champagne than prosecco. That’s why you hear some refer to Franciacorta as Italian champagne. Rather than getting the sparkle from a second fermentation in the tank, as prosecco does, Franciacorta becomes carbonated during its in-bottle secondary fermentation, giving it a drier, more yeasty taste.
Don’t Call It “The Champagne of Italy"
Yes, you’ll hear Franciacorta referred to as Italian champagne. While Franciacorta winemakers take their methods from Champagne, it remains a truly Italian wine. Yes, the name means, literally, “short France,” but that’s more of a historic reference to Charlemagne than it is to Champagne.
While Franciacorta is like Champagne in that the two primary grapes used are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, they stray from the French by allowing Pinot Blanc into the mix. The production is also heavily regulated: wines can have up to 85% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, and 5% Pinot Blanc and each different designation of Franciacorta is required to spend specific amounts of time, aging, and contact with the yeast.
It’s the Sparkling Wine of Choice for Italian Fashion Houses
Having been named the official wine of Milan Fashion Week several times, it’s no surprise Franciacorta wines are deeply connected to Italy’s fashion elite. That means when you see editors and celebrities sipping glasses of bubbles next to a runway, it’s almost certain those glasses are filled with Franciacorta. There’s even a designation of Franciacorta called Satèn (which must have a minimum of 50% Chardonnay and up to 50% Pinot Blanc) named for the region’s connection to Milan and the fashion industry. The Satèn style is stored at lower pressure, so its carbonation is much more smooth, like satin.
Franciacorta Is Food Friendly
As a dry sparkling wine, the pairing options for Franciacorta are pretty much endless. Polenta, delicate pastas, white fish, and roasted meats are always good options, especially considering the region’s many lakes and the fact that it’s in polenta country. Franciacorta's location in Lombardy places it in the rice bowl of Italy, which means risotto is great, too.