The Cellar: Franciacorta – Italy’s Champagne
Friday, February 28, 2014
As you may know, Italy produces a lot of sparkling wine including the very popular and widely exported Proseccos, Asti Spumantis and Moscato d’Astis. What all these wines have in common is that they are ‘mass-produced’. What I mean by that is that they are made in large stainless steel tanks, most of them for immediate consumption. This is a far cry from how they make sparkling wines in Champagne, for example, where there are strict aging requirements and where the secondary fermentation (the fermentation that gives the wine its bubbles) has to take place inside each individual bottle.
"Under the Radar" and "Absolutely Delicious"
But fear not because Italy has its very own ‘Champagne region’ for you to get excited about. The region, which is located in the northern wine region of Lombardy, is called Franciacorta. All across this region winemakers are producing serious sparkling wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero (Noir) as well as Pinot Bianco (Blanc) and Pinot Grigio (Gris). As in Champagne there are aging requirements ensuring intensity of flavor and smoothness of bubbles. All Non-Vintage Franciacortas must age for a minimum of 18 months before disgorgement while vintage bottlings must age for at least 30 months.
Despite usually being limited in production and somewhat ‘under the radar’ they often represent great values – especially when compared to the similar craftsmanship and quality one would finds in Champagne. The Quattro Mani, for example, is less than twenty bucks a bottle! Made from estate grown, sustainably farmed grapes (80% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Bianco, 10% Pinot Nero), this wine is bottle aged for 36 months and displays intense frothy bubbles, mouthwatering acidity, green fruit and citrus. Absolutely delicious!
Steffen Rasch is a Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine. Feel free to email him at [email protected] with any wine-related question or learn about wine in person by signing up for one of his tastings through the Providence Wine Academy .
Related Slideshow: 10 New England Wine Getaways
Hardwick Vineyard & Winery
Central Mass’s own Hardwick Vineyard & Winery, open March-December, is a close to home treasure that produces 3,000 gallons of wine each year. The winery, which grows 6 varieties of grapes, is built on a quiet road in Hardwick that abuts the Quabbin Reservoir. Located on the property is a majestic 200 year old mansion. This weekend, take the trip to the vineyard to enjoy a wine tasting. Favorites include Massetts Cranberry and Yankee Girl Blush. If you head out on a Sunday; you’ll be in luck—the winery is hosting Sangria Sundays for the rest of the month.
3305 Greenwich Road, Hardwick, MA. (413) 967-7763.
Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery
Tucked away on the southern coast of Massachusetts, Westport Rivers Vineyard & Winery, located about an hour’s drive from Worcester, is worth the trip. For only $10, you can take home a special edition etched wine glass and enjoy a tasting of up to six of their award-winning wines. While the tasting room is open Monday-Saturday, free winery tours are also offered to the public every Saturday from 1-3pm.
417 Hixbridge Rd, Westport, MA. (508) 636-3423.
A relatively young addition to the Massachusetts family of wineries and vineyards, Coastal Vineyards in South Dartmouth opened its doors in 2004. Coastal Vineyards grows eight varieties of grapes on their property, including Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and more. For a special treat, head over on Sunday for their Ugly Sweater Wine Party featuring acoustic musician Ryan Thaxter. Don your ugliest sweater to get 35% off your purchase—and a chance at a prize.
61 Pardon Hill Road, South Dartmouth, MA.
Amherst Farm Winery
Head out to one of Massachusetts’s favorite college towns this weekend to check out Amherst Farm Winery. Enjoy a wine tasting set in a cozy 19th century post and beam dairy barn. For only $5 receive a logo glass and a taste of 5 of their 15 wines, including unique flavors like chocolate raspberry, pumpkin frost, cranberry, and more. Bring a picnic and cozy up on their leather sofa by the fire to enjoy your wine with a snack.
529 Belchertown Road, Amherst, MA. (413) 253-1400.
Nashoba Valley WInery
Take the bite off the winter chill this weekend and take a drive to Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton. The winery hosts tasting events everyday from 10am-4:30pm For $5, receive a free tasting glass and samples of up to five different wines. Some favorites include Strawberry Rhubarb Wine, Holiday Special Cranberry Apple (a new release in November 2013), and New English Cider. If you are in the mood for something other than wine (if that’s possible), check out their beer selection as well!
100 Wattaquadock Hill Road, Bolton, MA. (978) 779-5521.
Mill River Winery
Mill River Winery, located in Rowley, is the perfect wine destination for a mini-getaway. Enjoy the gorgeous winter scenery of Western Massachusetts as you wind through country roads to the winery. Mill River’s tasting room is housed in a refurbished cider mill, complete with eclectic décor that provides for an excellent tasting and shopping experience. Try their delicious Naked Chardonnay, a full bodied chardonnay with aromatic notes of lemon zest and pear. If you would like to get a “Dirt to Bottle Tour,” make sure to be at the winery at 2pm or 4pm Saturday or Sunday.
498 Newburyport Turnpike, Rowley, MA. (978) 432-1280.
Black Birch Vineyard
For only $6, get the full Black Birch Vineyard experience—tasting and a tour! Enjoy the great mix of contemporary and rustic décor of the tasting room and the local culture of this Massachusetts winery. While you’re in, be sure to try their award winning selection of reds and whites.
155 Glendale Road, Southampton, MA. (413) 527-0164.
Taylor Brook Winery
Located just over the border, Taylor Brook Winery in Woodstock, CT, is a hidden gem. This winery tends to over 2,000 vines of the finest grapes in the region. Head down to enjoy the country hospitality of this great local business, which offers tastings, bottles of their wine, and other great gift items for purchase. For a delicious winter wine, try their Winter Pomegranate.
848 Route 171, Woodstock, CT. (860) 974-1263.
Obadiah McIntyre Farm
Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery
The Obadiah McIntyre Farm Winery is located on the Charlton Orchards Farm property. The winery is owned and operated by a family that has been in the business of growing fruit for over 50 years, and began making wine in 1999. They are dedicated to making the best tasting wines around. Every weekend until the end of December, join them for a tasting and see for yourself.
44 Old Worcester Road, Charlton, MA. (508) 248-7941.
Puttney Mountain Winery
Just over the Vermont border, Putney Mountain Winery located inside Basketville, has been making delicious local wines since the 1990s. All of their wines are crafted from local produce, which makes for the best tasting wine possible. If you’re toting the kids along for the day, the winery also sells juices made from locally grown produce, like their Putney Bubbly Vermont Sparkling Black Currant.
8 Bellows Falls Road, Putney, VT. (802) 387-5925.
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