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The Cellar: Franciacorta – Italy’s Champagne

Friday, February 28, 2014

 

At the most recent ‘Evening with Wine’ event at the Providence Wine Academy, participants tasted a dozen outstanding wines from Northern Italy. It was the first of what is going to be two tastings that feature the wines from this wonderful wine producing nation. One of the wines poured was a Franciacorta, more specifically the non-vintage Brut from Quattro Mani.

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!

Cheers!

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 .

 

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