When one thinks of Italian sparkling wine in the U.S., Prosecco invariably comes to mind first. But Italy is home to a range of distinctive, delicious sparklers that deserve serious attention. One style that is becoming more available on this side of the Atlantic is Franciacorta, from Lombardy, which is Italy’s closest equivalent to Champagne. Made with Chardonnay, and often accompanied by Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco, DOCG Franciacorta can be difficult to distinguish from Champagne in a blind tasting, and for fans of sparkling wines, it is worth seeking out.
Today we check out three varieties that are making their way to our shores.
NV Lo Sparviere Franciacorta Brut Satèn – Satèn is a distinctive style of Franciacorta that is usually made with chardonnay and has a lower pressure than most sparkling wines to give it a satiny mouthfeel, hence the name. 100% Chardonnay, this wine pours golden straw colored in the glass and shows a steady stream of very fine bubbles. The nose offers apple, some lemon, and a touch of pineapple. On the palate, these notes appear again, but in different order, with lemon coming first, red delicious apple next, and a touch of pineapple rounding it all out. The mouthfeel is nice but not significantly different from or more satiny than other good sparkling wines, and the finish is fairly short. The wine shows nice acidity and should pair well with a range of foods, but overall, I found it one dimensional and not terribly exciting. B / $26
NV Tenuta Villa Crespia Franciacorta Brolese Extra Brut Rose – 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. This Franciacorta appears light pink with a touch of orange, and has abundant tiny bubbles. This is a fruity wine, but quite dry. The nose is fairly light, showing pineapple, granny smith apples, and lemon in a nice balance. The palate is creamy in texture and flavor as the bubbles and Chardonnay play side by side. Notes of pineapple appear alongside honey crisp apple, lemon, and strawberry along with medium-high acidity, which helped the wine pair nicely with the roasted tomato pasta sauce I had for dinner. The individual notes on this wine are lovely, but didn’t integrate as nicely as I would like. B / $40
2016 Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta Dosage Zéro – This vintage Franciacorta is 65% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Bianco, and 22% Pinot Nero (the Italian name for Pinot Noir). I was immediately struck by the torrent of very tiny bubbles that rise through the pale straw colored wine. I don’t think I’ve seen such ample effervescence before. It settles down a bit after a few minutes, but is still impressive. The nose is lovely with butter, peach, lemon citrus, and golden delicious apple, all in balance. Dosage zéro Franciacorta, as the name suggests, have no sweetness added after secondary fermentation. The palate, unsurprisingly, is completely dry, but it is very fruity, complex, and creamy, with medium-high acidity. Once again, butter, peach, lemon, and apple come forward and harmonize beautifully, leading to a fairly long finish. Solid acidity, ample small bubbles, creamy mouthfeel, and bold balanced flavors. There’s a lot to recommend in this wine, and it would make a great introduction to the zero-dosage style. A- / $72 [BUY IT NOW FROM THE WHISKY EXCHANGE]