Discover Franciacorta: Italy’s Sparkling Wine Capital

With over 600 indigenous grapes, I am of course a huge fan of local Italian wine. I always try to seek out the native varieties when I look for a new bottle to try. Yet, with all the unique varieties, there are some international ones that Italy just turns into magic. Franciacorta thrives off international grapes, but the local terroir creates something I would argue – is even better than champagne. (Don’t come at me, I am Italy-biased).

This is an incredible region to visit not only for the wine but for the beautiful landscape. Read on to learn more about the Franciacorta region.

History of Region

Located in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy, Franciacorta boasts a history that spans centuries. The area was originally called “Curte Francae” in Roman times, meaning an area exempt from certain taxes. Over time, as monasteries were established, this location evolved into a center for viticulture. These monasteries played a significant role in refining winemaking techniques.

In the 1960s, a group of wine producers aimed to enhance the quality of sparkling wines in Franciacorta. Their meticulous attention to detail and commitment to preserving the region’s terroir laid the foundation for one of Italy’s esteemed appellations.

Today, Franciacorta represents a blend of tradition and modernity. Nestled between Lake Iseo and the Prealps, its vineyards benefit from a microclimate ideal for producing high-quality grapes. The careful process of crafting Franciacorta wines, including the méthode champenoise, ensures that each bottle encapsulates the essence of the land.

This legacy continues to endure, making Franciacorta a region with a rich history of winemaking tradition.

What makes Franciacorta’s Geography so Unique?

the Franciacorta region boasts a geographical tapestry that lends itself to exceptional winemaking. Shaped by glacial activity, the landscape is a mosaic of morainic deposits, clay, and limestone-rich soils. The proximity to Lake Iseo brings a moderating influence on temperatures, ensuring a balanced climate for vine cultivation. Elevation plays a pivotal role, with undulating slopes offering ideal sun exposure and drainage. This, combined with a Mediterranean climate of warm summers and mild winters, allows for a steady, unhurried ripening of grapes, resulting in nuanced flavors.

Natural barriers provided by surrounding hills and mountains create a protective embrace, shielding the vineyards from extreme weather. The area’s biodiversity, encompassing vineyards, forests, and wetlands, contributes to a thriving ecosystem that harmoniously supports grape cultivation. All these elements come together, guided by the expertise of local winemakers, to define Franciacorta as a terroir of singular distinction, where the land’s innate features converge with the artistry of winemaking.

The Winemaking of Franciacorta.

Winemaking in Franciacorta focuses on the practice of metodo classico, the traditional method as it is sometimes known. This traditional approach is the same that made Champagne so sought after. It involves a meticulous and labor-intensive process. Beginning with the careful selection of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc grapes, which form the base of Franciacorta wines.

Harvested by hand, grapes undergo a gentle pressing to extract the juice which is then fermented in stainless steel tanks, preserving the flavor. Following the initial fermentation, the base wine is blended to achieve the desired taste, a harmonious combination of varietals. This creates the original still wine.

The magic truly happens during the secondary fermentation, which brings the bubbles to the wine. This secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. A mixture of yeast and sugar is added, sealing the bottle with a temporary cap. The bottle is then turned upside down at a 45-angle to continue fermenting. Over an extended period, spanning months to years, the wine transforms. The slow fermentation with yeast creates fine bubbles and a distinct character of toasty and buttery flavor.

During the fermentation, the bottles are carefully rotated and tilted to encourage the sediment to settle in the neck. This sediment is eventually removed through disgorgement, resulting in a clear wine ready for its final dosage, a mixture of wine and sugar that tops of the wine and reaches the desired sweetness level.

The result is a labor of love, an incredible wine made with meticulous craftsmanship and unwavering dedication of the winemakers in Franciacorta. Each bottle carries the essence of the land, the expertise of the vintner, and the legacy of a time-honored tradition.

Must-Visit Wineries in Franciacorta

If you are looking to discover Franciacorta, the best way to do so is through tasting. Here are a few favorite wineries to visit.

  1. Berlucchi: As one of the pioneers of Franciacorta winemaking, Berlucchi holds a special place in the region’s history. Visitors can explore their historic cellars and enjoy tastings of their acclaimed sparkling wines.
  2. Bellavista: With its stunning hillside location overlooking Lake Iseo, Bellavista offers not only exceptional wines but also a breathtaking setting for tastings. Their guided tours provide insight into the winemaking process and a chance to savor their exquisite cuvées.
  3. Ca’ del Bosco: Known for its commitment to quality, and excellent organic wines Ca’ del Bosco is one of the most renowned wineries in Franciacorta. Their inclusive experiences and beautiful estate make it a top destination for wine enthusiasts.
  4. Contadi Castaldi: Set in the heart of Franciacorta, Contadi Castaldi combines tradition with innovation in its winemaking approach. Their modern facilities and diverse range of sparkling wines make for a memorable visit.
  5. Montenisa: With its elegant estate and commitment to sustainable viticulture, Montenisa offers a unique experience for visitors. Their guided tours provide a deep dive into the world of Franciacorta wines.
  6. Ricci Curbastro: A family-run winery with a rich history, Ricci Curbastro showcases the art of traditional winemaking. The estate’s charming ambiance and warm hospitality create a welcoming environment for guests.
  7. Il Mosnel: This boutique winery is known for its small production, high-quality wines. Visitors can enjoy a personalized tour and tasting experience, gaining insight into the craftsmanship behind each bottle.

What to eat in Franciacorta

Well, there is plenty of wine to drink, you might want something to pair. Here you’ll find some delicious Lombard cuisine as well as more particular local specialties that pair perfectly with its renowned wines. Here are some must-try dishes:

  1. Casoncelli alla Bergamasca: This stuffed pasta is a regional favorite. Filled with a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese, and savory herbs. They are often served with melted butter and sage.
  2. Polenta e Uccelli: A hearty dish of creamy polenta served with small game birds, such as quail or pigeon.
  3. Bresaola: A classic Italian cured meat, bresaola is air-dried beef that is thinly sliced and typically served with arugula, aged cheese, and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
  4. Persico al Franciacorta: This dish features locally caught perch, a freshwater fish, prepared in a delicate sauce made with Franciacorta wine.
  5. Panettone di Brescia: While panettone is a traditional Italian Christmas cake, the version from Brescia is particularly celebrated. Its fluffy texture and rich, fruity flavor make it a delightful treat any time of year. The light sweet cake is perfect to pair with a little bubbly.

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