Franciacorta is an exciting sparkling wine from the Lombardy area in northern Italy with DOCG status produced from grapes grown within the boundaries of the territory of Franciacorta, on the hills of a series of villages to the south of Lake Iseo in the Province of Brescia. It was awarded DOC status in 1967; the designation also included red and white still wines. Since 1995 the DOCG classification has applied exclusively to sparkling wines. Called ‘Franzacurta’ since as far back as 1277 and then called Franciacorta not until 1957.
Franciacorta became the first DOC to specify that its sparkling wines must be made by ‘Metodo Classico’ or Méthode Traditionnelle. In 1990 the ‘Consorzio per la tutela del Franciacorta’ was formed, instigating codes of self-regulation with a gradual reduction of yields and removal of the use of Pinot Grigio, becoming the organisation considered responsible for the efficient elevation of sparkling Franciacorta to DOCG status in 1995. Since the 1st August 2003, Franciacorta has been the only Italian wine not required to state its DOCG appellation on the label, in the same manner that Champagne is allowed to exclude AOC from its labels.
The DOCG declared vineyards extend 2,200 hectares and the distribution of permitted grape varieties are 85% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero and 5% Pinot Bianco.
Franciacorta NV cannot be released until at least 25 months after harvest, of which 18 months must be in contact with the yeast in the bottle (compared to 15 months for Champagne). Franciacorta Vintage or Millesimato cannot be sold until at least 37 months after harvest, of which 30 months must be in contact with the yeast (similar to Champagne). A Franciacorta Rosé must contain at least 15% Pinot Nero, and may be made by blending red wine. Franciacorta Satèn must be a Blanc de Blancs with only the use of Chardonnay and/or Pinot Bianco permitted, with only 4.5 atmospheres of pressure instead of 6.
The grapes for Franciacorta are grown in strictly specified vineyards in 20 communes, including Erbusco where I drove too from Verona, halfway towards Milan and had the pleasure of being hosted by Ca’ del Bosco, which is one of the most picturesque destinations in the world, as well as a quality winery. Its own vineyards are a mixture of soil described as mineral-rich, calcareous gravel and sandy morainal soils that cover a limestone bedrock.
Ca' del Bosco is on the leading edge of the exciting new wave of Italian wine producers, making absolutely top-quality méthode traditionnelle and still wines. Maurizio Zanella founded the winery in 1968, and dedicated himself to distinguishing the sparkling wines of Franciacorta.
Top reviews are many, and Ca' del Bosco is, as Hugh Johnson puts it, "One of Italy's best sparkling-winemakers."
The winery owns more than 93 hectares in the region, with vineyards planted in Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Nero and other indigenous Franciacorta grapes.
Ca' del Bosco's reputation for sparkling wines has been secured by the excellence of its cuvées. Along with the premium quality wines - the winery is full of and surrounded by dramatic artworks and sculptures, the wine tasting and overall visit was one I will never forget.