Food

Franciacorta — An Italian Champagne alternative

At The Wine Rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, November 30, 2017



December is when most sparkling wines, including Champagne, are sold worldwide; the week of Valentine's Day usually sees a bump in sales also. With Champagne prices not in everyone's budget, consumers are always on the lookout for great alternatives. While many wine-producing countries make a sparkling wine, Spain and Italy are where the most popular Champagne alternatives come from.

Italian Bubbly

Spain's most popular sparkler is Cava, but it is Italy that seems to have a wider range of bubbly choices than its neighbouring countries, in the form of Asti, Lambrusco, Moscato d'Asti and Prosecco. Perhaps the greatest sweet sparkling wine in the world, Asti dropped the 'spumante' from its name, which became tarnished by having so many cheap products carrying the name spumante, which simply means sparkling. Asti is made from the Moscato Bianco (Muscat) grape using the single- tank fermentation Charmat method, it is sweet and low in alcohol and is often served with dessert.

Also from the Asti region is a light white wine, Moscato d'Asti, made from the same grape but with less alcohol and only slightly sparkling (otherwise called frizzante). Prosecco, also produced with the tank method, is a non-vintage sparkling wine made from a grape varietal, Glera (once called Prosecco), and is produced exclusively in the northern Italian region of Veneto. Not as sweet as Asti or Moscato d'Asti, Prosecco is usually light, fruity, aromatic, crispy and refreshing. Meanwhile, Lambrusco is a light, fizzy and more frothy, fruity, floral, very refreshing red wine made in the northern regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy. But wait, there is more….

Franciacorta

While all the other sparkling wines mentioned above use the tank method to produce the bubbles resulting in generally lighter, fruitier wines, Franciacortia is a metodo classico sparkling (secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle, not a vat). In other words, it is made identically to how Champagne is made. With this alone, Franciacorta has more toastiness, nutiness and tends to be creamier, making its taste profile closer to Champagne than Prosecco. Franciacorta is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco grapes from the Franciacorta region, located in the greater Lombardy wine region, which sits east of Milan, about halfway between Milan and Verona. They celebrate 50 years of winemaking this year.

I have had the good fortune of tasting Franciacortia made by top producers Ca' del Bosco, Bellavista and Antinori Marchese. The Ca' del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvee Prestige from Select Brands has a rich tropical fruit nose supported by a zesty, refreshing, smooth, citrusy palate. Available from CPJ, the Antinori Marchese Antinori Blanc de Blanc Franciacorta is rich and complex; outstanding structure and citrus fruit aromas. I tasted the Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut Franciacorta on a recent business trip; made with 80% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Nero, 1% Pinot Bianco, on the palate you experience citrus, apple and pear flavours which are framed by consistent, fizzy bubbles and complemented by a fresh acidity.

The sparklers are all great Champagne alternatives which usually are priced 20-50% less, but as demand increases the prices move up slowly as availability outside of their main markets are limited. So don't wait, try a Franciacorta today.

 

Christopher Reckord - Information Technology Entrepreneur & Wine Enthusiast. Send your questions and comments to creckord@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram @chrisreckord and on Twitter: @Reckord

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