Features

Discovering Franciacorta

8 Apr 2024 by Business Traveller India
Vineyards

Words by Gargi Guha

It was a beautiful April evening in Hong Kong and we were on the 32nd floor, surrounded by glitzy skyscrapers, replete with gleaming lights. A few of us friends had gathered to celebrate the momentous occasion of our 40-something friend going back to university soon. It was a bittersweet moment, as every farewell tends to be. Toasts were said and as I took my first sip, and tipped my head a little backwards to glance at a luminous sky spangled with tiny stars, I could feel the same sky burst ceremoniously into my mouth. Silky smooth and luscious, with the finest of bubbles, it filled me with aromas of peach, lemon and apricot with a lingering whisper of freshly baked brioche.

We were drinking Ca’ del Bosco’s Franciacorta Satèn – a very special Italian wine for a very special occasion. That evening, the setting and essentially that wine stayed with me for a long, long time. But what is a Satèn? And most importantly, Franciacorta? And, why don’t we hear of it that often, if it happens to be that good?

Wine Glass

Franciacorta    the wine and the place

One of Italy’s best-kept secrets and its answer to Champagne, are the sparkling wines from Lombardy in northern Italy, nestled in the picturesque foothills of the Alps. This small DOCG wine area is where some of the most revered bubblies are made. Franciacorta, pronounced ‘francha-corta’ is made in this region in the traditional or metodo classico method using Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco grapes. Exports make up a small percentage of nearly 10 per cent of Franciacorta’s sales, hence the element of mystery still hangs on, adding a certain allure to these wines.  Franciacorta is known and appreciated in certain markets like the UK, Japan, USA and northern Europe and the sparkling wines from Bellavista are available in India, courtesy of the Brindco Group.

Visiting Franciacorta

Franciacorta, in the province of Brescia, not far from Milan, stretches for over 200 kilometres and is characterised by gently rolling hills covered in vineyards. Holidays there could be ideal as a slow travel base with winery visits, biking and culinary experiences. Founded in 2000, the Strada del Franciacorta Association aims to promote the tourist potential of Franciacorta, in particular those related to food and wine.

A little deep dive

The grapes of Franciacorta, essentially Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Nero and Erbamat (since 2019) thrive in the mineral-rich, glacially served soils. But what makes them truly unique is the proximity to Lake Iseo whose waters provide a microclimate that is excellent for these grapes to retain their bright acidity. The Franciacorta Consorzio (the regional wine organisation) and several leading producers have been extolling the virtues of the native grape, Erbamat. This late-ripening variety delivers higher acidity levels and is still being decoded by wine gurus. Franciacorta Satèn is one of the best expressions of Franciacorta DOCG wine and is only made from white grapes, namely chardonnay and pinot bianco. Comparatively, it has a lower pressure in the bottle (4.5 atmospheric pressure instead of the standard 6), and hence is smoother and silkier like its name.

Vineyards

Producers to watch

Barone Pizzini

A historic winery which is a huge ambassador of sustainability, and established in 1850, this company is led by Silvano Brescianini, current ambassador and advocate of Erbamat.

Ca’ del Bosco

Tech and terroir forward, Ca’ del Bosco is in the top league in Franciacorta, and a frontrunner on the international stage. Maurizio Zanella is a perfectionist and is hugely regarded in his field.

Mosnel

Mosnel, one of the oldest family wineries in Franciacorta is one of the veritable flag bearers. Its 16th-century wine cellars and surrounding vineyards are an eloquent testimony to the age-old winemaking traditions that the Barboglio family inherited in 1836.

Corte Fusia

Corte Fusia, founded in the 2000s is a young boutique winery in the southwest part of Franciacorta. Owned by two friends; an oenologist and an agronomist, this is a labour of love and friendship.

Berlucchi

Created in 1961, the Berlucchi winery is today a wine destination for wine lovers all over the world. On its 515 hectares of land, Berlucchi produces around 4,500,000 bottles of Franciacorta DOCG wine per year, all of which are sustainably driven.

The appeal of Franciacorta is hard to miss, but we need to drink more of this charming bubbly that so few people know of. “The freshness and vibrancy of this classic method of sparkling wine without the heaviness of the champagne, truly stand out. My favourite is Franciacorta satèn, which is gentle and creamy due to the lower pressure in the bottle. I like to drink it with seafood, particularly fried, because the bubbles and acidity clean the palate, lending a certain freshness. Koliwada prawns and onion bhaji are my favourite pairings in India” says Luca Bernardini, Mumbai-based Wine Expert, Teacher and Consultant at Italics Wine Club India Project at The Indo-Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Franciacorta is only 30 minutes away from Milan-Bergamo Orio al Serio Airport. The airport has a car rental service on-site and getting to the wineries is a breeze. Why not consider the next vacation around this beautiful sparkling wine; a great discovery for wine and nature lovers!

Words by Gargi Guha

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