Franciacorta is Lombardia’s Challenge to Champagne #ItalianFWT

A few of the unique wines of Lombardia

Italian Food, Wine and Travel Writers Explore Lombardia (virtually)
This month, our Italian wine writers are highlighting the many wines from Lombardia, in north central Italy. Bordered to the north by the Italian Alps and featuring the well known lakes, the region is rich with wines. Many, however, are less well known. Take a look farther down in this post for links to multiple discoveries from fellow writers.

Map courtesy of Italian Wine Central

Wines of Lombardia
In the far north, Valtellina is nestled up in the foothills of the Italian Alps. Valtellina wines feature the Nebbiolo grape, referred to as Chiavennasca. Lugana wines use a local version of the Trebbiano grape to make age-able white wines. Our focus today is the Franciacorta region, well known within Italy as a producer of traditional method sparkling wines which rival high quality Champagne. Since they are from Italy, Italians know Franciacorta is superior, of course.

Franciacorta 101 – Just the Facts
Here are some key facts to help explain Franciacorta

  • Franciacorta is made in the traditional method, known in Italy as Metodo Classico (the same method as Champagne)
  • Franciacorta region has a warm continental climate. Nearby Lake Iseo moderates temperatures and nights are cooled by evening breezes descending from the Italian Alps just to the north
  • 75% of the estates farm organically and the region has a goal to reach 100%
  • Chardonnay is the dominant grape variety, with Pinot Noir and smaller amounts of Pinot Blanc and a local variety called Erbamat. Note that Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are also the predominant grapes in Champagne.
  • Winemaking focusses on high quality with gentle, whole bunch pressing, temperature controlled fermentation in Stainless Steel. The minimum aging requirement is 18 months, longer than the minimum required in Champagne.
  • Sweetness levels conform to European standards with Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, etc…

Types of Franciacorta Wines
There are multiple types of Franciacorta sparkling wines with a few unique versions for the region.

  • Non Vintage – White sparkling wine. Typically Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, may have Pinot Blanc or a small percentage of Erbamat. Minimum lees aging is 18 months, longer than the minimum requirement for Champagne. Many wineries age their wines much longer than the minimum.
  • Satèn – White grapes only, typically Chardonnay. Minimum 24 months of lees aging. Only Brut allowed. Key feature is lower pressure, less than 5 atmospheres (6 atmospheres is typical for traditional method). Gives the carbonation that satin feel.
  • Rosé – Minimum 35% Pinot Noir. Color comes mainly from skin contact of the Pinot Noir, though blending a bit of red wine is allowed. Minimum of 24 months on the lees.
  • Millesimato – at least 85% of the grapes must be from the listed vintage, with a minimum of 30 months of lees aging
  • Riserva – Millesimato wine with at least 60 months of lees aging.
Ronco Calino Franciacorta NV Brut

Ronco Calino Franciacorta NV Brut DOCG ($30 online here) 12.5% abv
Ronco Calino is certified in organic farming. 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir. Aged for 30 months on the lees. Where Champagnes can be barely ripe and somewhat austere, I found Franciacorta Brut to have just that extra bit of ripeness. The long lees aging shows in robust yeasty, biscuit aromas. Franciacorta wines often have low dosage, this one has just 2 grams/liter.

Ronco Calino Franciacorta Satèn

Ronco Calino Franciacorta Satèn DOCG ($31 locally or online here) 12.5% abv
100% Chardonnay, half of the base wine is fermented in oak barrels to give some richness. Aged on the lees for 30 months prior to disgorging. Dosage is 5 grams per liter. While the wine doesn’t visually look different from the normal 6 atmospheres of pressure, it does have a silky quality which was very enjoyable.

Corteaura Franciacorta Rosé

Corteaura Franciacorta Rosé DOCG ($32 locally or online here) 12.5% abv
Regulations call for at least 35% Pinot Noir, Corteaura’s rosé is 75% Pinot Noir, and it spends 40 months on the lees before being disgorged. Also, the color comes from skin contact which gives more texture and flavor compared to blending in a tiny amount of red wine.

Food pairings include all the usual choices for traditional method sparkling wines

Other Lombardia Discoveries from the Italian Food, Wine and Travel Writers
Take a look below at all the great finds from the Lombardia region. Then, join our chat! We’ll be tweeting all things Lombardia on Twitter, Saturday August 7 from 10-11am CDT. Just look for the #ItalianFWT hashtag and you’re in!

5 Responses to “Franciacorta is Lombardia’s Challenge to Champagne #ItalianFWT”
  1. wendyklik says:

    Thanks for hosting Jeff.

  2. Vino Travels says:

    Love the variety of different Franciacorta you shared and some great facts on the region.

  3. joyofwine says:

    Great introduction to all the styles of Franciocorta. Loved doing Lombardia this month! Thanks Jeff!

  4. Lynn says:

    I agree with the Italians about the superiority of Franciacorta! Great choice, and I always enjoy the opportunity to review and refresh with your 101 facts. Cheers to Franciacorta and hosting #ItallianFWT

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