By Jessica Norris Granatiero
I, like many clients and friends, have been reminiscing about life as it was pre-pandemic, before moratoriums on travel abroad, gatherings and dinners out. Fondly, I recall one of my spring business trips to Italy for Vinitaly, the country’s premier international wine event at which more than 100,000 wine professionals and journalists, from all over the world, amass and usurp Verona, a city in central northern Italy.
I always enjoyed the ongoing buzz (no pun intended) of Vinitaly, yet I longed for the places and unexpected experiences outside of the event’s hustle and bustle. Like when I discovered Lombardy the region – a hidden gem with its mountainous glory, flora, fauna, food and Franciacorta, within a bucolic hour drive from Verona. Franciacorta is an area that is home to Italy’s most renowned sparkling wine that dons the same name Franciacorta.
The Best of Lombardy
Amidst a full restaurant of international patrons in Lombardy, my business travel friends and I sat in relaxation mode, our bodies decompressing, shrinking into the chairs after a long day at Vinitaly. We were oblivious to the booming noise of the restaurant. The sky’s pinkish hue was barely awake after the sun already had gone to rest. The beauty and grandiosity of Lake Iseo, on which the restaurant was perched, and the tickling bubbles of Mirabella Franciacorta Rose were the only things that captured our attention in those moments. Lake Iseo is in between Lake Garda and the more famous Lake Como.
Lombardy is snuggled nicely in between Italy’s Piedmont, Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige and Emilia Romagna wine regions, and just kisses Switzerland’s southern border.
Franciacorta, Prosecco or Champagne?
Franciacorta sparkling wine sits under the radar while the country’s more widely produced and value-oriented Prosecco receives more attention. But there is great sparkling life beyond Prosecco. When talking with clients and friends, especially those who want to gift bubbles or virtually celebrate with bubbles, I often discuss Franciacorta. It is a great alternative as a “step up” from Prosecco, yet not as pricey as Champagne, which typically starts at $50.
Franciacorta is often touted as Italy’s version of France’s Champagne. I too am guilty of giving this comparison which I merely use for context in describing the differences among Champagne, Prosecco and Franciacorta, with a price above most Proseccos yet below most Champagnes. The care and attention to making Franciacorta is at a different level than Prosecco and that comes out in the resulting wine quality and price, often from $25-$50.
Italy, like other European countries, has a wine classification system that governs where and how a wine can be made. Additionally, as part of this system, an Italian governing body must conduct an analysis to ensure that what the vineyard says is in the bottle actually is. The highest level within the system is DOCG with DOC right behind it. (Then there are also IGT and VdT.) Prosecco was established as a DOC in 2009. Franciacorta started as a DOC in 1967 and was granted its higher DOCG status in 1995, with even more stringent rules released since then.
Yet, while Franciacorta and Prosecco share the same country, Franciacorta is more similar to Champagne. It is made in the same style as Champagne, with a second fermentation in the bottle – sometimes referred to as the metodo classico or méthode champenoise. Prosecco’s secondary fermentation is in tank, and then the wine goes into the bottle. Prosecco is typically younger and more fruit forward than Franciacorta which ages longer in bottle, some up to five years.
Franciacorta is made from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero. Prosecco is made from mostly the Glera grape. Champagne can be comprised of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir (Pinot Nero in Italian) or Pinot Meunier.
Price and Quality
Does price equal better taste? This is a question that I am asked often, especially when it comes to choosing a sparkling wine. My answer – not always. However, typically, there is a direct relation to quality and price. So, is the $25+ price tag of Franciacorta deserved? You be the judge, but to me yes. This does not mean Prosecco is not good. Believe me, I have enjoyed my fair share of Prosecco that offers a more fruit-forward, soft flavor profile at an affordable price. Most Prosecco is under $15. Yet if given the choice, I extend my arm out for Franciacorta.
Lastly, Franciacorta, whether Brut, Saten, Rosé or Millesimato, is a great food partner. Personally, I think sparkling wines with their many style variations are the best to pair with food. So, the next time you want to expand and elevate your or your team’s or client’s palate, ask for Franciacorta options. Here are some that we are enjoying from Ca’Del Bosco and Mirabella! See all Franciacorta wines available.