Chances are that if you’re familiar with Italian sparkling wine, it’s probably Prosecco. With good reason – there’s tons of it, the entry point is pretty low in price and there are examples that range from completely dry to near sticky sweet. Unfortunately, a lot of people are left thinking that these wines predominately made from the grape Glera are the be-all and end-all of Italian Bubbles. I’m here to put the lie to that notion. Italy, in fact, has several sparkling wine traditions and regions. While they each bring something interesting to the table and offer some producers of note, Franciacorta is the Italian sparkling wine region that competes best on the world stage. There are a few reasons for that.
Let’s face it: At the end of the day, all sparkling wine is held up against the prism of what has been accomplished in Champagne for generations. The conditions in Franciacorta are such that the primary grapes which thrive there are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. These, of course, are what grow best in Champagne too. To a lesser degree, Pinot Blanc and Erbamat are utilized in Franciacorta as well. The methodology for production of Franciacorta is the same traditional method used for centuries in Champagne, the key component being secondary fermentation in bottle.
Utilizing levels of dosage that start at zero and range to semi-sec level, Franciacorta producers can decide to make wines in a host of styles that will attract people of all palates and, more importantly, pair with a wide range of cuisines. Great sparkling wines provide some of the most flexible food pairing choices. The wines of Franciacorta prove this truism. Here’s a look at a trio of Rosés from Franciacorta, which just scratch the surface on the breadth of sparkling wines available from this world class region. As an added bonus, the price points for Franciacorta are significantly lower than those for Champagne of similar quality.
Villa Franciacorta Boké Rosé Brut 2012 Millesimato DOCG ($36)
Wines with the Millesimato designation are produced with upwards of 85% of a single variety and dosage as high as extra dry. This offering is a Brut; common both in Franciacorta and Champagne, the level of Dosage used for Brut produces a dry wine of wide appeal and application. Black raspberry and cherry aromas lead the nose. The palate shows off both black and red fruits with interspersed bits of orange rind and gentle spice. Wisps of Bartlett pear emerge on the finish along with a dollop of toast and yeast. This fruit-driven expression will be a great match for all but the heaviest of dishes. It would also serve well as an elegant welcome wine.
RoncoCalino Rosé Radijan Franciacorta Brut ($37)
As with the previous wine, this is a Brut. This is entirely Pinot Noir from vines planted to Champagne and Burgundy clones. Red fruit aromas are punctuated by gentle bits of savory herb. The palate shows off toasted hazelnut, red cherry and hints of citrus rind that cycle in and out. All of those characteristics reverberate on the finish, which has good depth and persistence. This will also pair with a wide range of foods, but it’s particularly engaging sipped on its own.
La Montina Franciacorta Rosé Millesimato 2010 Extra Brut ($49)
This offering was produced from Pinot Noir (85%) and Chardonnay (15%). The designation of Extra Brut indicates a maximum of 6 grams of sugar per liter, half that of Brut. Ripe strawberry and bits of vanilla lead the aromatics. Gentle red fruit flavors and subtle spice references mark the palate. Bits of pomegranate and sour cherry lead the above-average finish. There’s depth and nuance here that emerges as this wine is sipped and contemplated. It’ll work really well paired with a cheese course at the end of a meal.