Franciacorta: a wine, a territory

 

 

The beginnings

Heir and ambassador of the ancient heritage of a superb wine territory, Franciacorta has production roots that reach back to the 16th century. Thanks to the dedicated passion of yesterday’s and today’s growers, the sensory characteristics of Franciacorta wines are well known and loved all over the world.

 

Franciacorta: a designation that means quality

As long ago as 1995, Franciacorta was the first italian wine produced exclusively by bottle refermentation to obtain Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG).

Today, the labels bear only the designation Franciacorta, a single term that defines the territory, the method of production and the wine.

Only 10 designations in the whole Europe enjoy this privilege, and of those ten, only three are obtained by refermentation in bottle: Cava, Champagne and Franciacorta.

 

Franciacorta wineries

These long-established wineries, today transformed into temples of wine technology, produce Curtefranca Doc Bianco and Rosso, Sebino Igt, the Franciacorta zone still wines, as well as various types of sparkling Franciacorta Satèn, Rosé, Millesimato (Vintage) and Reserve.

 

The territory

Franciacorta is a superb wine country set in the heart of Lombardy. Its present-day boundaries reflect the way the land was organised under the Viscontis and continued to be administered when the Venetian Republic took over in the fifteenth century. Today, Franciacorta’s boundaries embrace the territories of nineteen municipalities in the province of Brescia.

Franciacorta is a territory with an irresistibly fascinating cultural and environmental heritage. It is a territory to discover, savour and absorb.

 

The name Franciacorta

Franciacorta’s intriguing name takes us back through history to the Corti Franche when, following the arrival of Cluniac monks, it was an area of free trade (curtes francae). Tha place name “Franzacurta” is mentioned for the first time in 1277, in the municipal records of Brescia, to indicate the area between the rivers Oglio and Mella to the south of lake Iseo.

 

The Consortium.

The Consortium has stewardship of the Franciacorta production protocol and undertakes a wide range of activities, from monitoring production to protecting and promoting both designation and wine, and providing information on the product and its territory. The Consortium also certifies the entire production chain, from grape growing to distribution of the government-issued Docg neck labels to all the wineries that use the designation, whether Consortium members or not.

 

The Franciacorta production method and protocol

Blend

Franciacorta is obtained from Chardonnay and/or Pinot nero grapes. Pinot bianco can also be used for up to the 50 % of the blend.

 

Production

As they are for all premium wines, production times and methods are long meticulous and precisely gauged.

 

Maximum 100 quintals per hectar

The vineyards of Franciacorta yield a maximum of 100 quintals per hectare of Chardonnay, Pinot nero or Pinot bianco grapes.

After harvest, which is carried out exclusively by hand, the bunches are placed in small cases for transport to the cellar, where the fruit from each vineyard is vinified separately.

 

Tirage

The grapes are soft crushed to obtain free-run juice for the production of Franciacorta base wines. In spring time, they will go into the cuvée, a blend of Franciacorta base wines that may be from different vintages and is selected from meticulous tastings, to achieve the qualities with which each winery wishes to imbue “its” Franciacorta.

The next stage is tirage, which involves adding a syrup of sugar and active yeasts to the wine in the bottle in order to encourage slow natural refermentation. This second fermentation generate carbon dioxide, increasing pressure inside the bottle to five or six atmospheres.

The sealed bottles are stored in the cellar on horizontal racks, where they remain for as long as necessary to obtain the various types of Franciacorta. It is during this months that Franciacorta acquires its distinctive sensory profile as the complexity of its aromatics deepens.

By the end of this stage, a deposit of dead yeasts forms in the bottle near the stopper, which will then have to be removed during disgorgement. For disgorgement, the upright bottles are placed neck down in a freezing solution that causes a block of ice to form, trapping the dead yeasts in an ice “stopper”.

 

Disgorgement

On removal of metal stopper, pressure inside the bottle is so high that the remaining ice is violently expelled, with minimal loss of pressure or wine.

 

Dosage

For undosed Franciacorta, only wine is used to top up the level in the bottle but for the other types, a syrup of Franciacorta base wine with sugar is added. The sugar content of the liqueur determines the flavour type of the Franciacorta concerned (Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Sec or Dry, Demisec).

 

Government neck labels

Finally the bottles are closed with the classic “mushroom” cork, held firmly in place by the distinctive wire hood. After packaging and before release to market, the Italian government strip or neck label must be applied to each bottle. The strip is distributed through the agency of the Brescia Chamber of Commerce, which issues the mandatory final certificate for Franciacorta Docg designation. The seal is printed with the words Franciacorta Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, a consecutive serial number, an indication of the bottle capacity and the crenellated “F” logo of Consortium, a further indication of its monitoring functions.

  • Non vintage Franciacorta: a minimum of 18 months fermentation in bottle before disgorgement
  • Non vintage Satèn and Rosé: 24 months
  • Vintage Franciacorta: at least 30 months
  • Franciacorta Riserva: 60 months.

 

Modification to the production 2008 protocol

In 2008 after a lengthy, complex campaign to inform and involve the Consortium’s members, the new stricter, production protocol came into force; it is more restrictive than it was before.

 

The “Harvest Reserve”

The new protocol introduces the major new development of the “Riserva Vendemmiale” (Harvest reserve), under which producers have the option of vinifying up to 20% more fruit in vintages that are favourable to quality and yield exceed 100 quintals .

The wine thus obtained is stored un-bottled for almost 12 months, as a wine to be refermentated to compensate, in difficult years, less production. The Consortium may propose to the different Offices in charge, to release this wine, in order to achieve 100 quintals/hectare allowed. The purpose of this option is to guarantee a constant high level production both in terms of quantity and quality of the product.

 

How to enjoy Franciacorta

Franciacorta can be matched with a wide range of foods and products since each wine has its own distinctive personality. It should be served in Franciacorta glasses at a temperature of 8-10° C.

 

How to store Franciacorta

To store Franciacorta correctly, lay the bottles on the sides so that the cork remains moist and expanded ensuring an air-tight seal, in a cool, dark environment at a constant temperature of between 10 and 15° C, with humidity of about 70-75 %