Monday, March 28, 2016

Franciacorta: Fine Italian Bubbles

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

When it comes to en vogue bubbles, a lot of attention has turned to Prosecco. It seems to be a big hit with the kids these days. As I’ve reported on before, there are some damn good Proseccos, especially from Cartizze.

But for my palate, if it’s Italian bubbles I’m after, Franciacorta is the place. Made with some classic Champagne grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir/Pinot Nero (although Pinot Blanc/Pinot Bianco can account for up to 50% of the blend) these Lombardia wines were elevated to DOCG status in 1995.

This is one hell of a bottle of bubbles.
These are Champagne method bubbles with at least 18 months on the lees. The vines grown in sandy, silty soils near Lake Iseo, which has moderating influences in both winter and summer. There is clearly no substitute for Champagne. But, buck for buck, these Franciacorta wines offer a ton of sparkling excitement.

I recently tasted through some Franciacorta from two producers, Barone Pizzini and La Valle, and found a whole lot to like.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

N.V. Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Animante Brut - Italy, Lombardia, Franciacorta DOCG
SRP: $35
Light gold color. Generous aromas of green apple, sliced pears, along with sea breeze and toasted baguette. Crisp and clean on the palate, this is bright and tangy wine but shows plenty of juicy fruit: green apples and pears, papaya drizzled with lime. I get some notes of chalk, toasted bread crumbs and white flowers as well. Lots of fun for a moderate price tag. Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco. (87 points)

2011 Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Satén - Italy, Lombardia, Franciacorta DOCG
SRP: $45
Light gold color. Smells very floral and perfumed, along with sea breeze, lemon peel and sliced green apples. Bright, clean, tart and pithy on the palate. I get notes of lemon and lime slices and green apples, topped with crushed chalk, floral perfume and some notes of toasted biscuit. Not too deep, but an elegant, smooth wine that begs for fish and cured meats. All Chardonnay made in Saten style, which has silky, less intense bubbles. (88 points)

2011 Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Rosé - Italy, Lombardia, Franciacorta DOCG
SRP: $45
Vibrant rose petal and salmon color. Smells fresh and inviting, with white cherry, strawberry and McIntosh apple peel, along with notes of baby’s breath, crushed chalk and toasted biscuit. Creamy texture but also crisp and lively. Dry but ripe and juicy, the bright cherries and watermelon flavors are topped with chalk, salt and toasted biscuit notes. Not the deepest or most complex wine, but it’s crisp, clean and vibrant. All Pinot Noir. (87 points)

2008 Barone Pizzini Franciacorta Brut Bagnadore - Italy, Lombardia, Franciacorta DOCG
SRP: $60
Gorgeous golden color. Aromas of apricots, yellow apples, honeysuckle, lots of bright and chalky notes along with sea salt and fresh baked biscuits – a deep and complex aromatic display. Intense acidity on the palate, very focused and nervy. Chalky, salty, a crunchy mineral kick pervades this wine. I get flavors of green apple, lime, grapefruit along with richer elements of baked pear, cinnamon, honey, biscuits and toasted baguettes. Long, brisk finish. Very impressive stuff – I’d love to bury a few bottles of this. 50/50, Pinot/Chardonnay (91 points)

N.V. La Valle Franciacorta Franciacorta Brut Rosé Italy, Lombardia, Franciacorta DOCG
SRP: $55
Pale salmon color. Bright and breezy on the nose, with white and red flowers and chalk dust on top of wild strawberries and notes of fresh biscuits. Tart on the palate yet shows some richness to the body. Flavors of red apple peel, white cherries, the fruit is crisp and vibrant with a crunchy appeal. Chalk dust, seashell, floral potpourri notes. Precise yet delicious. 100% Pinot Noir. (89 points)

N.V. La Valle Franciacorta Franciacorta Brut Primum Italy, Lombardia, Franciacorta DOCG
SRP: $40
Pale gold color. Smells nice and toasty with biscuits and toasted coconut on top of yellow apple and apricots. Tart but toasty on the palate, a rich presence but bright and tingly throughout. Toasted biscuit and coconut mix with green apple, yellow apple, apricot – along with a solid blend of bright chalk, crushed shell, mineral and tonic notes. Bright, complex, deep, bold, this has a lot going on here. Chardonnay with 25% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Bianco. (89 points)

SRP: $55
Light gold color. Gorgeous nose of toasted bread, fresh biscuits, almond and sea salt on top of golden apples and pears. Bright and tangy on the palate but a rich presence on the palate, this wine rides that line very well. Golden apples, apricot, orange peel, topped with sea salt, crushed shells, bread crumbs, fresh dough and a linger sense of minerals and talc. Finishes tart and pithy. A beautiful blend of Chardonnay with 25% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Blanc. (90 points)

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