• Tom V.

Wines That Go Beyond the Holidays

Updated: Dec 15, 2021


The region has five basic wine categories. The term “Franciacorta” refers to a wine made from the main four grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, Erbamat) that’s aged at least 18 months on the lees and ferments a second time in the bottle. These straw-hued beauties show bread, citrus, and nutty notes. Satèn is a brut wine made from Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc that tends to be a bit more floral and delicate. Franciacorta Rosé gets its color from Pinot Nero (making up at least 35 percent of the blend) and offers ample structure and fresh berry flavors.

In addition, Millesimato refers to a wine that stresses vintage, with the lion’s share of the wine (85 percent) coming from a single growing season. If year-to-year variation is for you, this is your Franciacorta. Furthermore, Riserva is the best of the best, released no sooner than five and a half years after harvest. These intricate wines showcase the merits of age and maturation.

Dosage plays a key role in the differences of all of the above, essentially the amount of sugar added to the bottle to spark secondary fermentation. From least to most, or driest to sweetest in terms of finished wines, the terms are pas dosé, extra brut, brut, extra dry, sec, and demi-sec.

It should be noted that still wines are also made in the region, but in limited quantities and set aside primarily for local consumption. Locals continue to experiment with once-overlooked and indigenous grape varieties, such as Erbamat, which is enjoying a comeback these days. In fact, the slow-ripening white grape is now a key player in Franciacorta’s famous sparkling wines, allowed to be up to 10 percent of the blend.

If you care about wine, you care about land by default. Sustainability is a big deal in Franciacorta and the rising number of organically farmed outfits is proof. Growers adhere to tight regulations that are sensitive to the state of the land, and wineries use tools like carbon calculators to gauge and minimize emissions. There are few international denominations with such a steadfast commitment to both the environment and the evolution of the craft.

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