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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Franciacorta - Italy's Answer To Champagne


Franciacorta… the third wine to be discussed in my little miniseries on the sparkling wines of northern Italy. To recap, we have the Moscato d’Asti from Piemonte, and Prosecco, from the Veneto. In between these two regions we have Lombardia. Land-locked Lombardia, Italy’s largest, most populous region, home to Milano and Lake Como, is not known as a major wine-producing area, but it does have Franciacorta, Italy’s truest answer to Champagne.

Here are the similarities between Franciacorta and Champagne. Both are produced using the Methode Champenoise, or Metodo Classico, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle. Both are made from the varietals Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Blanc. Both use the same labeling system to identify the level of sweetness of each wine. Extra Brut is the driest, followed by Brut, Extra Dry, Sec, and Demi-Sec being the sweetest. Like Champagne, Franciacorta must be aged, for at least 18 months, by Italian law; what you get when you use the Metodo Classico is a sparkling wine with smaller and more plentiful bubbles. You also get a more subtle and complex taste, hints of vanilla and almond.

But there are differences as well, between these wines and their French cousins. Only a small amount of Franciacorta is produced each year; only one sixth the amount of Prosecco and far less than Champagne. They work better with food than Champagne also. They are fresh and crisp and lively and pair well with seafood or risotto. In fact, I’ve eaten risotto that has been prepared with Franciacorta in the recipe; this is delicious. Then add another glass on the side. This makes it perfect.

Franciacorta costs more per bottle than Prosecco or Moscato d’Asti. Look for it by the glass at wine bars; an excellent way to try it. 

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