Franciacorta, like Champagne, is both a geographic area as well as a sparkling wine. Awarded the coveted DOCG designation in 1995, Franciacorta is located east of Milan in north-central Italy and extends between Brescia, Lake Garda and Trento, south of Lake Iseo. It is a small area with relatively low production when compared to the Champagne region of France. The Franciacorta region is only about one-tenth the size of the wine growing area of Champagne and its total annual output of about 13 million bottles is minor compared to Champagne’s annual production of some 320 million bottles.
The sparkling Franciacorta wines are produced by the classic method of Champagne, called methode champenoise, in which a second fermentation takes place in the bottles. After the initial fermentation, the wines are bottled with some yeast and sugar, which initiates a second fermentation. The bottles are then stored with the necks turned downward and periodically rotated to facilitate separation of the yeasts from the wine. After anywhere from 18 to 35 months, the yeast cells are disgorged and wine from a previous vintage is added to offset the loss from disgorgement. The bottles are recorked and then stored to let the wine further age in the bottle before being released for sale.
On offer this week is the . The wine is a blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Nero. Very shortly after picking, the grapes are pressed softly and fermented in steel vats at a controlled temperature of approximately 18°C. After pressing, a proportion of the Chardonnay is fermented and aged in oak barrels. Non-vintage Franciacorta (NV) may not be released until at least 25 months after harvest, of which 18 months must be in contact with the yeast in the bottle (compared to 15 months in the case of Champagne).