Franciacorta (from curtae franca, or an area exempt from the payment of taxes in medieval times) is Italy’s most famous sparkling wine production area, where some of the world’s best bubblies are made by the classic method (Metodo Classico, in Italian) of secondary fermentation in the bottle. Often compared to Champagne, the Franciacorta (which just like its French counterpart is both the name of a type of wine and of a specific wine region) is however located more to the South and therefore basks in a much warmer climate. Thus, Franciacorta’s wines are characterized by softer acidities and riper yellow fruit aromas (peach, apricot, yellow apple, pear) and flavours than those of Champagne, which are generally marked more by notes of green fruit (green apple, kiwi, lime) and higher acidities.
Other important differences between Champagne and Franciacorta that are worth knowing have to do with the grape varieties used and the categories of wines made in each. In France, though rare, producers can also use grapes such as Arbane, Petit Meslier and Vrai Blanc to make their Champagnes, but none of those grapes are grown in Italy. In fact, even a very common Champagne wine grape such as Pinot Meunier is practically non-existent in Franciacorta: this is not surprising, because as warm as it is, bringing acidity into check is not a concern in Franciacorta; actually, quite the contrary, thanks (!?!?!?) to climate change. It’s actually overall lowish acidity values that are the problem for Franciacorta producers: this has led to the introduction of a local high-acid native wine grape called Erbamat in the Franciacorta blend, a grape not grown in France at all. Not every Franciacorta producer chooses to add a little Erbamat to his or her blends, but many do, bringing a thoroughly Italian and local touch to the wines. And while on the subjects of wine grapes, be aware that Pinot Blanc (Pinot Bianco in Italian) is used much more in Franciacorta than in Champagne: in Franciacorta, Pinot Blanc adds not just freshness but also noteworthy elegance to the finished wines; the fact that many Franciacorta estates chose to do away with it over the years in favour of planting still more Chardonnay was undoubtedly a mistake. So just keep in mind that a Blanc de Blancs wine in Franciacorta is often a Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc/Pinot Bianco blend, or 100% Chardonnay (there are no monovariety Pinot Blanc/Pinot Bianco Franciacorta wines made). By contrast, a Blanc de Blancs wine from Champagne is usually all Chardonnay. Last but not least, while Franciacorta and Champagne make bubbly wines in all the usual classic sparkling wine categories such as Nature/Pas Dosé/Dosage Zero, Extra Brut, Brut, and Demi Sec, in Franciacorta an extremely important category is that of Satèn, which can only be made with white grapes (hence Chardonnay and/or Pinot Bianco/Pinot Blanc). Satèn as a category is analogous to the French Crémant sparkling wine, which is not found in Champagne. Like Crémants, Satèns (literally from “satin”, a reference to the wine’s velvety, smooth, gentle mouthfeel) are characterized by lower atmospheric bottle pressures and so the wines are much creamier, softer and gentler in their carbonation than the sparkling wines of the other categories. Though there is a tendency on the part of some producers and some wine lovers to view Satèn as a less important category of Franciacorta wines, that is a very mistaken, even snobbish way to look at things: fact is, Satèns are more often than not Franciacorta’s most successful bubblies, mostly on the heels of the extremely high-quality Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco/Pinot Blanc that are grown there (in fact, roughly 68-73% of Francicorta is planted to Chardonnay, 20-25% to Pinot Noir/Pinot Nero and 5-8% to Pinot Bianco/Pinot Blanc).
Clearly, it’s not that one sparkling wine is better than the other, but rather that Champagne and Franciacorta are different, and each wine will find its fans. And though in general Champagne’s best wines tend to be more complex than the best from Franciacorta, it is also true that the latter region boasts generally more successful Rosé bubblies across the board, given that the Pinot Noir has an easier time ripening in Francicorta’s southern, warmer habitat.
Franciacorta is also a very beautiful area well worth visiting. I know that visiting, vacationing wine lovers tend to flock to Piedmont and Tuscany mostly, but the fact is that there are many other extremely beautiful wine production areas in Italy making great wines. Franciacorta just happens to be one of them. Nestled between the Lake Iseo and close to the pretty city of Brescia (not far from Milan, a one hour train ride away), it is relatively small area about twenty-five kilometrs by ten kilometers large, boasting about 3000 hectares of vineyards. There are numerous beautiful old museums to visit, buildings and monuments to see, outstanding restaurants to eat in and beautiful country resorts to stay at.
The wines in this tasting report
The wines in this tasting report were tasted either from my cellar in Rome when I visited Italy for two and a half months earlier this year or courtesy of the Franciacorta consortium that I wish to thank. The Franciacorta wines of the Gralò winery, which is not a member of the consortium, were sourced by myself and tasted repeatedly during my time in Italy, including at the Micro Mega Wines thematic area of the Vinitaly wine fair in April of this year.
Barboglio De Gaioncelli.
Barboglio De Gaioncelli NV Franciacorta Brut 88
Light yellow with a pretty stream of slightly large bubbles. Nicely pitched ripe melon, apple and tangerine aromas, plus subtle anise but also with mounting green herbal qualities. Juicy and round, with fresh citrus and orchard fruit flavours complemented by exotic green cardamom and herb notes. Finishes medium-long and with an earthy, green nuance. The herbal, slightly rustic note might be too much for some; perhaps try giving this another year in the bottle and decant at least an hour ahead for maximum enjoyment. Disgorged 10/22. Drinking window: 2024-2028.
Barboglio De Gaioncelli 2017 Franciacorta Brut 91
Luminous golden-tinged pale straw colour with a nicely persistent mousse. Nicely perfumed nose offers apple, pear, orange peel and floral nuances. Then fresh and fruity, boasting lovely definition to the orchard fruit flavours that showcase good finishing savouriness and zippy freshness. I liked this much better than the non-vintage Brut from this estate, finding this 2017 bubbly to be less rustic, more mineral and very long. Here the herbal notes add complexity and depth and don’t strike me as being green at all. Well done: this is a real nice sparkling wine that costs a fraction of more expensive sparkling wines from Italy, France and elsewhere. Disgorged 10/22. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Barboglio De Gaioncelli 2017 Franciacorta Extra Brut 90
Good full straw yellow with a lovely fine bead of bubbles. Initially honeyed and herbal, then improves with aeration to reveeal very pretty aromas and flavours of white and yellow flowers, vanilla and ripe pear. The aftertaste is very saline, long and clean. Disgorged 01/23. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Barboglio De Gaioncelli 2019 Franciacorta Satèn 90
Bright pale straw yellow with a persistent mousse of fine bubbles. Perfumed aromas of lime, jasmine and peach. Offers lively, sharply-etched flavours of apple and tangerine, but tastes less creamy than most Satèns you are likely to taste. Clean and fresh on the slowly building finish. This will appeal most to those who like their bubblies to be uncompromisingly sharp and lifted rather than soft and mellow: for sure, this will match very well with raw seafood and shellfish. Disgorged 01/23. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Barone Pizzini NV Franciacorta Extra Brut Animante IX Tiratura 91
Good full medium straw colour with a lively mousse. Ripe aromas and flavours of minty herbs, underbrush, pear and quince. High but harmonious acidity is heightened by noteworthy salinity in the mouth. Closes long and mineral. This improves greatly with aeration, building complexity and nuance over time and with air, so my advice is to serve it from a decanter. A very successful blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Bianco and Erbamat: the last of those grapes is a rare native Italian grape used to add mostly acidity, but it actually confers a nice candied lemon note as well. Disgorged 08/22. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Barone Pizzini NV Franciacorta Brut Golf 1927 93
Pale straw. Lovely clean fresh and very Chardonnay on the nose and in the mouth, with creamy but also fresh nuances of apple, pear, nectarine peach and jasmine. Delicate and precise, this is really very good. 100% Chardonnay. Disgorged 08/22. Drinking window: Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Barone Pizzini 2018 Franciacorta Satèn 92
Luminous straw yellow with a lingering mousse. Expressive aromas of orchard and fresh citrus fruit are complemented by vanilla and a gentle white flower touch. Creamy lemon and lime flavours boast excellent inner-mouth floral perfume and a nice saline edge. A touch of alcohol-derived heat emerges on the long back end, but this comes across mostly as a very harmonious bubbly that features an enticing smoky vanilla note on the finish. Disgorged 11/22. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Barone Pizzini 2018 Franciacorta Extra Brut Rosé 93
Salmon pink colour. Aromas and flavours of red berries, violet and cinnamon. Closes long, clean, rich and ripe, but with very good fruity saline freshness. This is a very nice Rosé bubbly that showcases well how this sparkling wine category performs in Franciacorta, where Pinot Noir doesn’t have trouble ripening. Disgorged 11/22. Drinking window: 2024-2030.
Barone Pizzini 2015 Franciacorta Riserva Dosaggio Zero Bagnadore 91
Pale straw. Clean and fresh aromas of nectarine and white flowers on the nose but less complex than I am accustomed to with this important wine. Offers smoky and saline flavours of underbrush and orchard fruit on entry, then turns more diesely on the long back end. I usually find this to be one of the best Franciaciorta wines every year, and this is a very good Metodo Classico sparkling wine indeed, so I’m probably splitting hairs here; but I found this specific bottle to be a bit more evolved and heavy-handed than expected. Disgorged 03/22. Drinking window: 2024-2028.
Barone Pizzini 2014 Franciacorta Riserva Dosaggio Zero Bagnadore 94
Golden-tinged straw. Nicely rich and creamy, this offers very precise aromas and flavours of orchard fruit, vanilla, smoky spices and grilled vegetables: lovely, actually. Its building smoky creaminess makes it a deadringer for some Henri Giraud oaked Champagnes you might know. Outstanding Franciacorta. Disgorged 11/21. Drinking window: 2024-2032.
Bellavista NV Franciacorta Brut Grande Cuvée Alma 91
Pale straw-yellow with a fine, persistent mousse. Aromas and flavours of freshly baked bread, hazelnuts, orange, apple and peach. Gently textured and smooth, with good acid lift nicely extending the flavours on the long smooth back end. This 79% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Nero and 1% Pinot Bianco blend is aged for about a third in oak pieces and the rest in stainless steel. It’s the classic bubbly of the house. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Bellavista 2016 Franciacorta Brut Teatro alla Scala 92
Bright straw-yellow with a steady bead of small bubbles. Aromas of fresh apricot, puff pastry and herbs, plus hints of tropical fruit. Then similar flavours with an enticing floral quality adding lift and a hint of raspberry adds further complexity. Closes long with good grip. A blend of 75% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Nero. Disgorged: 2021. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Bellavista 2017 Franciacorta Rosé Brut 93
Bright medium-deep pink. Aromas and flavours of ripe red berries, brioche and candied violet. Ripe and suave I the mouth too, but fresh, with harmonious acidity nicely framing the rich flavours on the long, saline finish. Spent 36 months on the lees but is not especially yeasty or nutty, and yet it is complex, nicely ripe and highly satisfying. The most improved wine in Bellavista’s lineup, but I’d say that’s true of almost all the Franciacorta Rosé wines made today. Disgorged: 2021. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Bellavista 2016 Franciacorta Pas Operé 93
Luminous straw-yellow. Aromas of white orchard fruit, puff pastry, botanical herbs, and orange peel on the enticing nose. The creamy flavours are similar to the aromas, but complemented by hints of guava and ginger. Closes bright but suave, with nicely persistent notes of white flowers and savory pear. A blend of 64% Chardonnay and 36% Pinot Nero from the estate’s oldest vines, this spent roughly seventy-two months on the lees. About 50% is aged in oak barrels, the rest in stainless steel. There is no residual sugar here (0 g/L r.s.). Disgorged: 2021. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
Bellavista 2013 Franciacorta Riserva Extra Brut Vittorio Moretti 94
Golden straw yellow with a fine stream of small bubbles. Clean and fresh on the nose, with vibrant mineral notes to the orchard, even tropical fruit, and floral aromas and flavours. Showcases delightful balance for a wine that clocks in at less than 3 g/L r.s. and has over 7 g/L total acidity. The finish is very long and pristine and echoes the tropical fruit and orchard fruit notes of the nose and the palate. A blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Nero fermented and aged in oak barrels. Disgorged: 2021. Drinking window: 2023-2031.
Berlucchi ’61 NV Franciacorta Extra Brut 93
Luminous straw yellow with a persistent bead of fine bubbles. Inviting aromas of peach, nectarine, green apple and herbs. Then creamy yet fresh, with nicely delineated floral flavours of vanilla, custard cream and grilled hazelnuts. Its gentle finishing sweetness doesn’t really leave the impression of drinking something “extra brut”, but it’s the balance and not the labels that is what counts in wine, and this is a real beauty. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Berlucchi ’61 NV Franciacorta Satèn 91
Bright pale straw colour. Lemon verbena, chamomile and vanilla complement green apple and green banana on the nose. Enters sweet and creamy with lovely orchard fruit, herbal and vanilla flavours but finishes a little abruptly, or I would have scored it higher. Disgorged 2023. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Berlucchi ’61 2016 Franciacorta Nature Dosaggio Zero Blanc de Blancs 95
Vibrant straw-green colour with a lovely foam. Very complex and clean aromas and flavours of sweet orange, white flowers, apricot, and nectarine showcase a building mineral quality. This is a truly noteworthy bubbly that can rival the best in Champagne. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
Berlucchi ’61 2016 Franciacorta Nature Dosaggio Zero 94
Bright straw yellow with a persistent bead of fine bubbles. Inviting aromas of apple, pear, grilled almonds, butter and freshly baked bread. Then similar flavours in the mouth, with a nicely textured, mouthcoating persistence. Bigger, creamier and richer than this winery’s 2016 Franciacorta Nature Dosaggio Zero Blanc de Blancs, but not necessarily more complex, those who prefer bigger and creamier bubblies will actually like this more than the Blanc de Blancs, but both are truly outstanding sparkling wines. The finish is long, vibrant and very precise. Knockout stuff here. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
Guido Berlucchi 2011 Franciacorta Riserva Extra Brut Palazzo Lana 93
Vivid starw yellow. Clean, penetrating aromas of jasmine, lemon verbena, peony, chamomile, raspberry jam and almonds on the rich, dense nose. Yeasty bread, lemon jelly, raspberry coulis and saline cured meats on the long fresh tactile finish. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
Berlucchi ’61 NV Franciacorta Rosé 92
Bright pink with a nice froth. Aromas and flavours of red berries, lavender, peony and herbs. Not the fruitiest rosé bubbly you will ever taste, but nicely delineated and very fresh in its floral and herbal flavour profile. A very good bubbly that closes fresh and long. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Bersi Serlini 2019 Franciacorta Extra Brut 91
Pale straw. Simple, straightforward but clean and nicely precise aromas and flavours of lime, herbs and ripe citrus fruits. The long aftertaste is fresh and fruity rather than savory. Disgorged 22/9. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Bersi Serlini 2019 Franciacorta Brut 91
Luminous straw. Flowers and herbs dominate the fresh,e asygoing nose. Riper but also more herbal and dieselly than many other Franciacorta Bruts you might try. Disgorged 22/9. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Bersi Serlini NV Franciacorta Blanc de Blancs Brut Anniversario 93
Vivid straw colour. Clean and fresh white flowers and orchard fruit dominate the enticing nose and palate. Closes long and fresh, with enticing juiciness and flavour persistence. Linear and well-delineated, this is really quite good. Disgorged 22/11. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Bersi Serlini NV Franciacorta Satèn 91
Vivid straw yellow with a persistent mousse of fine bubbles. Rich and ripe, with very approachable flavours of apple, tangerine and pear, enlivened by a delicate herbal nuance. Neither very deep nor especailly complex, but utterly enjoyable and irresistible in its juicy-fruity sappiness. Disgorged 22/6. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Ca’ del Bosco.
Ca’ del Bosco NV Franciacorta Prestige Cuvée Edizione 45 91
Bright medium straw-yellow with a fine, persistent perlage. Aromas of sweet spices, blossoms, yellow apple and Kaiser pear. Creamy and ripe in the mouth, but with livelier, fresher orchard fruit flavours than was common with this cuvée only as frequently as five years ago. Closes long and nicely tapered. This is a 82% Chardonnay, 16.5% Pinot Nero and 1.5% Pinot Bianco blend made with grapes picked in a rather hard-to-fathom 214 different organic-certified vineyards! I remember that the vineyards numbered less than 150 only about five or six years ago: no doubt, time flies. About 68% of this cuvée is made with wine from the 2020 vintage, 29% is reserve wines from 2019 and 3% from 2018, and it is an Extra Brut. This Edition spent 25 months on the lees. Disgorged: Autumn 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Ca’ del Bosco NV Franciacorta Rosé Prestige Cuvée Edizione 45 91
Luminous orange-tinged pink. Small red berries and botanical herbs on the perfumed nose. Good harmonious acidity lifts and extends the flavours of small red fruit and peach on the long smooth close. Much like the non-Rosé Prestige Cuvée (a bubbly that despite its name is actually not the top bottling of the estate but rather the entry-level offering, though a very high-quality one at that). First made in 1976, it became a Prestige Cuvée only in 2005 (I remember being invited at its launch in Italy and Maurizio Zanella completely taken by surprise that I knew beforehand what they were going to announce), becoming an Edizione wine in 2018. This latest Edizione cuvée is the 45th and is an 80% Pinot Nero and 20% Chardonnay mix made with grapes picked in eighteen different organic-certified vineyards; the Pinot Noir in the finished wine is all from the 2020 vintage, while the origin of the Chardonnay is equally divided between the 2020 vintage and the 2019 Reserve wine. This Edition spent 30 months on the lees. Disgorged: Summer 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Ca’ del Bosco 2016 Franciacorta Dosage Zéro Vintage Collection 95
Bright straw-green. Deep aromas of minty orchard fruit, herbs and small red berries with hints of lemongrass on the delicate nose. Then rich, ample and creamy, but with very well-delineated flavours of small red berries, nectarine and aromatic herbs lifted by good lemony zing. The aftertaste is suave and penetrating. Made from 26 different certified organic vineyards, this 2016 is a blend of 65% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Nero and 22% Pinot Bianco; it is in fact, at least for now, the last of the Dosage Zéro wines to be made with this much Pinot Bianco (I remember the 2015, 2014 and 2013 also had 22% Pinot Bianco in the blend), and I think this change is a pity. While truly knowledgeable Italian wine insiders and lovers know that outside of the two Annamaria Clementi wines, the Dosage Zéro by far the best bubbly Ca’ del Bosco makes (it’s actually so good it gives the Annamaria Clementi a run for its money in most vintages), I firmly believe the wine was better when it had more Pinot Bianco. I hope that future vintages, weather conditions and all, will allow the proportion of Pinot Bianco to increase once again. Drinking window: 2023-2033.
Ca’ del Bosco 2016 Franciacorta Satèn Vintage Collection 94
Bright pale straw yellow with a fine bead of pinpoint bubbles. Inviting aromas and flavours of jasmine, nectarine, hite peach, and yellow apple, nicely complicated by hints of lemon custard and balsamic oils. Fresh and energetic but suave, featuring sweet herb and spicy nuances to its soft white fruit flavours; very pleasant but less complex than the 2016 Dosage Zéro Vintage Collection. Closes long and clean with nicely persistent white flower nuances. This is a blend of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Bianco culled from sixteen organic certified vineyards that spent about forty-eight months on the lees and yet it doesn’t strike me as being especially complex (yet?). Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Ca’ del Bosco 2013 Franciacorta Dosage Zéro Vintage Collection 96
Pale yellow with a steady mousse of small bubbles. Highly perfumed nose of blood orange, jasmine and lemon verbena, plus hints of tertiary development with nuances of white truffle, flinty herbs and faded flowers. Complex, palate-staining fresh citrus and orchard fruit flavours are complicated by lemongrass and fresh sage, with mounting back-end flintiness. A multilayered wine that gains power with air and finishes with memorable lingering clarity and cut. It’s an especially impressive achievement given how difficult the 2013 vintage was in Franciacorta (rainy spring and super-hot summer). But make no mistake about it, this is a knockout Franciacorta: when the Dosage Zéro Vintage Collection is this good, an argument can be made it is Italy’s best sparkling Metodo Classico wine. The 2013 was made with grapes picked from 25 different certified organic vineyards (fifteen of Chardonnay, two of Pinot Bianco and eight of Pinot Nero), and is a blend of 65% Chardonnay, 13% Pinot Nero and 22% Pinot Bianco (what then used to be an almost standard mix for this bubbly). The Dosage Zéro as we know it today was actually born as a non-vintage wine (in 1978) becoming a “Vintage Dosage Zéro” wine in 1991; then with the restyling of the estate’s portfolios of wines, the “Vintage Collection” line was created (made up of a Satèn, a Brut and the Dosage Zéro) that comes in very impressive large heavy bottles and expensive packaging (the wines are totally worth it). Disgorged: Autumn 2020. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Ca’ del Bosco 2013 Franciacorta Dosage Zéro Noir Vintage Collection 94
Bright golden straw yellow. Poached pear and yellow apple on the nose, with notes of smoke, caramel, and herbs adding complexity. The palate offers a jaggedly fresh citrus peel character, combined with savoury orchard fruits, toasted nuts and potpourri providing depth and richness. Finishes like it starts: powerful and austere, with notes of brown butter and peach pit on the long tactile, saline close. This serious 100% Pinot Noir Franciacorta (a true Blanc de Noirs) culled from three organic certified vineyards spent about eight and a half years on its lees; big and powerful, there is literally no easy sweetness to this, and it really does beg for food. On that subject, it handles rich seafood or poultry dishes with ease. To date, this is the last Dosage Zéro Noir made. Disgorged: Winter 2021-2022. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Ca’ del Bosco 2013 Franciacorta Riserva Annamaria Clementi 95+
Bright straw-yellow. Aromas of fresh apricot, sweet spices, butter, truffle, caramel, and orange liqueur, plus whiffs of pineapple and banana. Then similar flavors on the slightly high-toned palate, but an inviting floral quality provides lift on the long smooth finish, characterized by noteworthy grip and persistence. An Extra Brut, this is a blend of 75% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Nero and 10% Pinot Bianco picked in twenty-two organic certified vineyards (fourteen of Chardonnay, two of Pinot Bianco, and six of Pinot Nero); spent over eight years on its lees. Given how difficult the 2013 vintage was in Franciacorta, this is an exceptionally great wine. Disgorged: Autumn 2021. Drinking window: 2023-2038.
Ca’ del Bosco 2011 Franciacorta Riserva Annamaria Clementi 93
The 2011 Annamaria Clementi is an Extra Brut made with a blend of 65% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Nero and 15% Pinot Bianco picked in fifteen organic certified vineyards (ten of Chardonnay, two of Pinot Bianco, and three of Pinot Nero); spent about nine years on its lees. As great and delicious a Metodo Classico as this is, and as much as I love all of Ca’ del Bosco Metodo Classico wines with hefty percentages of Pinot Bianco, I believe the 2011 is a notch below the greatest Annamaria Clementi wines made in Ca’ del Bosco’s long and glittering history. Disgorged: Summer 2020. Drinking window: 2023-2035.
Ca’ del Bosco 2013 Franciacorta Riserva Rosé Annamaria Clementi 94+
Vivid golden-tinged pink. Clean, fresh aromas of sour red cherry, blueberry and peach. Then more fresh blue and red berries and soft peach flavors complicated by hints of guava, thyme, lavender and red cherry nectar. This Extra Brut is a lovely sparkler that closes with above average concentration and is still fairly shut down, hinting at further future development, hence the ‘+’ on my score. 100% Pinot Nero from three certified organic vineyards; spent eight years on the lees. Disgorged: Autumn 2021. Drinking window: 2023-2035.
Ca’ del Bosco 2007 Franciacorta Riserva Rosé Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 97
Fairly deep pink-red colour, with a quickly rising but persistent mousse of small bubbles. Fresh and very precise aromas of raspberry and red cherry are complicated by blood orange, cinnamon, violet, rose honey and cinnamon. Seductively glycerally sweet and pliant, offering lush strawberry and raspberry flavours that are multilayered and lifted by zesty mineral bite. Knockout Rosé sparkler with strong finishing spicy cut and a suave, rich, dense, tactile mouthfeel boasting lingering notes of marzipan, raspberry and cherry preserves. This is great and it isn’t even the best Annamaria Clementi ever made, so that tell you just how great this Metodo Classico from Ca’ del Bosco is. An 100% Pinot Noir sparkling wine that spent roughly eight and a half years on the lees, the grapes were picked from three organic vineyards about thirty years old at the time. It is an Extra Brut (the front label does not say so, you need to look at the back label); speaking of labels, this was the last vintage of Annamaria Clementi Rosé that carried the word “cuvée” on the label (check out the photo); with the 2008, the wine becomes Annamaria Clementi Rosé only. Disgorged: Spring 2016. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
Castello Bonomi Franciacorta Blanc de Blanc Cuvée 22 90
Pale straw yellow. Clean, fresh pear, apple, and vanilla on the nsoe and in the mouth. Round and pleasant, with an appealing, very immediate fruitiness to its orchard fruit flavours, this is not especially complex but very lively and fresh on the aftertaste. Rather irresistible in its sparkling charm. Disgorged 2022/10. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Castello Bonomi 2019 Franciacorta Satèn Brut Millesimato 89
Vibrant straw yellow. Bright aromas and flvourds of fresh apple and pear, with a rising herbal nuance on the medium-long finish.Very fresh but not especially creamy or soft for a Satèn. Disgorged 2023/01. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Castello Bonomi 2018 Franciacorta Brut Cru Perdu 92
Medium-deep straw colour with a fine bead of bubbles. Yeasty, anise and brioche notes complicate apple and tangerine on the nose. At once seriously acid and taut, but also glyceral with classically dry flavours similar to the aromas on the long finish. Disgorged on 2022/11. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Castello Bonomi 2016 Franciacorta Brut Cru Perdu 92
Medium yellow-gold, with a green cast. Smoky, lees-accented pear, melon and mango aromas are complicated by coriander, vanilla and botanical herbs. Lush, palate-coating orchard fruit and melon flavours are perked up by a zingy mineral quality on the long luscious back end that features good grip and persistent nuances of smoke and lees. Disgorged 23/01. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Castello Bonomi 2016 Franciacorta Dosage Zero Millesimato 94
Vibrant straw yellow-gold. Clean puff pastry and custard cream on the nose and in the mouth nicely complicate orchard and fresh citrus fruit. Then more austere on the rising long finish. Very serious bubbly, this is really a lovely Franciacorta. I liked it! Disgorged 22/3. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Castello Bonomi 2009 Franciacorta Riserva Extra Brut Lucrezia 92
Good full straw. Aromas and flavours of orange marmelade, herbs and lavender, complicate by freshly baked bread nuances. Clean, fresh and long, with lingering yeasty notes on the suave slightly bittersweet, almondy finish. Disgorged 2022/5. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Cavalleri NV Franciacorta Blanc de Blancs 93
Light golden-tinged straw colour. Fresh custard and pear on the nose, with notes of lime, apple, quince and freshly baked bread. Perfumed apple pie and peach flavours are deepened by a note of floral honey and nicely framed by a mineral edge. Closes long, and fresh, but with real substance and sneaky concentration and complexity. Cavalleri always makes an excellent Blanc de Blancs. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Cola 2019 Franciacorta Brut Satèn 90
Medium pale straw yellow with a steady bead of small bubbles. Ripe pear, yellow plum and apple skin aromas are complemented by vanilla and honey. Lively and gently sweet orchard and stone fruit flavours are very sappy and juicy if not especially complex. A light- to medium-bodied, fresh, textbook rendition of Franciacorta Satèn, miore charming than concentrated or complex, but with good finishing cut. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Contadi Castaldi NV Franciacorta Brut 92
Light straw yellow. Expressive aromas of apple, lemon peel, pear, and herbs. Fresh orchard fruit and citrus flavours are complemented by notes of candied ginger and sage, with rising hints of grapefruit and mint. The long, gentle finish offers pretty nuances of white flowers. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Contadi Castaldi 2017 Franciacorta Satèn 93
Bright straw. Penetrating herb and mineral nuances complement aromas of apricot, pear and lime. Zingy orchard fruit flavors are complicated by vanilla and custard. Clean and fresh, this nicely delineated Franciacorta finishes long. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé 91
Good full orange-pink with an orange tinge. Fruity aromas hint at ripe red cherry and raspberry, plus almond paste. Lively yet dense, boasts lingering, tactile strawberry and blood orange flavours on the palate and the gently acid finish. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Conte di Provaglio.
Conte di Provaglio NV Franciacorta Brut 91
Bright yellow-gold. Pungent aromas of baked apple, pear skin, toasted nuts and brown spices. Smooth and relatively fleshy, with sneaky concentration to the gently tactile, saline orchard fruit and baking spice flavours, complicated by a solid smattering of toasty lees and vanilla. Nicely combines glyceral sweetness and spiciness but finishes a bit abruptly, otherwise my score would have been even higher. Drinking window: 2023-2032.
Corte Aura Franciacorta Pas Dosé 93
Pale. Very ample nose offers broad, expressive, penetrating aromas of vanilla, brioche, almonds, peach all lifted by white floral nuances. Then fresh, clean, rich, ripe and round, with flavours similar to the aromas. Lovely bubbly that will win a never-ending lineup of fans, but so mellow and round thanks to its juicy, sappy glyceral fruitiness that it seems almost like a little residual sugar snuck in. Disgorged 2022/11. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Corte Aura Franciacorta Brut 92
Lively straw-gold. Very pretty nose of pink and white flowers, nutmeg, roasted hazelnuts, lime and nectarine. Then more austere, even showcasing a twinge of bitterness to its lemony apple and pear flavours on the long back end. Disgorged 2023/01. Drinking window: 2024-2029.
Corte Aura Franciacorta Satèn 89
Pale straw-gold colour but struck me as having a slightly bigger bubble than other Corte Aura Franciacortas, though clearly that can be a result of how the tasting glass I was using had been washed (but I retried with two other glasses and the bubbles stayed big). The big bubble look was confirmed by a slightly coarse edge to the aromas and flavours of white fruti and flowers. Gently acid and nicely persistent on the long aftertaste. Will prove very good with heartier fish and vegetable dishes. Disgorged 2022/9. Drinking window: 2023-2027
Corte Aura 2013 Franciacorta Pas Dosé Insé 94
Deep golden-tinged straw yellow. Bread, butter, hazelnuts and almonds mingle with ripe yellow fruit on the captivating, eprfumed and very rich nose. Then also very dense and rich on the palate, with mellow flavours of spicy orange marmelade and peach. Finishes with a herbal tinge that adds further complexity. This is another outstanding sparkling wine from Corte Aura, that can duke it out with mnany amore famous Champagne. Very well done. Disgorged 2022/05. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Ferghettina NV Franciacorta 91
Luminous straw yellow with a steady stream of small bubbles. Floral white fruit and gentle spices on the enticing nose. Soft, clean and light-bodied in the mouth, with a lively medium-long floral finish. Lovely bubbly that’s impossible not to like; a little more length and I would have scored it even higher. Disgorged 2023/02. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Ferghettina 2019 Franciacorta Brut Milledì 92
Pale yellow. Laid-back lemon, orange and pear aromas are complicated by chalk and dried flower notes. Soft and round, with ripe but fresh citrus and orchard fruit flavours and an expansive back half that is nicely fruity and persistent. Clean, fresh and nicely delineated, but with enough body to stand up to richer fish dishes too. Disgorged 2022/01. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Ferghettina 2019 Franciacorta Brut Satèn 93
Vivid straw yellow. Custard cream and ripe citrus aromas and flavours are pretty and well-balanced, rising nicely on the fresh long finish. This is one of the beettr Satèns I tried this year. Disgorged: 2022/01. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Ferghettina 2019 Franciacorta Rosé Brut 92
Vivid pink with a small bead of bubbles. Clean strawberry, red currant and herbs on the fresh nose. Then similar flavours, delicate and pure if not too intense but nicely persistent and creamy. Disgorged 22/01. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Gabriella Bariselli NV Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero 91
Good full straw colour with a nice froth. Opens with strong floral notes, then turns a little tropical, with candied yellow fruit aromas and flavours. Medium-long and clean on the nicely persistent finish. Lovely now, I’d drink this up on the early side rather than let it sit too long; why defer your enjoyment? Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2028
Gabriella Bariselli NV Franciacorta Brut 90
Vivid straw colour. Yeasty, earthy and tarry nuances dominate the delicate floral aromas. Peach and apricot in the mouth are likewise dominated by tarry and herbal notes that leave a slightly bitter twinge on the long close. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Gabriella Bariselli NV Franciacorta Brut Satèn 92
Bright pale golden yellow-tinged colour. Strawberry, custard cream and jasmine on the pretty, perfumed nose. Fresh and juicy in the mouth, with effusively fruity orcahrd fruit and sweet spice flavours that are long, clean and rpecise. Lovely stuff. Disgorged 22. Drinking window: 2023-2024.
This is a little-known Franciacorta estate that may well be written up for the first time in a major English language wine publication. It is not a member of the Franciacorta consortium, and I discovered the estate thanks to my studying Italy’s smaller quality wineries, such that Gralò attended this year’s edition of the Micro Mega Wines thematic area devoted to small-batch wineries that I created for the Vinitaly fair. The “mother” estate is actually called Azienda Colletto, located on the hillsides of the very pretty Lake Iseo, where the family makes four sparkling wines, only two of which are Franciacorta Metodo Classico sparkling wines. I think the estate has potential and I look forward to following its development closely over the years to come. The winery’s name is an acronym of the first names of the two youngsters, Graziana and Lorenzo, that kick-started the project by buying three hectares in Franciacorta in 2019.
Gralò NV Franciacorta Extra Brut 91
Light peach skin-tinged straw yellow. Musky aromas of orchard and citrus fruit, with a hint of herbs (mint, bay leaf, tarragon). Chewy, tactile yellow fruit flavors are underscored by herbal and savoury notes, with a hint of yellow flowers. Medium-bodied, packs solid punch and finishes with good grip and length. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Gralò 2016 Franciacorta Brut Satèn 92
Vivid pale golden-tinged yellow with a strong, abundant mousse of small bubbles. Orange zest, lemon custard and minerals on the nose, plus a suave floral quality that gains strength with air. A juicy Franciacorta Brut Satèn that boasts gently sweet apricot and melon flavors and slow-building leesy complexity. The very fresh, precise finish features a sweet note of candied orange and of violet. Very pretty Franciacorta. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Gralò Franciacorta Rosé Pas Dosè 91
Luminous pink colour. Smoky nuances to the aromas of red- and blackcurrant, rose and Asian spices. Fresh yet creamy in texture, with strong mineral and fresh citrus cut to the red and dark berry flavours. Fresh and tangy on the long finish, which hints at violet and orange peel. 100% Pinot Noir with zero residual sugar, as its category of Pas Dosè indicates. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Il Mosnel NV Franciacorta Brut 89
Luminous straw colour. Yeast, freshly baked bread, hazelnuts and orange peel on the very clean and very fresh nose. Then similar flavours to the aromas, with a whiplash of acidity providing energy and focus. Finishes not especially long and with mounting slightly bitter twinges. Try it with richer fish and vegetable dishes, even white meats. Disgorged 2023/01. Drinking window:
Il Mosnel 2007 Franciacorta Pas Dosé EBB Riedizione 94
Deep straw yellow with a fine bead. Caramel, yeast, grilled almonds, orange jelly, tangerine liqueur and herbs on the expressive nose. Rich, round and suave, with repeating orange and almond flavours, that are nicely textired and nicely supported by outstanding acid-fruit-tannin balance. Clsoes long and clean. Disgorged 2022/11. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Il Mosnel 2007 Franciacorta Riserva Pas Dosé 94
Good full yellow with a persistent stream of medium-sized bubbles. Orange marmelade, croissant, butter, lemon, lime and white flowers on the clean, fresh nose. Then very long and tapered, with caramel nuances that add complexity on the long, nuanced finish. Another knockout bubbly from Il Mosnel. Disgorged 22/3. Drinking window:
Il Mosnel 2007 Franciacorta Rosé Pas Dosé Pasrosé 87
Golden salmon colour. Slightly funky on the nose and in the mouth, with wet moss, underbrush and green notes dominating the earthy fruit present. Lively texture, but somewhat coarse: maybe mine was an off-bottle, because Il Mosnel usually hits the bullseye with its wines. Disgorged 2022/11. Drinking window: 2023.
Lantieri de Paratico.
Lantieri de Paratico NV Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero Nature 89
Vivid straw-green with many fine small bubbles. Aromas of apple, pear, quince, rosemary and thyme. Enters clean and fresh, then turns savory and herbal, even somewhat earthy, with slightly subdued orchard fruit flavours. Closes medium-long and saline, this will appeal to those who like their bubblies on the full-bodied and textured side. Disgorged 2022/10. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Lantieri de Paratico Franciacorta Cuvée Brut 94
Pale, bright yellow. Aromas of peach, wet stone, menthol and pear, lifted by a note of jasmine. Rather full in the mouth, rich and ripe, but boasts terrific intensity and energy, nopt to mention a distinctly saline sense of concentration. Clean, fresh herbal edge on the long back end but very nicely balanced in its fruity-herb-floral elements. Disgorged 2023/01. Drinking window: 20023-2030.
Lantieri de Paratico 2019 Franciacorta Extra Brut Millesimato Arcadia 93
Full straw-yellow color. Yeasty, musky and honeyed notes on the nose, and a suggestion of wet stone. Large-scaled, opulent and creamy, showing a hint of apple and peach nicely focused by strong acidity and impressive mineral thrust. There’s terrific underlying extract here and plenty of potential. Finishes saline and tactile, with palate-staining persistence and lingering freshness. No disgorgement date I could find, though I looked. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Lantieri de Paratico 2016 Franciacorta Riserva Pas Dosé Origines 93
Bright straw colour. Lemon cream, spices and minerals, plus a hint of white flowers. Sneaky power and glyceral sweetness but with strong acidity giving terrific cut and lift to the middle palate and the flavours of orange and crushed stone stain the palate without exhibiting any undue weight on the long close. More mineral and piercing than the 2019 Extra Brut from Lantieri de Paratico, and less weight too, but both are standout bubblies that will have their fans. Very promising. Disgorged 2022/3. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Lo Sparviere NV Franciacorta Extra Brut 89
Vivid straw hue. Pretty aromas of orchard fruit, yeast and herbs. Simple but pleasantly approachable on entry, with a big, voluminous mouthfeel broadcasting ample ripe flavours of apple and pear rthat are somewhat closed at present. Finishes long but slightly monolithic and savory. Maybe just a little too austere for its own good, a hint of sweetness might have given this better balance. Disgorged 2022/10. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Lo Sparviere NVFranciacorta Satèn 91
Good pale color. Cool, classic aromas of lime, lemon, crushed stone, vanilla, and minty spices. Dense, sappy and high-pitched, with flavours of puff pastry and lavender. With its penetrating acidity and minerality, this really coats the mouth and builds on the suavely creamy back half, where a strong note of menthol emerges. Disgorged 2023/01. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Lo Sparviere 2016 Franciacorta Brut 91
Good full straw colour. Aromas and flavours of potpourri, fresh citrus fruit, wet stones and herbs. Then very classically dry, saline and with almost laser-like acidity on the long tapered finish. Disgorged 2022/10. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Lo Sparviere 2015 Franciacorta Riserva Dosaggio Zero 91
Golden-tinged yellow. Ripe apricot, yeast and buttered toast notes on the nose and in the mouth. Neither especially deep nor complex, but its broad immediate flavours have an easy charm and appeal and this is frankly impossible not to like. Closes long and clean, with welcome easygoing linear appeal. Disgorged 2022/4. Drinking window: 2023-2027.
Lo Sparviere NV Franciacorta Rosé 88
Good full straw colour. Aromas of raspberry, violet, iris and peony. Clean but slightly neutral flavours on the palate, with a slightly fruit-challenged personality and bittersweet finish of average length. Disgorged 2022/4. Drinking window: 2023-2025.
Majolini NV Franciacorta Extra Brut Disobbedisco 93
Luminous straw yellow with many fine bubbles. Perfumed aromas of cool-climate orchard fruit, minerals and herbs. Piercing minerality on entry, then round and ripe with excellent sugar/acid balance leaving behind an impression of mellowness yet considerable lift too. Finishes long with notes of star fruit, anise and sweet herbs. Lovely. Disgorged 2021. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Majolini 2018 Franciacorta Brut 91
Golden-tinged straw-green. Inviting aromas of vanilla, pear, quince and starfruit. Very clean and fresh in the mouth, this medium-long bubbly finishes with slightly bitter herbal elements along with vanilla and custard. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Majolini 2015 Franciacorta Blanc de Blanc 92
Vivid straw yellow with golden highlights. Perfumed aromas of lime jelly, apple nectar, cinnamon, toffee and orange peel, plus a sprinkling of sweet aromatic spices. Clean, fresh and vibrant, this offers a saline personality to its ripe orchard and citrus fruit flavours that make it taste somewhat like an aged Calvados. Lovely Franciacorta. Despite spending seven years on the lees or so, it didn’t strike me as being as complex as I might have imagined. Disgorged 2022. Drinking window: 2023-2030.
Monte Rossa NV Franciacorta Flamingo 92
Light red with a rapidly rising bead. Ripe raspberry and cherry on the nose, complicated by herbs and violet. Lush, creamy and sweet, offering pliant red berry preserve flavours and a gentle note of blood orange. Excellent finishing energy and a lingering floral note on the long complex suave finish. 60% chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Ricci Curbastro 2018 Franciacorta Extra Brut 94
Pale golden-ringed straw yellow. Deep, clean, precise aromas and flavours of apricot, herbs, and lime. Closes long and very fresh. This is multilayereed and complex. Really outstanding Franciacorta. Disgorged 11/22. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Ricci Curbastro 2018 Franciacorta Satèn Brut 91
Pale straw yellow. Creamy custard and caramel on the slightly oxidative nose of apple and pear, then quite classically dry and straightforward with similar flavours to the aromas. Closes medium-long and broad, with repeating nuances of caramel and ripe orchard fruit. Good, but simple. Disgorged 11/22. Drinking window: 2023-2o28.
Ricci Curbastro 2013 Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero Gualberto 91
Very pale straw. Precise ad energetic aromas of white flowers, mint, apricot and apple. Then mellower on the palate, with similar flavours to the aromas. Closes long, suave and saline. Drinking beautifully now, this may not be the most compelx bubbly you will ever try, but it’s absolutely irresistible right now. Disgorged 11/2022. Drinking window:
Ricci Curbastro 2010 Franciacorta Extra Brut Museum Release 91
Medium dark straw yellow with a medium-sized stream of bubbles. Yeasty mushroomy and almondy notes on the clean but not very fruity nose. Then fresh and straightforward in the mouthy, with orange and passionfruit flavours that are complcisted by tobacco and Malt Whisky notes. Long and broad on the suave finish. Disgorged 6/22. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Uberti NV Franciacorta Brut Rosé Francesco I 93
Bright onion-peel pink. Delicate strawberry, vanilla and aromatic herb aromas and flavors are multilayered and surprisingly complex. Fresh and juicy, with a refreshing rising saline quality and hints of vanilla and raspberry cobbler on the creamy finish. A sparkler of noteworthy complexity and purity. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Uberti 2017 Franciacorta Saten Magnificentia 93
Straw yellow colour with a very fine persistent small bubbled bead. Fresh flowers, vanilla and custard on the nose and in the mouth are complemented by mint and tropical fruit. Rich and broad but lifted, boasts a nicely tactile mellow quality on the long broad finish. Outstanding. Drinking window: 2023-2029.
Villa Franciacorta 2018 Franciacorta Pas Dosè Diamant 93
Light yellow with a slow mousse. Musky apple, orange and pear aromas are complicated by floral and herbal qualities. Then boasts pear and zingy citrus flavors and a touch of buttered toast in the mouth, closing long and with good grip. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Villa Franciacorta 2018 Franciacorta Brut Mon Satèn 93
Bright pale golden-tinged yellow. Pear, sweet butter and apple complement tangerine and vanilla on the nose. The buttery note repeats on the palate, which offers gently concentrated orchard fruit and apricot flavours. Boasts building complexity on the long, persistently mineral and citrussy finish. This would work well with just about any vegetable and fish appetizer you can think of, but is rich enough to stand up to more complicated fish dishes as well. Disgorged 2023. Drinking window: 2023-2028.
Villa Franciacorta 2017 Franciacorta Extra Brut Emozione Unica 91
Light yellow with a strong bead. Lively aromas of lemon zest, orange and green apple, plus a subtle undertone of fresh brioche. Tapered and taut on entry and in the middle palate, offering greater richness of flavour on the close, with candied citrus flavors and botanical herbs emerging with aeration. Disgorged 11/22. Drinking window: 2023-2026.
Villa Franciacorta 2015 Franciacorta Rosé Pas Dosè Mon Bokè 94
Light copper-pink with a delicate stream of pinpoint bubbles. Raspberry, red cherry and marzipan on the nose, with a subtle smoky quality adding complexity. Silky in texture and concentrated, this boasts complex, enticing mineral-accented strawberry and raspberry flavours and a captivating slow-building spiciness. The smoke and spice notes linger impressively on the long, tangy finish. Drinking window: 2023-2030.