Sparkling wine from Franciacorta offers options from dry to sweet

September 4, 2021

Monday, in addition to being Labor Day, begins Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It occurred to me that Monday  is the summer’s end and a bright new year’s beginning. Still looking for holiday wine and missed last week’s recommendations? It is not too late. Herzog Wine Cellars’ entry-level label, Baron Herzog wines, are priced favorably under $15. Their line includes: Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, White Zin, Pinot Grigio, Old Vines Zin, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and a red blend called Aleph. Several are grown in Herzog’s Prince Vineyard in Clarksburg, Calif., and others are from Paso Robles. 

Big props to Mike Zygmonski and his cadre at SoDel Concepts. Mike is a local lad all growed up. I had the pleasure of working with him when he was attending Cape HS. His incipient interest in wine and a lot of hard work propelled him to be a well-regarded expert in the biz. SoDel was recently honored by Wine Spectator honoring four of its restaurants with the Award of Excellence. The recognition is awarded to restaurants with thoughtfully chosen selections appropriate for the cuisine, and representative of a range of regions and styles. These lists can vary in size but typically offer 90 options or more. For scope, 1,673 restaurants worldwide earned the Award of Excellence in 2021.A very high bar indeed.

Have you experienced sparkling wine from Franciacorta (Fran-cha-kor-tah)? Since 1995, sparklers from this region produced using Methode Champenoise (refermented in the bottle) have been rated DOCG. There are several labels produced – Franciacorta, Franciacorta Saten, F. Rosé, F. Millesimata (means year of harvest) and F. Riserva, which spends at least 60 months on lees. The last two are so designated due to their aging. In addition, these are available with varying levels of dry to sweet: Pas Dosé, no dosage, employs naturally occurring sugar up to 3 g/l remaining after primary fermentation, blending and bottling; Extra Brut; Brut; Extra Dry; Sec and Demi Sec. The other DOC red and white wines from the region, formerly labeled Terre di Franciacorte, are labeled Curtefranca since 2008. Read labels carefully! For history buffs, the first known mention of wine from the region was in the 8th Book of Brescia, 1277, when it was known as Franzacurta. However, food history of the region, located roughly 50 miles east of Milan, does mention wine prior to Roman times.

There are several reputable producers in the Franciacorta consortium. Ca del Bosco, Cavalleri, Lantieri and Berlucchi are some names that can be found in our Cape Region. Cavalleri Blanc de Blanc Brut NV DOCG was especially appealing to me in the $35 range, 89 McD. New straw, good bead, toast, lemon nose, crisp lemon palate, dry, clean finish. Those who go upscale can buy Ca’del Bosco Saten Blanc de Blanc Brut Millesimato. Minimum aging 24 months, the 2015 window is 2019-23, and findable under $40. Golden-colored, tiny prolific bead, orange blossom with raspberry-nuanced nose. Proper fruit/minerally acidic balance. More orange flavors. Long, clean finish repeats the flavors. This is available in N.J. at $33 but Art and Petey won’t let us buy it there, so we are allowed to pay $46 in Delaware locations.

The zero dosage, blended of Chard, PN, up to 50% Pinot Bianco and 10% Erbamat, is fermented in the bottle at least 18 months sur lie before disgorgement and 25 before release. It is straw-colored with persistent perlage. Opens to a pleasing bouquet of toast, yeast, lemon and hazelnut. Very, very dry, it appeals to those who enjoy aromatics. Serves well as a palate cleanser and great with lobster or roast chicken. Don’t laugh! Marie-Christine Osselin, Moët & Chandon’s wine quality and communication manager wrote, “The saltiness and crunchiness of French fries (pomme frites)are the perfect complement to champagne’s fine bubbles and zesty acidity.” You know I gave it a try. Made my own fries cooked twice in beef tallow like the old Micky D’s, added more salt than is good for my health. The combo was delicious! Perfect, especially for those who sprinkle vinegar on fries. Hold the vinegar. Do sybarites eat fries? You betcha.

Regarding the Riservas, I could only locate Ca’del Bosco Zero Dosage 2008; Lunelli Giulio Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore 2008 and Moretti Bellavista 2011. None can be had in Delaware. 2008 was a killer vintage, and the likely suspects claim 2011 may be better. I was able to sample several of Lunelli’s labels: Brut $25, 89 McD; Perle Millesimato, 92, $44; the 2009 Ferrari Riserva Lunelli can be found around $65, Falstaff rated it 95.

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