Italian Sparkling Wines Impress British Experts

On Monday, February 11, 2008, I attended a tasting of tasted 27 Francicacorta DOCGs, ranging in vintage from 1999 to 2004, hosted by The World of Fine Wines. Among the sparkling-wine and Champagne experts on hand for the event, tasters included the illustrious Margaret Rand and Tom Stevenson. VinoWire is a points-free zone but the numbers that day spoke clearly, with high-marks across the board. The best metodo classico or classic-method Franciacorta wines combine ripe, succulent fruit and medium body with freshness and vibrant acidity. The result is very balanced and food friendly wine. Among the different vintages tasted, the 2002 performed surprisingly well (for a rain year in Italy, generally not considered a great vintage) The 2001, 2000 and 1999 also received high marks while the 2004 is still to young to reveal its potential. All in all, I was impressed by the performance of the 27 Franciacorta wines at our tasting in Champagneshire… I mean the UK.

My personal favorites: Franciacorta Cuvée Annamaria Clementi Zanella 1999 from Ca’ del Bosco (the number one in Franciacorta), a full-bodied wine, but with a great balance and very appealing character; Extra Brut Bagnadore 2002 Barone Pizzini, a Champagne” style wine, excellent with food; and the Extra Brut 2000 from Ferghettina.

The biggest surprise? Saten 2002 from Montenisa, the Antinori family’s Franciacorta estate, very balanced, fresh, with a savory finish.

The celebrated Cuvée Vittorio Moretti Extra Brut 2001 (disgorged 2007) from Bellavista was perhaps the only disappointment.

Best quality for the price: NV Brut from small winery named San Cristoforo based in Erbusco, the capital of Franciacorta. “A lovely wine for drinking over the next 2-3 years,” said top-Champagne-expert like Tom Stevenson. Not too shabby…

— Franco Ziliani

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