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Franciacorta: six top producers to know

Federico Moccia highlights six of the best Franciacorta producers to follow and picks out his 12 favourite sparkling wines from their ranges.

The tiny appellation of Franciacorta is nestled in the foot of the Alps in the region of Lombardy, 70km east of Milan. The relatively small area accounts for around 3,000ha of vines planted by a dedicated group of just over 100 producers.

This area of northern Italy is considered one of the best resources for quality, traditional-method sparkling wines in the country. Exports make up just 10% of Franciacorta’s sales, however, with the main markets being the UK, Japan, USA and northern Europe.

I grew up very close to the hills of Franciacorta, so it has long been part of my life. Recently, I was lucky enough to be able to taste some older vintages of Franciacorta dating back to the 1990s, which were outstanding. The wines displayed keenly developed tertiary aromas, good concentration and excellent potential for even further ageing.

Below, I’ve highlighted six Franciacorta producers worth following, with tasting notes and scores for their wines at the bottom of this feature.


Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for 12 top Franciacorta wines to try


What makes Franciacorta unique?

A deep sense of history is imbued in the hills of Franciacorta and since the 16th century it has been renowned for producing high quality wines. It was only when the late Guido Berlucchi and his enologist Franco Ziliani began focused research and development, however, that the first sparkling wine was born here in 1961.

There are several unique components behind this enduring and complex wine: the hillside vineyards lie at the foot of the Italian Alps, benefitting from a warm continental climate influenced by the surrounding natural aspects. The mountain range provides both altitude and shelter from cold winds, while Lake Iseo mitigates temperatures.

Thanks to gently rising slopes reaching an altitude of 380m above sea level, the hill of Monte Orfano provides a sheltered area, ensuring full ripeness while retaining acidity.

These factors result in wines with moderate alcohol, soft, silky acidity and ripe fruit. Primary aromas of peaches and nectarines are present, alongside candied citrus fruits and well-defined blossomy, floral notes.

An intense but balanced autolytic character gives Franciacorta’s sparkling wines a smooth texture and complex structure, developing into toasted walnuts, almonds and honey flavours with time.

Sustainability and indigenous varieties

Respect and love for the environment is a big part of the Franciacorta ethos, championing sustainability and high quality production.

When DOCG status was awarded in 1995, the strict rules governing production in the area helped to protect quality and maintenance of the terroir.

Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are widely used, along with a small proportion of Pinot Bianco. With much emphasis being put on the environment, however, wider research into indigenous varieties is being carried out.

Since 2017, the indigenous grape Erbamat has been reinvigorated. With its naturally high levels of acidity, it helps to balance out the structure of the wine, and being a late-ripening variety could help to realign any environmental changes the region might face, giving freshness and crunchiness to the wines.


Six Franciacorta producers to know:

Barone Pizzini

A historic winery established in 1850 and currently led by Silvano Brescianini. There is a strong culture of sustainability at Barone Pizzini. The estate has been working organically since 1998 and has been a big supporter of bringing the indigenous Erbamat variety back to life. Walking through the 3.9ha ‘Il Roccolo’ vineyard at 250m altitude, you are surrounded by enchanting woods that make you feel part of a perfectly balanced, alive ecosystem where nature is thriving. All of this is reflected in the wine: an impressive harmony of elegance and refined fruit aromas.

Founded 1993
Owners Silvano Brescianini , Ugo Colombo and the Ghitti di Bagnadore family
Annual production 300,000 bottles
Top cuvée Riserva Bagnadore Non Dosato
Hectares under vine 55
Key varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Erbamat


Bellavista

To fully understand the potential of the Franciacorta terroir you cannot overlook Bellavista. Pioneer Vittorio Moretti was among the first who understood the potential of this area by investing in quality production with the expert help of chef de cave Mattia Vezzola. An uncompromising approach sees the pair extract the very best from the terroir. A stunning 1995 Vittorio Moretti I had the pleasure to taste was the perfect demonstration of their work. Intense and elegant, it’s a wine that keeps changing in the glass, opening a space to an endless array of aromas.

Founded 1977
Owners Moretti Family
Annual production 1.4m bottles
Top cuvée Riserva Vittorio Moretti
Hectares under vine 207
Key varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc


Ca’ del Bosco

Experience, research and technical know-how of the terroir places Ca’ del Bosco in the top tier in Franciacorta, and it’s the most recognisable brand in many international markets. Maurizio Zanella is a perfectionist and the same applies to chef de cave Stefano Capelli. There is nothing left to chance here – the wines are a masterpiece of precision, with the Vintage Collection Satèn Library being a signature product for Franciacorta. Mainly Chardonnay with a touch of Pinot Bianco, there’s a silky texture and rounded acidity with an autolytic intensity.

Founded 1968
Owners Zanella Family & Santa Margherita Group
Top cuvée Anna Maria Clementi
Hectares under vine 247
Key varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Erbamat


Colline della Stella

Andrea Arici represents the perfect bond between winemaker and terroir. His vineyards are located on terraces at the foot of the Alps. The slightly higher altitude of 350m provides a microclimate with cooler temperatures. Here, this small producer’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines give their best. The 2004 late-disgorged bottling is superb and harmonious, with great longevity. Still in incredible shape, it has developed pleasant tertiary aromas and a refined, intense autolytic character.

Founded 1998
Owner Andrea Arici
Annual production 50,000 bottles
Top cuvée Francesco Arici Riserva DosaggioZero
Hectares under vine 12
Key varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir


Corte Fusia

Corte Fusia is a boutique winery in the southwest part of Franciacorta. It is among the youngest wineries in the area, working with 30-year-old vines on four terraced vineyards. It is owned by two friends, an oenologist and an agronomist, who share a common love for the territory and a production ethos that prioritises minimal intervention. They work with low dosage, often close to zero, wanting to enable the wine to express its own character, purity and fruit profile.

Founded 2010
Owners Daniele Gentile & Gigi Nembrini
Annual production 30,000 bottles
Top cuvée Millesimato Riserva Dosaggio Zero
Hectares under vine 7
Key varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc


Ferghettina

Laura Gatti’s work follows what her father Roberto started in the early 1990s: trying to produce the best grapes from the 11 communes where their vineyards are located. The signature of Ferghettina is precision and balance with the perfect integration of an autolytic character. In harmony with this is a unique design concept: a special square bottle designed by Laura’s brother, Matteo, in partnership with the University of Brescia. The flat belly of the bottle helps to better integrate the autolytic component because more of the homogeneous surface is in contact with the wine. This gives more intensity, concentration and texture.

Founded 1991
Owner Roberto Gatti
Annual production 500,000 bottles
Top cuvée Riserva33 Pas Dosè
Hectares under vine 100
Key varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Erbamat


Tasting notes and scores for 12 top Franciacorta wines to try:


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