Your Favorite Bubbly, Deconstructed

Ever wonder what makes Franciacorta stand out from other sparkling wines? Or why there seems to be so much variation between different types of bubbly – from carbonation level to flavor profile to price?

Sparkling wine might be the most technical of all wine styles, so the folks at Wine Folly have created this helpful guide to sparkling wine. As they tell it, there are no fewer than six methods of sparkling wine production, each resulting in a different style of bubbly. Check out their list, and wow your friends with your expert sparkling wine knowledge:

  • Traditional Method
  • Tank Method
  • Transfer Method
  • Ancestral Method
  • Continuous Method
  • Carbonation

Of those six methods, the most widely used are the Traditional Method, called Metodo Classico in Italian, and the Tank Method, also called Metodo Italiano or the Charmat Method.

The Tank Method is the method typically used to make three of the most common Italian sparkling wines – Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, and Lambrusco. In this process, sugar and yeast are added to base wines in a large tank. The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation as the added yeasts turn the sugars into CO2; the wine is then filtered, any desired dosage (the winemaker’s own mixture of wine and sugar) is added, and finally the wine is bottled. This method tends to produce wines with coarse bubbles, fruity and floral notes, and sometimes strong yeast flavors. It is an easier process to complete than the Metodo Classico, and thus produces wines at a lower price point.

In contrast, Metodo Classico, which is the process used to make Franciacorta, carries higher production costs. The fundamental difference is that the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottles rather than in tanks, and is considered the source of the highest quality sparkling wines.

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As sommelier and wine writer Cindy Swain wrote recently in WineTourist Magazine, this process has a palpable impact on the sensory experience of Franciacorta: “Two other main differences between the two styles are the bubbles and the aromas. The Charmat Method produces sparkling wines with larger, coarser bubbles and primary aromas that are fruity and floral. A Classic Method wine yields a fine perlage, or tiny strings of bubbles, and the long aging process creates complexities in the wine that go beyond primary aromas to tertiary aromas of butter, nuts and brioche.”

To receive the distinction of the DOCG appellation, Franciacorta has to adhere to additional production standards. Swain writes, “Unlike many other Italian sparkling wines, the Franciacorta DOCG—the highest level of Italian wine classification—requires that all grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a limited amount of Pinot Blanc) are hand-harvested and aged on the lees and in the bottle for a minimum of 18 months for non-vintage wines, 24 months for rosé and satèn, 30 months for the vintage “millesimato” and 60 months for the wines marked riserva. Because of the limited production numbers and rigorous production methods, the price point of Franciacorta is relatively high…”

This underscores the importance of understanding what distinguishes Franciacorta from other styles of sparkling wine! Barone Pizzini is further distinguished by being the first Franciacorta to switch to organic production, putting it at the top of an already elite category of sparkling wine makers.

 

A note from enologist Leonardo Valenti on the 2013 Franciacorta Brut

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Above: Leading Italian enologist and consultant Leonardo Valenti visited the Barone Pizzini winery today where he tasted base wines for the 2013 Franciacorta Brut.

Notes on the 2011 Franciacorta Brut

Parcelization and balance in our work in the vineyards and in the cellar are the two pillars of our technical approach since the 2011 harvest.

The thing that makes our winery different from all the others in Franciacorta isn’t the winemaking technique but rather the unique characteristics of our vineyards, each with its own unique and unmistakable characteristics.

Employing the same winemaking process, you can obtain wines that are completely different from one another because their provenance is different.

Parcelization: every vineyard has its own characteristics and for this reason each parcel is managed differently in all phases of production (pressing, lees aging, clarification, etc.).

We manage 25 vineyards and each one bears unique fruit, an expression of that parcel. In the winery, we try to make the most of that difference by employing a different, ever respectful approach to each parcel via two paths:

-Customized treatments for each single parcel (no standard treatement);
-Careful use of the lees that helps to reduce the artificial nature of extraneous elements (thus the wine helps itself using its own tools).

Coordination between our work in the vineyards and in the cellar

Pressing

Every parcel produces grapes with unique sensorial characteristics. The very shape of the berries reflects this diversity. The berry can more or less elastic and it can have a higher or lower juice content. For this reason, it requires a studied approach to pressing. Grapes with different characteristics cannot be pressed in the same cycle. We’ve also reduced the yields during pressing from 65 to 60% in order to increase the quality of our musts.

Lees Aging and Clarification

The must needs to be perfect. It needs to be nurtured the same way a child is nurtured as she/he becomes a healthy adult.

Once the wine reaches “adulthood,” it’s much harder to perfect it. The use of lees aging is an important tool in the wine’s development.

The lees allow us to reduce the amount of sugars used because they impart sweet components to the wine that help to create its balance. This means less artificiality and more longevity for the wine.

We should add that the lees capture oxygen and thus allow us to reduce the use of sulfur. Again, clarification is individualized for every single parcel. No standard approach is every employed.

This approach uses the vineyard and its grapes as its guide as we examine each parcel individually and then create the blend using the individually vinified parcels.

Leonardo Valenti

Harvest in Castelli di Jesi has begun!

A note from Pievalta manager Silvia Loschi:

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On Friday, we sampled the grapes for a third time and decided that the moment had arrived to begin picking.

This morning at 6:00 a.m. (Tuesday, September 3, 2013), we assembled the whole team (Alessandro, Gianlcua, Mitico, and Roberto) and began picking in the “Veranda” vineyard.

These grapes will be vinified as the base wine for our sparkling wine.

It was planted in 2009 and it’s called “Veranda” because it lies just below the veranda we use as our tasting room.

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Here at Pievalta, the harvest is done exclusively by hand.

The grapes are picked by hand and then placed in small crates. The size of the crates allows only for a maximum weight of 18 kg.

There are 16 workers in the vineyards who do the picking. They prepare the crates, which are then loaded on to a cart that we bring to the press.

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Tomorrow we also plan to begin picking the grapes in our young vineyard in San Paolo di Iesi, also planted in 2009.

You can feel the excitement of harvest in the air!

—Silvia Loschi
manager
Pievalta

Franciacorta harvest has begun

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A note from Barone Pizzini manager and Franciacorta Consortium vice president Silvano Brescianini:

This year, in terms of the number of grape bunches and their average weight, yields won’t be high due to the sharp drop in nighttime temperatures during the delicate phase of flowering.

For the 2,800 hectares authorized for the production of Franciacorta, the forecast is average yields of 800-900 kg per hectare (Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero).

The 2013 harvest will be remembered as a vintage defined by late-ripening. This works to our advantage because the grapes are picked when temperatures are cooler. This is fundamental for the evolution of the aromas and for obtaining the correct acidic balance.

Early analysis of the grapes points to a good vintage. But as always, the final word on the harvest won’t be spoken for another few months, until the base wines are ready.

Sales have been generally good in 2013 and we hope that this positive trend will continue.

Source: Mille Vigne.

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Franciacorta harvest update 2013: ideal conditions for Chardonnay

healthy chardonnay grapes franciacorta

On the above photo, taken yesterday, Barone Pizzini agronomist Pierluigi Donna notes:

These Chardonnay berries have reached their nearly definitive size.

Soon, over the course of a few weeks, véraison (the onset of ripening) will begin: they will begin to change color, from green to bright yellow, and they will begin to become softer.

These robust, beautiful bunches are the fruit of a healthy water table, the result of abundant springtime rain and the fair weather at this time of year. These are the ideal conditions for Franciacorta base wines.