Above: American “national treasure” Darrell Corti in Los Angeles in late 2012 with Wolfgang Puck.

The following is the first part of our series devoted to the History of Franciacorta by Darrell Corti, one of the leading authorities on Italian wine in the U.S.


It was 1964. The vintage was considered “of the century” in Bordeaux. In Burgundy, it was also excellent. In Champagne it was made into vintage dated wine. In Barolo, it was called a year to be reckoned with. California’s Napa Valley produced a vintage considered the best since 1958. In Franciacorta, it was the beginning of history.

Let me explain. Franciacorta is a territory on the northern Lombard plain that has been famous for centuries, with obscure and controversial histories. one for example, is its name. There are several interprtations, each having to do with the “Francia” part of the name which has been argued over as having to do with France or the French. One hypothesis deals with Charlemagne, another with the Angevin king, Charles I, whose troops were garrisoned there. Another has to do with the homonymous sound of the name: Francia > Franca (free) corta > curtes (corti) or agricultural properites usually held in the hands of religious or monastic institutes. The notion of “free” merely means that these properties were exempted from paying taxes or tithes. It was an exemptiont hat was important and jealously guarded. Whatever the etymological origin of the name, by 1277, as noted in the Statutes of Brescia, this area is called Franciacorta.

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