The origin of the name Franciacorta (isn’t what you think)

It’s widely known that the place name “Franciacorta” comes from an ancient toponym for the area, francae curtes, the free court, in other words, a “tax-free zone,” a designation probably owed to the fact that the monastery that helped to revive agriculture there was not subject to taxation.

But a few weeks ago, many Italian wine trade observers were surprised to learn that Bruno Vespa, the Italian television personality and journalist, was the first to suggest that classic method sparkling wines from the area be called Franciacorta.

In an article published in the November-December issue of Civiltà del Bere, the Italian media icon told an interviewer that he was approached by Franciacorta pioneer Maurizo Zanella, founder and owner of the Ca’ del Bosco winery. According to the interview, Zanella asked his advice as to what the Franciacorta consortium (founded in 1990) should call its classic-method sparkling wine, which was originally called “Pinot di Franciacorta” when Franco Ziliani released his first bottling in 1961.

“One day,” says Vespa, “Zanella came to me asking me for suggestions on how to launch Lombardy’s classic method wines. The first thing I told him was that he should avoid using the word spumante and instead call it [simply] Franciacorta. To make a long story short, I’m the one who gave him the idea. And I did it for free.”

The interview is available only to subscribers of the magazine. But it was also reported by leading Italian wine writer Luciano Ferraro for the Italian national daily Corriere della Sera wine blog, DiVIini Corriere.

According to Ferraro’s synopsis of the interview, Zanella did not deny Vespa’s account.

The Franciacorta DOCG was created in 1995. It is one of ten European appellations that have the privilege of using a place name, without any qualifier, to denote a wine. Of those ten, only three — Champagne, Cava, and Franciacorta — are sparkling wines. This sets them apart from appellations like Crémant de Bourgogne or Moscato d’Asti, for example.

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