What's Franciacorta? Some might say that it's a younger, 'hotter cousin' of Champagne.
In the world of sparkling wine we have Champagne from France, Cava from Spain, Sekt from Germany, not to mention some delicious sparkling wines from Australia as well.
Then we have Italy's sparkling wines - Prosecco is probably the most renowned sparkling wine from Italy, and is often compared to its cousin Champagne. Prosecco actually has another sister in its family that fewer people know about and probably deserves a closer seat to 'Champagne' at the sparkling wine table.
What is Franciacorta
Franciacorta, pronounced 'francha-corta' ([frantʃaˈkorta]), is made in the Franciacorta region of Lombardy in northern Italy. Franciacorta is recognized by wine standards bodies DOC and DOCG, meaning that the wines need to meet particular standards to qualify for the name.
Although Franciacorta may seem relatively young in the world of wine, its roots go deep into the middle-age, and was referred to as Franzacurta even back as far as 1277.
Franciacorta uses a similar fermentation method as Champagne - that is 'Méthode Champenoise' or the 'Classic Method'. Méthode Champenoise is where the wines go through the fermentation process just like still wines, but they are left long enough for the sugar and yeast to cause a secondary fermentation which produces both alcohol and CO2 aka 'bubbles'. It may then sit and age in the bottle anywhere from several months up to even six years. Compare this to its sister 'Prosecco' which is made using the 'Charmat' method which means that the secondary fermentation happens in a large vat which is a method more commonly associated with bulk-produced wines. This is why Prosecco is generally cheaper than Franciacorta.
So is Franciacorta the 'Champagne' of Italy?
The best Champagnes and sparkling wines are made by Méthode Champenoise which requires a secondary fermentation in the bottle - not in a tank. Like Champagne, Franciacorta is made using this same method and can only be produced in a particular region with particular grapes and has a similar blend to Champagne - that is, a combination of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes (or Pinot Nero in Italian), with proportions of Pinot Bianco.
Okay, so the way it's produced is similar to its cousin, however it isn't Champagne for the obvious reason that the grapes weren't grown nor was it produced in Champagne.
The taste is also different according to our expert Giovanni Depergola, Co-Founder and Head of Education for Alembic – Liquid Education Experience.
“An 'NV' (non-vintage) Champagne in general will be lively and fresh with harmonious fruitiness and floral aroma with a light hint of the famous brioche and vanilla while tasting - While A NV Franciacorta in general could be citrus and lively at the same time. I have tasted some with a round node of baked apple as well as dark brioche and walnuts having a very energetic finish on the palate”
Will Franciacorta Ever Become as Popular as Champagne?
Tom Stevenson, one of the world's leading Champagne authorities, stated that Franciacorta sales grew from 2.9 million to 6.7 million bottles between 1996 and 2006.
According to Nielsen, Prosecco comprised 23 percent of sparkling wine sales while Champagne comprised only 19 percent in 2020.
“To take Champagne's place on the throne for preferred 'Celebration Bubbles', will certainly take some time. As an Italian, I would love to see that, but the charm and the history of Champagne is still very strong”, said Giovanni Depergola.
There are more than 100 Champagne houses and 19,000 smaller wine growing producers against only the 200 members which includes winegrowers, wine producers, bottlers and others involved in the production chain for Franciacorta designations - DOCG, so the volume will be small.
Danilo Aiassa, Italian Chef Ms. Jigger, Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok agreed -
“It will grow in popularity but the region is very small in Italy, so there will be limitations if sourcing from the original region.”
Franciacorta can be paired with most food. Our experts have voted on seafood, and beef.
“I love to do Aperitivo with Franciacorta and I'm a raw seafood lover coming from Giovinazzo, a small fisherman town in Puglia region, south of Italy so my choices are sea urchin fresh or red prawns with a good olive oil and fresh lemon” Giovanni commented
“One of my favourites is a nice artichoke salad with a beetroot carpaccio. For the meat lover I'll suggest a classic beef tartare, this time, it must be French style with a touch of horseradish” he added.
As for Chef Danilo, he said Franciacorta pairing is much like Champagne but more Ferrari.