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Two Franciacorta wines

by Tom Cannavan, 07/13

bottles The popularity of Italian sparkling wine has seen an absolutely meteoric rise in recent years. But that boom has been confined to only one of Italy's many sparkling wines: Prosecco. Leading retailers like Waitrose, Majestic and Tesco reported year on year sales growth for Prosecco in 2012 of between 27% and 100%.

So will the soaraway success of the Veneto's favourite fizz encourage stronger sales of another of Italy's renowned sparkler, Franciacorta? Well, perhaps the producers of Franciacorta think so, because they have engaged a top drinks PR company to represent their wines in the UK market for the first time, including the UK's first ever dedicated tasting of Franciacorta wines for trade and press earlier this month.

Franciacorta is a territory of Lombardy in the north of Italy, with a moderate climate and softly rolling hills. The name Franciacorta may or may not be familiar, but the reputation of these wines - for sophistication and very high quality - was cemented in 1995 when they were awarded Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (or 'DOCG') status.

map Sparkling wines are made from the Champagne grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though Pinot Blanc is permitted too. Chardonnay dominates, with around 85% of the plantings Chardonnay. Wines must be made by the same method as Champagne with secondary fermentation in individual bottles, aged for a minimum of 18 months for non-vintage wines and 30 months for vintage bottlings.

Italian specialist Vini Italiani of London is one wine merchant and importer who is going big on Franciacorta, and they recently sent me two wines to taste the quality for myself. I enjoyed both of these non-vintage and modestly priced wines, which both majored on abundant freshness and brightness. They had real finesse, both made in more of an early-drinking, aperitif style than serious wines for ageing, but of excellent quality.

the wines

Fratelli Berlucchi, Franciacorta Brut 25 NV, Italy
100% Chardonnay and 12.5% abv, this has a pale lemon colour and is imbued with a stream of pinpoint bubbles. It is immediately fresh, lively and appetising with aromas of apple and delicate blossom, and a little nutty note adding a hint of vanillin, creamy richness. On the palate it is direct and delicious, a very dry (8g/l dosage) sparkling wine with white fruit and lemon acidity and that nice balance between the zesty fruit and a saline tang of freshness. Not complex, but alive, bright and most enjoyable in an aperitif or shellfish-friendly style. 88/100. £19.90, Vini Italiani, see all stockists on wine-searcher

Il Mosnel, Franciacorta Brut NV, Italy
The blend is 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir, with 30% of the base Chardonnay fermented in small oak barrels. There's no real impression of the oak on the nose, which is fruity and fresh, with a little bruised pear note that adds pleasing hint of depth. On the palate the mousse is lively and fine, and whilst this has a little more robustness and some of that bready character, it is another ultimately very crisp and fresh, aperitif style, with good acidity and clean lines. 87-88/100. £19.50, Vini Italiani, see all stockists on wine-searcher.