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Franciacorta tasting notes

text and photographs © 2014 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Franciacorta and its wines.


La Valle, Franciacorta Satèn NV, Italy
Made with Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Bianco, this has some barrel fermented component and a slightly higher dosage that most of La Valle's cuvées at just over 10g/l. It has a pale colour and streaming small bubbles, and a pleasantly custardy note to the aroma with crushed almond and lemon. On the palate it is dry, with a softness to the fruit though the racy mousse keeps it lively in the mouth. Balanced and long, a touch of vanilla or custard matches with good acidity in the finish. 90/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Brut 'Primum' NV, Italy
Chardonnay 75%, Pinot Nero 20% and Pinot Bianco 5%, all fermented in stainless steel and aged 24 months on the lees plus six more post-disgorgement. Around 9.0g/l residual sugar. It has a similar biscuit and custard note on the nose, a pleasing nettle or floral hint too. In the mouth it is dry and has a grapefruit and lemon tang, not quite the smoothness of the Satèn, but it is quite long and robustly fruity and savoury. 89/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Rosé NV, Italy
A blend of 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir, like the Brut, all in stainless steel with 30 months of total ageing and 9.5g/l or sugar. It has a pretty and vivid colour, and plenty of tiny bubbles. The nose is gently earthy, with a dry redcurrant fruitiness and hint of cherry. In the mouth it is a dry style, a great core of lemony acidity driving the wine along rather than any red fruit character, though that hint of Pinot earthiness and of red berries does show through on the finish. 89-90/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta 'Regium' 2006, Italy
Produced only in top years, this vintage wine is cellared for a minimum of 60 months, and is 100% Chardonnay. The dosage is 8g/l, and the wine is fermented in stainless steel. The colour is a pale lemon, with masses of tiny bubbles. It has a cool, fresh, Asian pear and delicately floral nose, with a taut, steely character though there's just a hint of brioche richness in the background. On the palate a lovely bruised fruit quality comes through, a fine yeasty richness, and the sweet apple and custard ripeness fills the mid-palate. Long and shimmering with acidity, this is beautifully done. 92/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Extra Brut 'Naturalis' 2006, Italy
A blend of 70% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir and 5% Pinot Bianco, with minimum dosage of less than 4g/l, this spends 30 months on the lees plus six more in bottle before release. Once again, a very pale and delicate colour, the nose showing plenty of yeasty and bready notes, a certain dry, nut husk quality and a cool apple fruit. On the palate this is razor sharp, not searingly dry, and a ripe apple fruitiness fills the mid-palate, but there's a nicely mineral and citrus thrust through to the finish. 91/100.

La Valle, Franciacorta Riserva 'Zerum' Zero Dosage 2002, Italy
All Chardonnay, this top of the line wine receives a minimum of 78 months ageing - 72 on the lees and a further six post-disgorgement - and has less than 2g/l of residual sugar. A pale golden colour, the nose is delicate, with some glacé fruits, flowers and soft, yeasty notes. On the palate it is intense stuff, tight and grippy, with a little lemon rind phenolic note and plenty of acidity, real pithy grapefruit and lemon powering through. Even after 12 years this is very tightly-focused, and would be a fascinating wine to try again after considerably more cellar age. 91/100.

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