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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.


Franciacorta sparkling wines

Villa, Franciacorta Satèn 2009, Italy
An all-Chardonnay cuvée, made in stainless steel with 36 months on the yeast. It is 'Satèn', so is bottled at low pressure, at around 4.7 bar (it's more like 5.8 - 6.0 bar for regular Franciacorta), and with 8g/l of residual sugar. Very fresh, lovely, touch of cream and brioche on the nose, but also golden apples and hints of toast. The palate has a soft creaminess, the softness and ripeness suggests sweetness, but it is dry, striking the palate with a fresh, lemony zestiness and acidity and a real tang and good intensity. 89/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Emozione Brut 2009, Italy
This wine picked up '3 Bicchieri' from Italy's leading wine guide. It is 85% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Blanc and 10% Pinot Noir, all fermented in stainless steel and spending 36 months on lees. With 100,000 bottles, it's Villa's biggest production and has 7g/l residual sugar. Lots of very small bubbles. Fresh, if slightly neutral nose, with a tang and bright fruit character, though it is noticeably a little coarser than the Satèn. 87/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Extra Blu, Extra Brut 2007, Italy
This wine comes from a soil "influenced by an ancient sea," according to Villa, so I guess with seashells and other marine deposits. It is bottled with only 3.5g/l sugar, and 30% of the base wine is fermented in barrel. It stays on the yeast for four years and is 90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, all from the 2007 vintage. Quite a rich colour, very small streaming bubbles. Lots more yeasty, bready aromatics, a touch of honey and vanilla. Fresh and bright apple and lemon. The palate has a bracing freshness, it is ultra dry, with pink grapefruity notes, but the creaminess comes through as well as the tantalising, dry and mineral flecked acidity. 90/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Diamant Pas Dosé 2006, Italy
85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, again this has a 30% barrel component. It is kept on lees for a full five years. It has 1g/l of natural residual sugar. A touch less honey on the nose, more a salty mineral freshness, but a nutty apple character and yes, a touch of light honey and toast does come through. The palate has a bracing, fresh and very dry character, but not a lot of autolytic character, more green and herby notes. There's a creaminess, but purity and again the hint of minerality. 89/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Cuvette Brut 2006, Italy
85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir, again 30% in small barrels, and 54 months on the lees. It has 7g/l of sugar. Cuvette is a single vineyard, planted on the hills above the winery. Quite a deep, rich yellow colour. Hugely creamy and buttery nose, with brioche and buttered toast, with ripe apple and pear and a certain weight and richness. The palate has a bracing dryness, the pithy grapefruit and lemon really grips this, the fat and texture of the wine, the impression of sweetness conferred by the sweeter, quince-like fruit and lower acidity giving this an intensity and concentrated character. Quite serious and layered stuff. 91/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Rosé Brut 2009, Italy
A blend of 60% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir made as a saignée, with colour coming from 8 to 10 hours of skin contact. 30 months on the lees and 7g/l residual sugar. Onion skin/light bronze colour. Very attractive nose, with a touch of earth and truffle, and that inherent fruit ripeness and lightly buttery quality coming through. On the palate the flavours are quite robust, a touch earthy, but not terribly complex or long - that rip of pithy acidity sweeps through, leaving this pretty lean. 87/100.

Villa, Franciacorta Rose Demi-Sec NV, Italy
Actually a 2009 vintage wine, but Demi-Sec is not allowed to state vintage on the label. 30 months on the lees for this blend of 70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir with 35g/l sugar. A more bold colour, a touch more depth to the colour. Light, fresh, sherbetty with gentle vanilla and toasty background notes. On the palate lots of sweetness really comes through, a little toffee and plenty of soft berry fruit sweetness. 87/100.

Curtefranca and other still wines

Villa, Campei Bianco 2012, Italy
This is an IGT Sebino wine, not from the DOC Curtefranca. From a Cru called Campei, it is all Chardonnay. Lovely fresh nose, lots of rosy apple and lemon, but very dry and pithy on the palate with lemon rind flavours and huge grippy acidity and mineral acidity. 86-87/100.

Villa, Curtefranca Pian della Villa 2011, Italy
All Chardonnay Curtefranca, with some ageing in older barriques. Lovely hint of honey and nutty richness, but it is also about an extra orangey brightness and hint of pithy, bittering grapefruit acidity. Very nicely balanced and pitched. 88/100.

Villa, Curtefranca Gradoni 2009, Italy
Grapes from the steep, terraced Gradoni hill behind the winery. The blend is 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 35% Merlot, aged in barrique for 18 months, then 18 months in bottle before release. 14.5% alcohol from a hot year. Hugely spicy nose, lots of deep, slightly resinous oak aromas, but a welterweight of fruit and almost minty, violet character. The palate is rather sour, the fruit having a sharpness and sour, shorter flavours that are a touch burnt and not really harmonious. Plenty of weight and power, but lacks harmony and subtlety, a slightly overripe character that does not add up to a terribly attractive whole. 84/100.

Villa, Curtefranca Quercus Merlot 2009, Italy
Again from the terraced vineyard of mineral-rich clay soils. This cuvée is produced only in the best years. Quite a deep, resonant nose, chocolate and ripe red berries, and a lift of smokiness and hint of the floral, the oak is very evident, but it is more attractive here. The wine is creamier, riper and more integrated, though it is still a little baked, and a touch burnt too, but there is more harmony and a touch more elegance. 88-89/100

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