There is a sparkle in the chill fresh waters of Lago Iseo, and now there some most sustainable growth in Italy’s premier wine region alongside these ripples in Franciacorta.
While nowhere in quantity to France’s finest (304 million bottles), news this week by the Gambero Rosso organisation said 15 million bottles of the sparkling style Franciacorta (Lombardy province) from te cool, hilly southern lake sites are made.
The set is metodo classico, that age-surviving manual and individual method of preserving Franciacortian chardonnay and pinot nero base wines on their dead yeast. The earliest drunk wines generally age that way for 18 months though older makers can hold bottles longer.
There are three thousand hectares designated Franciacorta DOCG with 110 members in the local producing organisation (consorzio) though about 170 brands exist (renegade non believers). Ten years ago there were 50 makers .
A third of the region is in conversion to bio dynamique vine growing.
I found my way from the lakeside to the small village of Montecelli Brusati (a series of small rolling hills behind the living spaces typifys) to greeted by the folk from the Gussalli Beretta-owned Lo Sparviere, a very old stone property and set of 16th century buildings.
The original family have lived there for five generations, and which Beretta is preserving.
The external winemaker is a composed Francesco Pollastri, a 40 odd vintage grounded veteran keeping the ways in the cellar quite simple.
Vineyards are generally planted and harvested as separate varieties, mainly chardonnay, the bulk of the 20 hectare spaces. A little pinot nero from several sites breaks the rule and is blended to make a single rose bubbles . The current La Sparviere Rose, no vintage on the label but it is from 2010, keeps it more simple.
The stellar wine is the single chardonnay wine with vintage age; I was first attracted to the brand by drinking the 2008 (AUD 75), current is Lo Sparviere Brut Millesimato 2009. It gleams, pale, expressive, intense chardonnay tangerine, bitter peach or nectarine fruit flavours, and coiled acidity. A cool place, and a warm year wine.
Then the next step: Lo Sparviere Dossagio Zero 2008, just named with three glasses (very prestigious) in Gambero Rosso’s 2016 listings of top wines; worth celebrating though small amounts are kept this long. No sugar, just measuring a gram which the yeast does not eat, this is very composed and a long time keeping “blanc de blancs” with lovely linear lime grass acidity. Other wines are dosed at 8 grams to compare the subtle sweetness.
WHERE TO STAY IN FRANCIACORTA: Try staying on Lake Iseo (beautiful views) at the romantic 4 star Rivalago in Sulzano; close by to all vineyards, grand hotel and excellent service.
EAT IN FRANCIACORTA: try Ristorante Gaudenzi, very focussed on local foods, particularly lake-caught fish, plenty of Franciacorta bubbles; via Cantarana 1, Rodengo Saiano; +39 030 6810422
The author visited the Gussalli Beretta-owned Lo Sparviere sparkling wine property in Monticelli Brusati on September 16, 2015.