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Franciacorta vs Champagne

October 27, 2009 Tags: 0 comments
Bob Tyrer, in an article published on the Times wrote that the best prosecco needs no peaches to outshine champagne at twice the price so imagine what a good Franciacorta can do. Franciacorta is the Italian equivalent for Champagne, a sparkling wine made using the classic method, with the second fermentation in the bottle.

I love classic method sparkling wines, bollicine, Italian for sparkling wines, because amongst other things, are wines that complement a wide variety of dishes, from starter to desserts, or served as an aperitif.

I was recently given as a present a bottle of Lanson Black Label Champagne, a champagne costing about £25 per bottle. Sunday, like any Sunday, it is our tradition to open a bottle of classic method wine to accompany our lunch, every Sunday is a fish feast in my house, and we would have opened a Franciacorta or a Classic method classic wine if we did not have the Champagne. I don't think I ever had a bottle of Lanson before, had plenty of other champagnes, so I was not sure what to expect. I opened the wine, poured it in the glass and the first disappointment. The champagne had a very weak nose and there were no signs of the toast, bread, patisseries aromas that you would expect, it had a slightly, feeble fruity nose with green apples. In the mouth, the acidity, way too much, covered everything else, with none of the structure and richness of a good Champagne or a classic method sparkling wine. Undrinkable.

We only had a sip and decided to throw the rest of the champagne in the sink, we did not even use the rest for cooking. After this very disappointing experience, we opened a bottle of Franciacorta and what a different experience. For the same price, what a better wine. All you would expect from a good champagne, at half the price. Franciacorta wines are made using Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero grapes grown in the Brescia province, with a yield per hectare of 100 against the 120-144 quintal of the Champagne and a minimum ageing of 18 months against the 15 months of the champagne. Using Bob Tyrer words, a good Franciacorta can outshine Champagne at twice the price.

In the afternoon, after having digested the lunch and the Franciacorta, I decided to look on the internet for the Champagne tasting notes prepared by Lanson to see what I should have drunk, I could not find them, what I did notice though was that all websites selling it, from Tesco to Waitrose to independents, had the same tasting notes; it appears that all Master of Wines and importers never actually tasted the wine or if they did, they thought it was better to use the producer's notes to sell the wine.

But Franciacorta, a DOCG appellation, is only one of the many sparkling wines produced in Italy using the classic method, Trento DOC is another appellation, but plenty of producers are now making them. Making a classic method sparkling wine does not require the same equipment than a Charmat or Martinotti does so any producer, not matter how small can do it and we stock plenty, from north to south, from Piedmont to Sicily.
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