The Houston Sommelier Association hosted a Franciacorta wine tasting and seminar with Silvano Brescianini of Barone Pizzini. Franciacorta is Italy's most prestigious sparkling wine. It is produced in a small area in the province of Brescia in the Lombardy region. Franciacorta can be made with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc (aka Bianco) and Pinot Noir (aka Nero) and it is produced in the traditional method. The rolling hills where the vineyards are located were created by glacial movement. This also left diverse subsoil deposits behind consisting of differing amounts of gravel, clay and sand over limestone. Each different blend of vineyard soil adds something unique to the base wines that are produced, such as higher or lower acidity, fruitiness or minerality. These base wines can then be blended to create a specific style profile. The common component in the soils is that they all drain well which is ideal for the cultivation of healthy grapes. The weather is consistently mild due to the proximity to the foothills of the Alps and the moderating presence of a large lake near the vineyard area; winds help limit insect activity. Silvano discussed how these elements of his terroir led him to sustainable and organic vineyard practices. In addition to his belief that he is producing wines at a higher quality level that are more terroir driven than ever before, he is also proud to be a leader in his community in advocating the protection of the natural beauty of this special place. Notes from the tasting:
Animonte Brut NV- A Chardonnay based blend of all three varieties, this wine has aromas of lemon zest with light hints of toast and jasmine with long lasting bubbles, fresh acidity and a lingering citrus finish.
Rosé 2010- This Pinot Noir sparkler has aromas of fresh red berries with long lasting bubbles, dried apricot and berry flavors with fresh acidity and a lingering tart berry finish.
Satén 2009 - This is 100% Chardonnay, there is no Pinot Noir used in this style of Franciacorta; floral aromas of citrus flowers with a citrus zest flavor, a silkier mouthfeel than the other selections, fresh acidity and a smooth, lingering citrus finish.
Riserva 2006- A 50/50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, a small portion of this wine is aged in barrique giving this wine a fuller body and more toasty notes than the other selections as well as offering more pairing potential for heavier meals.
While I enjoyed all of the selections, I particularly liked both the Rosé and the Satén. I could find many reasons to serve these throughout the year.
Attendees were also treated to a tasting of two Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi wines produced under the Pievalta label which were also fantastic. These crisp, clean white wines may seem fairly neutral in youth with their light aromas and flavors of apricot and citrus but they are very food friendly and can develop interesting almond and petrol notes with a little age. I particularly enjoyed the Riserva. All of the wines from this tasting are highly recommended. For more on this event: Barone Pizzini on the Houston Sommelier Association tasting event
On a cold night, pizza delivery at home and a bottle of 2011 Bolla Chianti* keeps life easy which is always good. This Sangiovese-based Chianti wine is not Classico meaning that its grapes may be sourced from a broader area in the Chianti region of Tuscany nor has it been aged like a Riserva would be, it is a fruitier, more simple wine.
We cozied up by the fire and caught up on some TV shows while we sipped on this Italian red. It has aromas and flavors of fresh ripe blackberry and plum with a medium body, smooth tannins and good acidity with a fruity finish. Under $10, a recommended choice for your next pizza or spaghetti night at home.