Just Google “Italy’s answer to …” in quotes and you’ll find that a great number of the most revered English-language mastheads have published articles with this abhorrent title.
But I don’t blame their editors or contributors for this.
If there is blame to assign, it lies with those historically responsible for marketing Franciacorta in the U.S. and U.K.
Sadly, the powers-that-be have always positioned Franciacorta as a “luxury” brand akin to its more famous counterpart on the other side of the Alps.
The fact of the matter is that Franciacorta is radically different from its transalpine Doppelgänger.
And the main difference is the fact that Franciacorta growers can allow their grapes to ripen fully before harvest (in France, classic-method sparkling wines are made from underripe fruit that has been picked with overly high acidity and relatively low sugar).
Did you know, for example, that Franciacorta producers rarely need to provoke the first fermentation with the addition of cane sugar?
This is because the berries already have enough sugar to enable fermentation.
On the other side of the Alps, the practice is de rigueur.
The richer ripeness of the fruit expresses itself in even the most commercial Franciacorta bottlings, giving the wines greater depth of flavor.
But the thing that strikes me the most about Franciacorta (and we drink a lot of Franciacorta in our home) is its wonderful vinous character. The greatest expressions of Franciacorta, in my experience, share a kinship with my favorite still wines inasmuch as they have a wonderful food-friendly quality about them.
We drink a lot of French sparkling wine as well (made mostly from Pinot Noir). Bollinger Rosé — our all-time favorite — and rare steak, for example, has made for an unforgettable pairing at our dinner table. But the French astringency and more tannic nature often limits the breadth of dishes we’ll pair with the wines.
Great Franciacorta, made mostly from Chardonnay, tends to have a rounder and richer fruit component that makes it pair exceedingly well with a wider variety of savory dishes.
On the night of my birthday, when the B. Mascarello 2008 Barolo turned out to be too tight for pairing with the main dish, the Arcari-Danesi 2009 Satén, 100 percent Chardonnay, with its profound white fruit and gently nutty flavors, was ideal with Tracie P’s fried chicken.
It’s one of the wines that my close friend Giovanni Arcari and his partner have created without the use of any sugar whatsoever: they use frozen grape must, reserved at harvest, for the tirage and dosage of this wine (I wrote about their revolutionary method here).
But when it comes to talking about and enjoying my favorite expressions of Franciacorta, you’ll never hear me use the C-word.