From the department of “we have yet to discover how good bread and butter go together”…
Four days ago, the acclaimed Italian wine critic Victor Rallo, Jr. (never heard of him?) and his cohort “former professor” and wine critic Anthony Verdoni published their astonishing findings on the behemoth wine blog Snooth.
“Franciacorta is the next Champagne,” they declared in the title of their well researched blog post for the PacMan of wine blogs.
“Northwestern Italy is the world leader in the production of sparkling wines of low pressure; fizzy, crackling, frizzante wines,” they observe authoritatively. “Such wines undergo their secondary fermentation in pressurized tanks called autoclaves. Examples include Moscato d’Asti and Lambrusco.”
Northwestern Italy? Well, it’s true that Moscato d’Asti is made there.
“The tradition for Italian sparkling wines made in what Franco Ziliano [SIC] called the ‘French method,’ they note, “dates back to the 1850’s. None can match what was to come in Franciacorta.”
Their remarkable revelation is sure to be ranked up there with Newton’s universal law of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and — as the Italians would say — the discovery of hot water.
Sadly, the comparison of Franciacorta to Champagne continues to molest consumers’ and trade’s perception of the Italian appellation like lice.
Even outgoing Franciacorta consortium president Maurizio Zanella, one of the appellation’s pioneers, conceded in a recent interview (for a top Italian wine blog) that the analogy was a “venial sin” of the past.
Franciacorta has two things in common with Champagne: the grape varieties (Chardonnay and Pinot Noir) and the method (the “classic method” or “traditional method”).
The climate is different. Franciacorta has an Alpine climate. In Champagne, maritime and continental climate.
Franciacorta growers like cool summers because it helps them achieve greater ripeness. Champagne growers like warm summers because it helps them achieve greater ripeness.
The soil types are also radically different. Franciacorta is predominantly morainic although there is also a substantial presence of limestone.
“The soil in Champagne is, for the most part, comprised of massive chalk deposits” (see this awesome post on Champagne soil types by Mise en abyme).
In Franciacorta there are roughly 100+ growers. In Champagne, a tenth of the vineyards are owned by merchants and the balance is comprised of 20,000 growers, according to the Oxford Companion to Wine.
When it comes down to it, the two appellations really don’t have much in common. Even the fizziness in Franciacorta is radically different than in Champagne, as is the amount of sugar used to provoke first and second fermentations. In Franciacorta, for example, nearly no one adds sugar to provoke the first fermentation while in Champagne it’s an accepted and common practice (although, more and more, Champagne producers are moving away from this).
So when are high-profile mastheads going to wake up and smell the wines and realize that FRANCIACORTA IS NOT CHAMPAGNE? If one of these writers would simply try a couple of wines side by side, she/he would realize how incongruous the analogy truly is.
I’ll be pouring a healthy flight of Franciacorta next month in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego for my Franciacorta-consortium sponsored blog, “Franciacorta, the real story.” Please come taste with me!