The underground Vault at The Ned in central London was the venue for a thoroughly enjoyable and interesting tasting event for Franciacorta sparkling wines last month.
The original Midland Bank strongroom is now home to The Vault Bar & Lounge, which is for members only, and is lined with over 3,000 original safety deposit boxes. It’s the perfect spot for a pre-dinner cocktail, nightcap or bite from their late-night Italian menu. It often hosts DJs, live music and member events, such as masterclasses such as this one for Franciacorta wines.
Franciacorta’s UK Brand Ambassador Tom Harrow was here to walk us through six different sparkling wines and give us an insight into their wine making process and a bit of history of production of sparkling wine in Franciacorta, which dates back to the 16th century. In fact Napoleonic Cadastral records indicate that there were some 1,000 vineyards back in 1809.
Franciacorta today produces some of the highest quality sparkling wines in the industry and received the ultimate DOCG status in 1995 as the first Italian wine in this category. The producers focus on very stringent, hand-picked selections of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Erbamat grapes. Their wines are crafted using traditional methods with secondary fermentation occurring in the bottle itself.
Castelveder Franciacorta Brut
The first wine we try is the refreshing Castelveder Franciacorta Brut, which is fresh and balanced and obtained by the fragrance and the delicacy if Chardonnay. Perfect as an aperitif this wine also pairs well with fresh oysters and other shellfish, crab cakes and grilled seabass. It also makes the perfect partner for a creamy risotto.
The wine is 100% Chardonnay and is bright straw yellow in colour and has a strong and long-lasting perlage. It is a dry wine but not super dry with naturally ripe fruit and is very refreshing to drink. Its scent is rather intense and charismatic, starting with a biscuity note, rather reminiscent of the crust of fresh bread.
Berlucchi ‘61 Satèn
The second wine is the Berlucchi ‘61 Satèn which is again 100% Chardonnay and comes from the best vineyards in the 19 municipal areas of Franciacorta. It is normally harvested from the middle ten days of August through to the first ten days of September.
The vinification is a gentle, gradual pressing of clusters with fractioning of the must and alcoholic fermentation takes place in steel vats. The maturation process takes between 18 to 24 months, followed by an additional two months after disgorgement. The lower overpressure in the bottles (5 atmospheres) typical of Satèn, gives the wine a creamy elegance which is softer and the ideal wine to go with sushi or medium to mature cheeses.
The bouquet is elegant, rich and multi-layered with fragrances of peach, apricot and tropical fruit, gradually more emphatic, giving way to notes of candied citrus fruit.
Santus Roséextra Brut Franciacorta
Our third wine is a Santus Roséextra Brut Franciacorta which is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes again and is exclusively from Santus vineyards. It has a remarkable structure and complexity, savoury and persistent, rich in the typical chardonnay aromas and flavours, including redcurrant, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry.
The winemaking process is a gentle pressing, maceration on the skins with the alcoholic fermentation taking place in stainless steel and thermoconditioned vats for six months followed by bottle ageing on the lees for a minimum of 40 months.
The wine is light pink in colour with big structure and complexity and rich flavours such as redcurrant, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry and is mineral rich with a persistent taste. It goes well with crustacean seafood, sea urchins and fish soup as well as with rare red meat.
Monte Rossa Coupé
Our fourth wine is the Monte Rossa Coupé, which is a bright, straw-yellow colour, giving off a mild and gentle smell of elderflower and white peach. It evolves in the glass revealing vegetal and sea touches with the final taste of fresh almonds and really does give off a smell of the ocean, making it the perfect complement to shellfish and razor clams.
The penultimate wine we try is the Frenccianera Brut which is made with 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Bianco and 10% Pinot Nero. It is made the traditional Franciacorta way: re-fermentation in the bottle and 60 months on yeasts.
Its colour is straw yellow with a golden hue and has a bouquet that is balsamic with citrusy notes and a lightly toasted scent. It is a well-balanced, mellow and sapid wine.
1701 Vintage Dosaggio Zero Millesimato 2011
Our final wine of the evening is the 1701 Vintage Dosaggio Zero Millesimato 2011, which is made with 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir and hand-picked from the wine makers’ biodynamic vineyards and produces only 3,000 bottles a year. The fermentation process takes place in part stainless steel and part barriques using indigenous yeasts with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle for a minimum of 40 months on the lees.
Stockist Details for Franciacorta Wines
The Castelveder Brut is available at Uvinum, priced £19.85; the Berlucchi Guido Saten 61 is available at Tannico, priced £19.11 whilst the Santus Rose is available at Gallienoteca priced at €26 and the Monte Rossa Nature is available from Italvinus for £19.73. The Azienda Agricola Fratelli Berlucchi Brut Vintage 2013 is also available at Uvinum at £29.04 a bottle and the 1701 Dosaggio Zero Vintage 2011 is available at Tannico priced at £40.29.
For more information on Franciacorta wines please visit: www.franciacorta.net
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs courtesy of Franciacorta and by Simon Burrell