In 2015 Australia imported 8.1 million bottles of Champagne. This was an almost 25% increase on the 6.5 million bottles imported in 2014. So it’s obvious Aussies love their quality French bubbly.
Fair enough, but what about Italian sparkling wines, are any of them of similar quality to Champagne? Before we can answer that, let's look at how the French make Champagne. There are three important factors that account for the high quality of Champagne: The French appellation system, the grape varieties used and the classic method of sparkling wine production where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle. Now let's look how Italian sparkling wines compare with this standard:
Italy has an appellation system similar to the French. This guarantees quality by limiting and regulating the growing areas, production locations and production methods. Therefore if an Italian wine has the D.O.C. or D.O.C.G. appellation sticker attached to the bottle, you can expect it to be high quality.
Most Australians are familiar with Italian sparkling wines such as Lambrusco, Moscato, Asti Spumante and Prosecco. However, despite being awarded D.O.C. or D.O.C.G. status, these wines are not the same quality as Champagne. This is because they are produced from different grapes and use a different production method.
Lambrusco and Moscato are the names of the grapes used to produce the wine. Moscato is also the grape used in Asti Spumante. Prosseco is produced from the Glera grape.
The Italian sparkling wines named above are produced using the Charmat Method where the secondary fermentation occurs in a tank. This is a quicker and therefore cheaper method of production than that used for Champagne and wines produced this way are usually fruitier and should be drunk young.
So is there an Italian wine that is produced from the same grapes and uses the same production methods as Champagne? Well indeed there is – Franciacorta, which is regarded as Italy’s finest sparkling wine. The Franciacorta appellation is located east of Milan in the wine region of Lombardy.
Similarities between Franciacorta and Champagne
Like Champagne, Franciacorta is produced from Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) and Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) grapes.
Both wines use the classic method (Metodo Classico) of sparkling wine production where the secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle. The wines are left for a minimum of 18 months in the bottle (though usually longer) for what is termed ‘lees refinement’, where the bottles are tilted down and turned every day. This causes the sediment to settle in the neck which at the end of the process is frozen and removed. This elaborate process causes the texture of the wine to change, creating a premium sparkling wine that can be cellared for years.
Champagne was awarded the highest French appellation status - A.O.C. in 1936. Franciacorta was awarded the highest Italian appellation status – D.O.C.G. - in 1995.
Both wines use the same categories to indicate the sweetness of the wine: from driest to sweetest – Dossagio Zero (Brut Zero), Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Dry, Dry, Demi-Sec and Dolce (Doux).
Most Champagne and Franciacorta wines are a blend of at least two grapes though both wine types produce a wine made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes – Champagne Blanc de Blanc and Franciacorta Saten. Both Franciacorta and Champagne also produce a sparkling Rose wine.
Why choose Franciacorta?
The Franciacorta appellation in Italy is much smaller than the Champagne appellation in France and Champagne production is over 20 times larger than Franciacorta production. Therefore Franciacorta is (dare we say) more boutique than Champagne.
Franciacorta is cheaper than Champagne for similar quality wine (at the moment). For example, TFT Boutique Products sells Barboglio De Gaioncelli’s 2007 Vintage Franciacorta that has had 60 months lees refinement for only $95.00.
Now that so many Australians drink Champagne, the more discerning amongst us are looking for something of the same quality but with an exotic difference. In other words Franciacorta is becoming trendy amongst Australian sparkling wine connoisseurs. TFT Boutique Products is giving you the opportunity to get in early and be one of the trend-setters.
If you are from an Italian background and are getting married, having a birthday or holding a celebration for any reason, then Franciacorta is the perfect wine to show pride in your Italian heritage.
Other Italian wines that use the Metodo Classico
There are several other smaller regions in Italy that produce sparkling wines using the Metodo Classico. These wines are indicated by the words ‘Metodo Classico’ on the label.
One such example is Trento D.O.C. of which TFT Boutique Products has a superb example. Morus Metodo Classico Trento D.O.C. is made from Chardonnay and Pinot Nero grapes by Cantina Mori Colli Zugna in the Trentino wine region in the North of Italy. This wine is an absolute steal at $60.00.
Now you know what’s available, do yourself a favour and give Franciacorta a try for your next celebration or just because you like drinking quality sparkling wine.
TFT Boutique Products sells the following premium Italian sparkling wines: Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero Mellesimato D.O.C.G. Claro, Franciacorta Saten D.O.C.G. Saten (Magnum), Franciacorta Rose Millesimato D.O.C.G. and Morus Metodo Classico Trento D.O.C.