Thank you, California! Notes from the Franciacorta summer tour.

best champagne wine tasting san diego

Last Saturday, Franciacorta Real Story completed the last tasting of a four-city summer tour: New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Over the course of two weeks, I poured two hefty flights of Franciacorta wines and had the opportunity to speak to groups of buyers, writers, and consumers about Franciacorta and what makes it so unique in the panorama of sparkling wine today.

(Click here for the flight of wines I poured in New York and see the California flight, poured in all three cities, below. All of the wines I poured are available in the U.S.)

As I made my way from one coast to the other and then down the Pacific coastline, I thought a lot about my own personal history with Franciacorta.

It was back in 2011 when I spoke at the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Brescia that I really started to taste a lot of Franciacorta and wrap my mind around it.

By that time in my life, I had been writing about Italian wine for more than a decade. But, honestly, I really didn’t know that much about Franciacorta and what made it such a singular expression of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc.

As I tasted with literally scores of American wine professionals on both coasts, it became abundantly clear to me that Franciacorta remains a relatively unknown wine in the U.S.

Aside from David Lynch (author of the landmark Vino Italiano) at St. Vincent in San Francisco (who graciously allowed me to host my tasting there), even the most veteran Italian wine cognoscenti among us have had little contact with Franciacorta. Few have been to the appellation. And even fewer have tasted more than a handful of producers.

Over the last five years or so, the Franciacorta consortium has invested heavily in promoting its wines beyond Italy’s borders. The budget for my campaign is literally a drop in the bucket compared to the money the consortium is spending with two different U.S. PR firms.

But despite Franciacorta’s growing (overwhelming, really) popularity in Italy, here in the U.S. it’s still Champagne’s ugly step-sibling.

During the tour, it was amazing to watch the tasters’ eye-popping moments when they started to get a sense of how different the wines are.

When you taste 15 or 16 expressions of Franciacorta side-by-side, as we did four times over the last two weeks, it really starts to become clear how the Franciacorta identity stands apart from the chorus of sparkling wine today.

Franciacorta has two things in common with Champagne: The method and two grape varieties. But that’s where the analogy ends. With its Alpine climate, maritime influence, and morainic subsoils, Franciacorta stands alone as one of the world’s most compelling wines and one of its most extraordinary expressions of Chardonnay (imho).

Its greater ripeness, its lower dosage, its lower pressure, its incredible freshness, its pairing versatility, and its enormous aging potential make it one of the world’s most captivating appellations.

And add to that its relative dimension: There are currently fewer than 110 grower/bottlers in the Franciacorta consortium while there are roughly 20,000 growers in Champagne. And of those growers, 30 percent farm organically. Some believe that this little northern Italian oasis might become the first Italian appellation to be 100 percent organic. This is possible because it’s relatively easy to farm organically there. It’s a place that special

Thank you to everyone who hosted and tasted with me. I greatly appreciate and deeply cherish your support. And it was a blast to taste so many fantastic wines together!

Here are the wines I poured in California:

Ronco Calino Brut (80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir)
Ronco Calino Satèn (100% Chardonnay)
Barone Pizzini Satèn
(100% Chardonnay)
Il Mosnel Satèn (100% Chardonnay)
Il Mosnel EBB 2009
(100% Chardonnay)
Monte Rossa Prima Cuvée (15% Pinot Noir, 85% Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc)
Monte Rossa Cabochon 2009 (70% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir)
Montenisa Brut
(Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, and a smaller amount of Pinot Noir)
Ricci Curbastro Brut
(60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Blanc, 10% Pinot Noir)
Ricci Curbastro Satèn Brut
(100% Chardonnay)
Contadi Castaldi Brut NV 
(80% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir, 10 % Pinot Blanc)
Contadi Castaldi Rosé NV
(65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir)
Bellavista Alma Cuvée NV
(80% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Noir, 1% Pinot Blanc)
Bellavista Pas Operé 2006
(65% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir)
Camossi Brut (90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir)
Berlucchi Brut 61 (90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir)
Berlucchi Rosé 61 (60% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay)


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