Franciacorta is a baby, as Italian wine regions go. It wasn’t officially recognized until the 1960s, and its DOCG status was granted just over two decades ago.
But sparkling wine from this region near Milan is starting to turn heads, and its producers are getting more savvy in their efforts to raise its profile around the world.
Earlier this year, the Franciacorta Consortium hired Orlando sommelier Rashmi Primlani as a brand ambassador. Last week, she hosted a small group of local journalists and wine professionals at Orlando Chef Kevin Fonzo‘s “La Tavola” in College Park for the Consortium’s first Florida masterclass.
Unlike the better known Italian sparkler Prosecco, Franciacorta uses the same grapes as Champagne and is made in the Champagne method. When it comes to depth and complexity, Franciacorta leaves most Proseccos in the dust.
To show off the region’s diversity, Rashmi poured nine different wines. Styles ranged from a bone dry zero dosage (pas dosé in Italian), to a fruity rosé, to a smooth saten – a style unique to Franciacorta that relies on lower pressure in the bottle to create an alluringly silky, creamy texture.
The wines were served alongside a spectacular meal from Chef Fonzo, prepared and presented at his Kitchen House & Culinary Garden. He calls it his “La Tavola” experience – a popup family-style meal with proceeds benefiting the educational programs he runs through the Emeril Lagasse Foundation.
Rashmi emphasized that this was not a traditional pairing dinner, but rather a demonstration that she hoped would prove Franciacorta’s ability to pair with anything.
Indeed, the wines proved fairly versatile, as do most sparklers – bubbly is my secret go-to when I’m faced with a pairing conundrum. But the final wine, a 2010 Ferghettina Pas Dosé Riserva 33, absolutely lit up when paired with the taleggio from the final cheese course.
I was seated on what I lovingly dubbed the wino side of the table, with Rob Chase from Digress, Matt Coltrin from The Parkview, and Gary Russell from the Ritz-Carlton. I hope I’m not putting words – or bubbles – in their mouths when I say that there was one standout wine that jolted us out of our growing food stupors, shook us by the shoulders, and forced us to sit up and take note.
Sometimes, a wine inexplicably speaks to you in ways that transcend tasting notes. That evening, the 2010 Ronco Calino Brut was that wine for me. It’s bone dry but has whispers of honey, solidly structured but with a captivating elegance.
Gary was pretty taken with it too. No promises, but I’d keep an eye out for it on future visits to Highball & Harvest at the Ritz.
Great Bubbles, Great Value … Hard to Find
Franciacorta can be a pretty amazing deal. Good producers offer quality that’s on par with many Champagnes, at a fraction of the price.
But Franciacorta can also be difficult to find. Wine purveyors tell me it’s a hard sell, simply because consumers are unfamiliar with the category. Stocking these wines in any significant numbers is a tough business decision.
If you love bubbles, though, it’s worth taking the time to scour the shelves and wine lists to find a Franciacorta to discover for yourself. You’ll be toasting in no time!