Italian wine: Franciacorta
- WTI Magazine #11 Jan 03, 2014
WTI Magazine #11 2014 Jan, 3
Author : Vino OK Translation by: Alessandra Bitetti
The region's history
The first historical information about Franciacorta gets lost in ancient times, but until the Middle Ages the area was generally called the Iseo Valley. It was described with this name in the book Statuta Communis Civitatis Brixiae in 1277.
But already in 1450 this area was named Franciacorta on the Venetians documents, when the Maritime Republic extended its domains throughout the Veneto region and the eastern part of Lombardy. At that time, the actual name given to the area was Franza Curta, coming from the medieval word Franche curtes that means free court, to indicate an area free from tax obligations. These benefits were probably due to the many abbeys and priories of the area, that enjoyed special privileges in a time profoundly dominated by the Catholic Church.
Franciacorta is the protagonist of the first book ever dedicated to the wine-making methods for sparkling wines, at that time made absolutely with natural fermentation, due to the lack of today's technologies. The book, Libellus de vino mordaci, was written in 1570, and it also describes the healing properties ascribed to these types of wine in the Renaissance. It actually was a doctor coming from Brescia, Gerolamo Conforti, who wrote this book, anticipating by almost a century the research of the French Dom Pérignon - who tried to give a scientific method to the Champagne production, originally obtained by chance from British with their habit to add sugar in wines with too few alcohol but easy to import, because made very close to England. The term "mordaci" indicated in those days the sparkling wines.
Thanks to the reading of this book, the producers began to add small pieces of barley to favor the fermentation in order to obtain the bubbly and therapeutic wines. The sporadic cultivation of the Middle Ages became industrial during the nineteenth century but with only mediocre red wines. Forty years ago, thanks to Berlucchi, the first experiments in sparkling were made. These experiments had a great success and they opened the door to the Franciacorta we know today. This brings us to the many cultural and natural beauties in the Franciacorta area, making it a region particularly suited for wine and food and culture tourism that together may give impulse to several initiatives.
The Franciacorta area involves eighteen municipalities in the province of Brescia for a total of 230 square kilometers. It is a rich, hilly area for art and environment. As for the cultivation of the vine, it takes advantage from moraine available soils, with an excellent results in the matter of the sparkling wine. But from the artistic point of view the link with the countries that surrounded the area is very narrow. Here we can find many works that may interest the wine lovers pleased not only by a simple wine-tasting trip, but also by the relationship that art and culture have with wine and food, always linked in the Italian tradition.
The center of major artistic interest connected to the wines is Adro, with its seventeenth-century Town Hall that was inherited from the Dandolo counts and its several villas scattered among the seventeenth-century churches: during the wine-tasting you can visit the church of Santa Maria in Favento (fourteen century). Still in Franciacorta, among the vineyards, you can visit the thirteen century Bornato Castle. Plus, there are several other characteristic villages that could be the background of a culinary trip in Franciacorta.
The wine road
Among a visit to a church and a manor, you can get over the vineyards, even for a friendly chat with those who work there. In fact, it's usual for many wineries to open their doors to visitors: an example is the Barone Pizzini winery, which organizes guided tours in addition to the direct sale in order to buy the product by talking directly with those who made it. The well-known Bellavista organizes guided tours on demand, but not direct sales: you have to go into a wine shop for that. The other big Franciacorta producer, Berlucchi, offers both guided tours on demand and direct sales. A wonderful tour among the more than 500 acres of the company, in the place where the Franciacorta bubbles story began from the will and passion of Guido Berlucchi.