I recently participated in a Twitter tasting for a region that was new to me – the Franciacorta region from Lombardy in Northern Italy.  The region, which was originally known for still wines, now is a powerhouse area for Italian sparkling wines using the traditional method of re-fermentation in the same bottle and the first to obtain Italy’s DOCG (Demominazione di Origine Controlla e Garantia) designation.

The region is located about an hour East of Milan on the hills from towns south of Lake Iseo in the Province of Brescia.  Franciacorta has made still wines since the 16th century and sparkling wines started in the region about 50 years ago.  These wines are made using the Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir) and Pinot Bianco grapes on about 5,400 acres.  The soil is rich with minerals and calcareous and sandy soils on limestone bedrock.

We tried a variety of styles of the sparkling wines that day all made in the metodo classico style.  Our line-up was as follows (all were non-vintage wines):

–          Lo Sparnerre Saten NV ($25) – notes of yellow apple, toast, saline, mineral and pear was silky, refreshing and delightful.

–          Barone Pizzini Brut NV ($35) – notes of tropical fruit, yeast, creaminess, ginger and floral notes. Loved the acidity on this one.

–          Montenisa Brut NV ($37) – tasted like brioche, apple, peach, lemon and pear.  Another blogger described this as “apple pie in a glass.”  It was a great description.

–          Ronco Calino Brut NV ($30) – notes of floral, pineapple, vanilla and citrus.

–          Fratelli Berlucchi Rose 2008 ($27) – notes of strawberry, citrus, apple, grapefruit and raspberry.  Delightful.

–          Villa Franciacorta Brut 2007 ($35) – apple, toast, citrus, peach and ginger.

These were all great and received glowing reviews from the folks in my party who tasted them. I am a firm believer that sparkling wines should not just be for special occasions.  The Franciacorta region has been doing sparkling wines with finesse, Old World style and traditional champagne methods.  In 2012, 14 million bottles were sold around the globe.  Once this knowledge becomes more than a wine insiders secret, I suspect this number will be off the charts.