Five Styles, One Region: Discovering the Diversity of Franciacorta Sparkling Wines

Share This Post




It’s been a while since I deeply explored Franciacorta, one of Italy’s most renowned sparkling wine regions. Located in the Lombardy region, Franciacorta is situated between the shores of Lake Iseo and the foothills of the Alps, providing an idyllic microclimate for grape cultivation.



Five Styles, One Region: Discovering the Diversity of Franciacorta Sparkling Wines
One of the Food and Wine Pairings at Mister Charles



Recently, I had the chance to join a Master Class led by May Matta-Aliah DWS, Educational Brand Ambassador, and try 12 different flights of Franciacorta, beautifully paired with food, at Mister Charles.


Franciacorta has five different styles of wines which are produced exclusively through a second fermentation in a bottle.


  • Franciacorta Brut is the most common style of Franciacorta, accounting for most production. It is typically dry, with a crisp acidity and vibrant fruit flavors. Franciacorta Brut wines are aged on the lees for a minimum of 18 months.
  • Franciacorta Satèn is a unique style distinguished by its silky texture and creamy mouthfeel. Made exclusively from white grape varieties (Chardonnay and/or Pinot Blanc), Satèn undergoes a lower-pressure secondary fermentation, resulting in a softer, gentler effervescence. Think flowers and fruit and this is aged for 24 months.
  • Franciacorta Rosé is crafted from red grape varieties (Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Nero) and often exhibits a vibrant pink hue. It offers an enticing bouquet of red berries, citrus fruits, and floral notes, with a lively palate and a persistent, refreshing finish and is aged for 24 months.
  • Franciacorta Millesimato is vintage-dated Franciacorta wine, made from grapes harvested in a single growing season. These wines showcase the unique characteristics of a specific vintage, reflecting the influence of climatic conditions and terroir on the final product and is aged for 30 months.
  • Franciacorta Riserva is a category of sparkling wine distinguished by its extended aging period and exceptional quality. This designation is reserved for wines with a minimum of 60 months of aging on the lees.


The History


Winemaking in the Franciacorta area dates to ancient Roman times, with evidence of vine cultivation found in archaeological excavations. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that modern winemaking techniques were introduced, transforming Franciacorta into a sparkling wine region.


After the arrival of Cluniac Monks in the 11th Century, the area was declared to be exempt from duties. The name Franciacorta is derived from the term “francae curtes” meaning a “tax and duty-free “area.



Five Styles, One Region: Discovering the Diversity of Franciacorta Sparkling Wines
Franciacorta Berlucchi




The credit for Franciacorta’s rise to goes to a few pioneering winemakers. Guido Berlucchi, often referred to as the “Father of Franciacorta,” played a pivotal role in bringing traditional method sparkling wine production to the region and created the first certified organic winery. In collaboration with enologist Franco Ziliani, Berlucchi produced the first Franciacorta metodo classico sparkling wine in 1961, using the same techniques as Champagne but with local grape varieties. Viniculture was spread through the monasteries and churches and the region was awarded its first DOC in 1967. It received the DOCG designation, the top designation for Italian wines, in 1997.




Five Styles, One Region: Discovering the Diversity of Franciacorta Sparkling Wines
An Example of the Climate of Lake Iseo



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 primarily made using the Chardonnay, Pinot Nero (Pinot Noir), and Pinot Bianco grapes, grown on about 5,400 acres of well-draining soil. However, Erbamat, an indigenous grape variety, adds a distinctive touch to certain blends, contributing to the region’s diversity and complexity. It is an indigenous white grape variety known for its ability to thrive in the area’s cool climate and limestone-rich soils. These grapes are known for their high acidity, aromatic profile, and aging potential.


The soil is abundant in minerals, characterized by calcareous and sandy compositions overlaying limestone bedrock. Situated near Lake Iseo, the region is close to the lake. The lake provides a moderating influence on Franciacorta’s climate, mitigating the effects of its continental nature. During summer, the lake brings cooling breezes, while in winter, it provides a gentle warming effect.


The Consorzio and Its Role



A Vineyard in Franciacorta



Following Berlucchi’s lead, other producers in Franciacorta began to adopt the metodo classico, focusing on quality and authenticity.  The Consorzio per la Tutela del Franciacorta (Consortium for the Protection of Franciacorta) was established in 1990 to safeguard and promote the region’s sparkling wines, ensuring adherence to strict production standards. Today 98 percent of winemakers are members.


The consortium encourages the region to move in a common direction on important topics like sustainability, certification, promoting the designation, and enhancing production. Today 55 percent of the wineries are certified organic and there is an effort to increase that number.


Some cool projects include the Ita.Ca Project, the first Italian wine carbon footprint calculator, monitoring greenhouse gas emissions and the sustainable use of crop protection products.


The Wines




Five Styles, One Region: Discovering the Diversity of Franciacorta Sparkling Wines
Our Franciacorta Wine Line-Up



It’s been a number of years since I dove in and the Italians have this style of wine down:


  • Berlucchi Satèn Brut ’61 – this 100 percent Chardonnay has notes of jasmine, pear, apple, peach, vanilla, almonds, and brioche made by one of the early pioneers of Franciacorta wine.
  • 2019 Barone Pizzini Satèn Brut – this 100 percent Chardonnay wine had notes of jasmine, meyer lemon, stone fruit with a bit of tension and acidity.
  • 2019 Castello Bonomi Satèn Brut – in this 100 percent Chardonnay, I tasted notes of jasmine, apple, Asian spice, brioche, and ginger.
  • NV Faccoli Brut is a blend of 60 percent Chardonnay with 20 percent Pinot Blanc and 20 percent Pinot Noir. There is a well-balanced richness, with apricots, lemon curd, pear and citrus that shows its time on the lees.
  • NV Castelfaglia Brut Monogram Blanc de Blanc – this blend of 80 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Pinot Blanc had notes of apple, pear, lemon zest, jasmine, tropical fruit, and freshly baked bread.
  • 2019 Ca’ Del Bosco Dosaggio Zero – this blend of 77 percent Chardonnay, 17 percent Pinot Noir and 15 percent Pinot Blanc has notes of jasmine, stone fruit, apple, lemon zest and brioche. This winery has always been one of my favorites in past tastings.
  • NV La Montina Rosé Extra Brut – notes of strawberry, raspberry, pomegranate, cranberry, flowers with a great minerality. This was a blend of 85 percent Pinot Noir and 15 percent Chardonnay.
  • NV Contadi Castaldi Rosé Brut – This was a blend of 65 percent Chardonnay and 35 percent Pinot Noir. I tasted notes of watermelon, orange zest, strawberries, raspberries, flowers, and brioche.
  • NV Ferghettina Rosé Brut – notes of strawberries, raspberries, cranberries, citrus zest, and herbs. This is a great food wine.


This region holds a rich tapestry of history and innovation. Franciacorta’s story is one of resilience, dedication, and excellence from ancient Roman viticulture to modern-day winemaking practices. As we’ve explored the diverse styles of its sparkling wines, from the classic Brut to the nuanced Riserva, each glass has offered a glimpse into the unique terroir and craftsmanship that defines Franciacorta’s character.


Share This Post

You May Also Like