Leading Franciacorta brand Bellavista isn’t interested in the Champagne model of creating a house style with reserve wines according to its export executive.
Speaking to the drinks business during Vinitaly in Verona this week, Bellavista’s export sales executive Vitaliano Tirrito said:
“We’re not Champagne and aren’t going for a house style with the use of reserve wines. Our flagship Alma Gran Cuvée doesn’t have the vintage on the label but 95% of the latest release comes from the 2012 vintage. We like to celebrate the differences of the vintages.”
One of the best-known producers from Franciacorta, Bellavista dubs itself the ‘cashmere’ of Italian sparkling wine.
The estate has carved a niche for long-aged sparklers. Around 35% of Alma Gran Cuvée is barrel fermented, and the final blend spends 40 months on its lees.
The property’s 190 hectares are divided into 147 small parcels, all of which are vinified separately. Total production falls at 1.4 million bottles of fizz, 400,000 of which are vintage wines.
Tirrito calculates that each hectare of vines owned by the estate requires 300 hours of work a year, resulting in “the highest production cost in Italy” for a wine.
“Our philosophy is to produce elegant wines that are both approachable and have great ageing potential. We never push to get our wines ready for a specific release date as we want them to find their own balance. You shouldn’t push nature if you want good results.
“Our foundations were laid upon longevity, as ageability is what marks out a great wine from an average wine,” he told db.
The house recently released a new expression – Meraviglioso – with 12 years of lees ageing. Tirrito looks forward to the day when Franciacorta is no longer compared with Champagne and is recognised in its own right with a dedicated section on wine lists.
He believes the challenge of convincing consumers in the UK to spend £30 on a bottle of Italian sparkling wine “is getting easier”, although progress takes time.
“The word is finally getting out there. In our region the brands are stronger than the Franciacorta name. People know Bellavista but they don’t necessarily know Franciacorta, that’s why we write it smaller on the label.
“We’re still a very young region so it will take time to get our name known around the world. Knowledge of the brands has come first and then the region will follow,” he told db.
The Bellavista estate
Tirrito can see similarities between Franciacorta and English sparkling wine but believes the former is “softer” and “more easy going” than the latter.
The majority of the sparklers in the Bellavista range spend some time in oak, but there is “no recipe” for exactly how much and how long.
Sales are strong in Italy, with 85% of production being sold at home, though Tirrito is keen to build the brand in key export markets like Japan, Germany, the US and the UK.
“There’s a real trend for bubbles in Italy at the moment – whites in general are really popular and sparkling whites even more so,” he said.
“We’re working with restaurants like Margot in London on special collaborations – the UK is a very difficult market as it’s very price sensitive. We’ll earn less money on each bottle of Bellavista sold outside of Italy, but we need to invest in our export markets.
“Japan has the same drinking culture as Italy – I feel very at home there as there is a high level of knowledge among consumers,” he added.
Last November, Bellavitsta’s owner, Terra Moretti, snapped up the two wineries in the Campari portfolio – the 550-hectare Sardinian estate Azienda Vinicola Tenute Sella & Mosca and the 100-hectare Tuscan estate, Teruzzi & Puthod, for €62 million.
The aim is for Terra Moretti to be turning over €100 million a year. It currently brings in €63 million from its wine businesses.
Despite Prosecco’s popularity, Tirrito insists that the company isn’t interested in buying a Prosecco brand as it conflicts with its Franciacorta venture.