Rather than viewing it as a threat, Silvano Brescianini, vice president of the Franciacorta consorzio, believes the success of Prosecco has “paved the way” for Franciacorta in the UK.
Sunset over the vines in Franciacorta
Speaking during a lunch held at Massimo restaurant in London this week, Brescianini told the drinks business:
“We’re not in competition with Prosecco. Its success in the UK and around the world has paved the way for us and has done a lot to create an interest in sparkling wines outside of Champagne. Prosecco has brought millions of consumers to bubbles and I’m thankful for that.”
Brescianini also doesn’t view Champagne as a direct competitor to Franciacorta due to the vast difference in production volumes in the two regions.
“We can’t compete with Champagne as it’s too big. They make around 300 million bottles a year and we only make 17.5 million. Champagne can be our friend – we need to work together to promote the culture of high-end traditional sparkling wines,” he told db.
Brescianini predicts that if demand for Franciacorta suddenly spikes, the region would be able to increase production by a maximum of 20% but no more given its fixed borders.
Located between Brescia and Bergamo, the Franciacorta DOC came to be in 1967 and has grown to house 117 producers, the largest 20 of which make 80% of the wine in the region.
Around 80% of the grapes grown in Franciacorta are Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir and just 5% Pinot Bianco, which is “fruity but difficult to grow”, according to Brescianini.
The majority of Franciacorta produced (around 85%) is sold in Italy, with Japan, the US, Germany and Switzerland its key export markets.
Franciacorta tends to be lower in residual sugar than Champagne as the grapes ripen more fully due to more exposure to the sun, meaning less need for additional sugar.
The region is deeply committed to organic viticulture – 70% of the land under vine is certified organic and the goal is for the entire region to be certified by 2020.
“Being organic is hard but we’re not a golf course, so we encourage biodiversity and plants growing between the vines. But you can be organic and very bad – the key is to try and bring the vineyards into balance with the terroir,” Brescianini said.
Unique to Franciacorta is the “satèn” style – a blanc de blancs sparkler bottled at a lower pressure with a minimum of 24 months on its lees, giving it its signature “satin-like” smoothness.
Keen to increase Franciacorta listings in the UK, Brescianini and the consorzio are going after Italian restaurants and independent merchants, which are a natural fit for it.
As the category matures, Brescianini has noticed the emergence of a top tier within Franciacorta that could compete with prestige cuvée Champagnes. Ca’ del Bosco, for example, has a recently disgorged programme and its top sparkler is aged for 80 months before release.