Italy is not known for its quality sparkling wines. Prosecco and the sparkling wines of Asti are pleasant enough, but both are produced using the inexpensive Charmat method, in which secondary fermentation takes place in large stainless steel tanks rather than in the bottle. With limited yeast contact, a fruity nose, and loose, plodding bubbles, it does not make great sparkling wine.
The only region in Italy known for making sparkling wine in the traditional method is Franciacorta in Eastern Lombardy. And this is a relatively recent development—the first sparkling wines were developed there in the 1960’s. Despite being newcomers, they are serious about quality. The appellation regulations are very demanding. Non-vintage (NV) Franciacorta must age at least 25 months after harvest, with at least 18 months in contact with the yeast in the bottle. (Champagne requires only 15 months). The result is a delicious sparkler at 1/2-1/3 the cost of a passable French Champagne and with more interest and finesse than the typical Cava from Spain.
Chardonnay is the base of this wine blended with small quantities of Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco. The mousse is lovely and vibrant. The nose opens with lemon hiding almond notes in the background. The palate is rich, soft, and creamy with a long finish that gave subtle hints of smoke and the characteristic Italian bitterness. Much less austerity, a touch more fruit, less bread, and less minerality than a Champagne. The lovely mouthfeel makes this work.
At this price point, it is worth tracking this down.
Serve with a bowl of potato chips. There is nothing better than salt and champagne