Tuesday, December 24, 2019

A sparkling wine map of Lombardia

My quest to map the entirety of the Italian sparkling wine universe continues herein with a map of the sparkling wines of Lombardia.

Geographically, Lombardia is the beating heart of Northern Italy. It is bounded to the north by Switzerland, to the east by Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto, to the south by Emilia-Romagno, and to the west by Piemonte. Its 10 million-person population and 1/5th share of Italy's GDP renders it the most populous and richest of the Italian regions.

Lombardy offers some outstanding conditions for vine growth, with influences from the Alps and the lakes in the north and the Apennines in the south but its wine industry is dwarfed by other economic sectors. Two thirds of Lombardia is produced under the IGT label.

As shown in the chart below, there are eight DOC/DOCG sparkling wine appellations in Lombardia.


Two of these appellations (Franciacorta DOCG and Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico) are (i) sparkling-wine specific and (ii) utilize the Champagne method in the production process. In addition, Oltrepò Pavese DOC and Sangue di Giuda DOC are Charmat, with the remaining appellations accomodating either the Charmat or Metodo Classico methods.

With the exception of Riviera del Garda Classico DOC and Sangue di Giuda DOC, all appellations provide for a white sparkling wine. With the exception of Lugana DOC, Sangue di Giuda DOC, and Terre del Colleoni, all regions provide for the production of a Rosé. With the exception of Franciacorta, Lugana, and Riviera del Garda Classico, all regions allow for the production of varietal sparkling wines. Sangue di Giuda DOC is the only region that specifies a red sweet sparkling wine.

Franciacorta, Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico, and Terre del Colleoni allow for the production of vintage-dated sparklers while, in addition, Franciacorta and Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico allow for production of Riservas. Vintage-dated and Riserva sparkling wines are required to spend more time on the lees.

A total of 25 varieties are authorized for sparkling wine production across the region; many of these varieties are utilized in one or two applications. The almost ubiquitous varieties are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Banco, and Pinot Grigio.

The two most important sparking wine regions in Lombardia are Franciacorta DOCG and Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG with the former's renown well ahead of the latter's.

Franciacorta DOCG
Franciacorta (the name means either "little France" or "tax-free zone," depending on the publication consulted) is located in the "gentle" hills in the area of Brescia and is bounded thusly: to the east by rocky hills; to the west by the Oglio River; to the north by Lake Iseo and the foothills of Alpi Retiche; and to the south by the Brescia-Bergamo Highway.  The region lies in an amphitheater which was carved out by a falling glacier and encompasses all or part of 19 Brescian municipalities.   The zone is approximately 18,000 hectares in size with 2665 hectares under vine.

Source: Franciacorta.net

Franciacorta is mild in the winter and hot in the summer.  The climate is moderated by winds blowing in off Lakes Iseo and Garde which protect the region from the autumnal and hibernial fogs that threaten from the Brescian plains.  Rainfall in the region is concentrated in the spring and fall.

Thanks to exhaustive zoning studies conducted in the region in the late 1990s by the University of Milan, a very clear picture of soil differentials -- and the differing contributions of each type to the finished product -- has been established.  The figure below shows that the combination of landscape units (formations by geologic era) and soil types results in six distinct regional terroirs.  The figure illustrates that the soil, vegetative productive, qualitative, and organoleptic characteristics of each terroir has also been identified.  The details of those characteristics are contained in the table following.

Formulation of Terroirs  Derived from Franciacorta: un vino, una terra, p. 28-33

Characteristics of Franciacorta Terroirs. Derived from Franciacorta: un vino, una terra, p. 28-33

The sparkling wine is produced under the DOCG classification from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Bianco grapes. The wines are produced using the classic method and, depending on the terroir in which it was grown, or the blend of terroirs, will exhibit some subset of the organoleptic qualities indicated in the last column of the table above. Wines are labeled in terms of sweetness much the same as is the practice for Champagne.

A fourth variety -- Erbamat -- is emerging as potential aide in the battle against the ripeness and climate effects of the region. Erbamat is a high-acid, late-ripening white grape that is native to the region and with a history that stretches back to circa 1500. The cultivar had slipped into obscurity until a recent study by a university professor highlighted its characteristics. Its primary characteristics are as follows (Aldo Fiordelli, Decanter, 3/21/17):
  • Pale straw color with greenish tinge
  • Thin skin
  • Compact bunches
  • Late ripening (20 - 30 days after other varieties)
  • Higher levels of malic acid (produces lean-bodied, high-acid wines)
  • Low sugar production (low alcohol wines).
The thin skin and tight bunches render the grapes subject to disease pressure but that risk is more than offset by the freshness, white florality, and chalky minerality which this wine brings to the blend. The variety is allowed in all of the Franciacorta styles with the exception of Satén.

The most respected producers in the region are Bellavista, Berlucchi, Ca' del Bosco, Cavalleri, Facoli, and Monte Rossa.

Oltrepò Pavese Metodo Classico DOCG
Oltrepò Pavese's 13,500 ha of vineyards makes it one of Italy's largest appellations while its 3000 ha of Pinot Noir vines is easily the largest planting of that variety in Italy. The appellation covers 42 municipalities in the Apennine foothills on the south bank of the Po River across from Pavia; foothills comprised of marine sedimentary rock with significant clay content.

Winters are dry and temperature fluctuation is significant due to ascending air current on the slopes.

Pinor Noir is the dominant variety for sparkling wine production. The first sparkling wine from this variety was made by Count Augusto Giorgi di Vistarino in 1865 and the family still produces some of the best spumante in the region today.


©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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