Exploring Italian Sparkling Wine: Franciacorta


Italy is not only home to some of the world’s very best red and white wines. Over the last centuries, the country developed a tradition to produce sparkling wines. Because Italian wine legislation is sometimes quite difficult to understand, I wrote a guide which should help you to understand the differences between a Vino Frizzante and a Vino Spumante. . If you are not familiar with Italian sparkling wines then I recommend that you read the guide first. The guide also includes wine recommendations.

9331189626_c10fa00b26_bFranciacorta is a sparkling wine from Lombardy, Italy. Just like Trento DOC, Franciacorta is the Italian equivalent of French Champagne. The appellation Franciacorta was awarded DOCG status in 1995 and is exclusive to sparkling wines. Still wines (white, red and rosé) are labeled Curtefranca DOC instead.

The name Franciacorta literally translates to “Little France” however, the name actually derives from the Latin words curtes francae meaning the Courts of the Franks. The Frankish Empire, a Germanic People, once watched over the hills of the Franciacorta Valley.

A Franciacorta has to be produced with at least 50% Pinot Nero and/or Chardonnay grapes. Pinot Bianco grapes are allowed up to 50%. The Franciacorta equivalent to a Blanc de Blancs (Champagne that is produced only from white grapes) is called Satèn. Rosé versions of Franciacorta also exists but they are not as common.

One of my favorite Franciacorta DOCG is produced by Cascina Clarabella. Let’s take a closer look at the winery.

Cascina Clarabella

Cascina Clarabella is a farm, winery, restaurant and agritourism. The projects of Cascina Clarabella have the aim to give jobs to disabled people. Clarabella produces three sparkling wines (Saten, Pas Dosé and Brut) as well as one still white and one red wine. Moreover they make olive oil and honey. The wines from Clarabella are produced from organic farming. The restaurant is scheduled to open sometime during 2013. I really like the project of Cascina Clarabella. It’s a great idea to give disabled people jobs in the wine industry. Their wines are stunning (you find my tasting notes for the Clarabella Saten below) and the project should definitely be supported (the easiest way to do so is to purchase their wines). For more information on the projects of Cascina Clarabella I recommend that you visit their website.

NV Cascina Clarabella – Satèn – Franciacorta DOCG

NV Cascina Clarabela - Satèn - Franciacorta DOCGAs previously mentioned, Satèn is the equivalent of a French Bland de Blancs Champagne. Satèn from Cascina Clarabella is produced with 100% Chardonnay grapes. The grapes are harvested by hand and a small part of them age for a short period in barriques after they underwent fermentation.  Clarabella’s Satèn then passes on to the second fermentation which takes place in the bottle. The wine is gorged after it was in contact with the yeasts for 2 years.

In the glass, the wine has a straw yellow color. The perlage was fine and long-lasting. 13% was the labeled listed alcohol by volume.

On the nose, there was an intense aroma of fresh fruit and a little bit of butter. The bouquet was quite salty, too.

In the mouth, the Clarabella Satèn was very dry, quite fresh, crunchy, quite fruity and very smooth. The wine was complex with little acidity and high minerality. The finish was a little bit salty and persistently long. A highly drinkable and elegant sparkling wine.

4.5 / 5 stars      

Parting Words

The Satèn from Cascina Clarabella is of exceptional quality. Unfortunately it’s not widely available but it’s a real must-try so if you stumble over this wine make sure to buy all the remaining bottles. You won’t regret it. Promised. A bottle retails for around 21€. Very good quality-price ratio. Right now this is my favorite Franciacorta. This sparkler shows that disabled people know very well how to produce excellent wine!

Have you tried the Satèn from Cascina Clarabella? If so how did you like it and what is your favorite Franciacorta? Let me know in the comment section below!

Photo Credits Show

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26 comments on “Exploring Italian Sparkling Wine: Franciacorta”

  1. Pingback: Exploring Italian Sparkling Wine: Franciacorta ...

  2. Andy Andy Reply

    The projects from the winery sounds interesting. I never heard of a winery winery that makes good wine and employs physically handicapped people. Would love to learn more about this project from Casinca Clarabella. I love your detailed description of the sparkling wine. I want to try it now but it’s not available anywhere in the US (according to WS).

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thank you so much! I know that it’s disapointing that the wine is not available overseas.. But if you travel to Europe then you can try it 🙂

  3. hannah-theis hannah-theis Reply

    I’m not sure if I have tasted a Franciacorta before. It is quite difficult for me to distinguish all these sparklers – Champagne,Trento DOC, Cava, Franciacorta, Cremant, Sekt, …
    If I find this wine somewhere in Canada then I’ll let you know if I like it but since you do then I’m sure I will too : -)

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Pretty much every major European wine producing country produces at least one type of sparkling wine. Please let me know what you think about the Clarabella Saten if you find a bottle of it!

  4. foodwine88 Reply

    Chanpagne is still my #1 when it comes to sparkling wine however when I look at the italian sparkler then I don’t know If prefer Franciacorta or Trento sparkling wines.. This one for sure sounds outstanding and your 4.5 stars rating makes me want to try it so much! I had a 2005 Cavit Altemasi Trento DOC some weeks ago and and it was so far the best Italian sparkling wine that I’ve had so far. Do you know that wine?

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks for commenting. Franciacorta and Trento DOC are similar, yet different and so is Champagne. At the end of the day it’s always a personal choice.

  5. winetalks winetalks Reply

    As you probably know Franciacorta is my most favorite style of sparkling wine. It has the best QPR and tastes amazing. My favorite Franciacorta winery is Ca del Bosco. I have seen the Clarabella wines in Italy last year when I was in Abruzzo. I’m going back to Italy at the end of next week and if I don’t forget it then I will try to taste the Clarabella Satan. Your tasting notes for it make we want to give it a try and 21Euro is not much. Especially compared to the prices of Ca del Bosco (the good ones cost $100+)

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      I have had mixed experiences with Franciacorta. There are some excellent Franciacorta out there but also some that disappoint me. Ca del Bosco is a good producer for sure but their wines are out of my price range.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Franciacorta is good alternative to the more expensive French Champagne. Please let me know what you think about them if you try one 🙂

  6. Pingback: Exploring Italian Sparkling Wine: Franciacorta – Vino in Love | goodthingsfromitaly

  7. armchairsommelier Reply

    We visited the Franciacorta region a couple of years ago while we were in Italia. Lovely wines. Unfortunately, the only “on the shelf” Franciacorta I can find here in Virginia is the Bellavista, which I feel is overpriced at $45. Salud!!

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Franciacorta are in my opinion a good alternative to the more expensive French Champagne but unfortunately Franciacorta are often not widely available. Similar to Franciacorta are the sparkling Trento DOC wines and the wines from Ferrari and Cavit are heavily exported.
      I agree that a Bellavista for 45$ is too expensive. I tried their sparklers at the VinItaly (a large wine fair in Verona) and did not like them too much to be honest..

  8. wineking3 wineking3 Reply

    Nice review, Julian. I only visited the Trento DOC region several years ago.
    The wine sounds amazing! 🙂
    Is it a classic-method production or a martinotti-sparkler?

    • RiojaChianti RiojaChianti Reply

      As far as I know all Franciacorta are produced like Champagne and therefore are traditional method sparkling wines.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thank you!
      RiojaChianti pointed out correctly that all Franciacorta wines are produced according to the classic method (metodo classico).

  9. RiojaChianti RiojaChianti Reply

    Julian, that sounds like a steal. At least here 21 euro for a good bottle of champagne-like wine is pretty cheap.

  10. the drunken cyclist Reply

    I know you believe that Franciacorta can compete with champagne, but I am still not so sure. My experience with the Italian sparklers is not nearly as extensive though, so maybe I should branch out?

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      The sparklers from Trento DOC, Franciacorta and Champagne are very similar. At the end of the day it’s a personal choice.
      I’ve had mixed experiences with Franciacorta but the Clarabella Saten is really good.
      Another advantage of Franciacorta and Trento DOC over Champagne is that they are in my opinion more affordable.
      If you want to compare a good Italian sparkling wine with a Champagne then I recommend that you try the Ferrari Perle Nero or the 2005 Cavit Altemasi Graal Riserva – both wines are classified as Trento DOC and should be available in the US.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      I had to disable the Like-Plugin last month because it was breaking the website. The plugin author didn’t update it for over 2 years so unfortunately I had to disable it..
      I just saw that you signed up for e-mail notifications. Thank you 🙂

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