Wine Wednesday: Berlucchi ’61 Brut

Berlucchi

Guido Berlucchi has always been one of my favorite Italian brands. When I lived in Milan, this was one of two wines on every single restaurant and bar list. If I asked for a sparkling wines, the baristas would always say Berlucchi o Ferrari. I celebrated every occasion with one or the other and got my Sommelier Diploma from the Associazione Italiana Sommelier at their winery in a very festive celebration. It has everything I want in a sparkling wine – character, minerality, acidity, texture and length. The family history is also quite interesting. Franco Ziliani, a young enologist was called to meet Guido Berlucchi in Franciacorta in 1955. Berlucchi wanted to improve his Pinot. Ziliani suggested making a sparkling wine and the first successful one came out in 1961. This was the beginning of sparkling wine in this area.

I learned a lot from the Berlucchi website.  Franciacorta was known for its wines for centuries but not for sparklers. In the Middle Ages, the areas that extended south from Lago d’Iseo were francae curtes, or exempted from customs duties. In exchange for this privilege, its inhabitants committed themselves to maintaining and protecting the road that connected the lake with Brescia, The area has morainic soils and a mild climate tempered by the Lago d’Iseo. In addition, cool breezes from the Val Camonica create, optimal conditions for growing high-quality grapes. Franciacorta includes 19 municipalities, with its vineyards planted 80% to Chardonnay and the remaining 20% to Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco,

Apparently, Ziliani saw a fireplace made from Botticino Marble, and the story says that he asked “Why can’t we makes something similar to France?” if those are our soils. Botticino marble comes from marble quarries very close to the city of Brescia.

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Franco Ziliani guided the winery through the new millennium and has at his side his children Cristina, Arturo, and Paolo. Berlucchi is very attentive to the environment and their philosophy translates into their work in both the vineyards and in the cellar. Berlucchi has already eliminated use of allergenic substances from its production process, such as eggs and milk. Berlucchi  is also a participant in the Ita.Ca initiative, which monitors and reduces CO2 emissions. An extensive solar-panel system was installed on the wine cellar roof, which now supplies 35% of the energy needed by the winery operations.

The wine is made from 90% Chardonnay 10% Pinot Nero. The berries are handpicked and separated by homogeneous lots according to grape variety, vineyard, and grape composition characteristics, the whole clusters are then loaded into incline-plane presses. The must is divided into four separate quality fractions, a chilled gravity-settling for clarity, the fermentation takes place in steel tanks. The wine spends at least 24 months on the lees plus a few more months before release. Maturation is an assemblage of the cuvée in the spring following harvest from 150 base wines With its  12.5% Vol alcohol, it’s perfect for aperitivi and a main course. I like to drink sparkling wine from start to finish of a meal so this works for me with main courses too thanks to that 7g/l of total acidity. The first vintage of this wine was made in 2009 and the suggested retail price is $22, according to wine-searcher.com.

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