Ringing In the New Year with Berlucchi

Franco Ziliani met Guido Berlucchi in 1961 and they created the first sparkling wine in Franciacorta, hence the name of this Brut Franciacorta ’61. Legend has it that Ziliani saw a fireplace made with white Botticino marble and wondered why they couldn’t produce wines similar to those of Champagne when they had so much limestone. Botticino marble is quite famous and very pure. This photo was taken in a vineyard in Botticino. Ziliani led the winery until the 2000s when his children, Cristina, Arturo, and Paolo took the reins.

Berlucchi has eliminated the use of allergenic substances from its production process, such as eggs and milk. It 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 operation.

Franciacorta DOCG wines are a great way to celebrate the New Year. Grown between Brescia and the Lago d’Iseo, the Consortium has been active since 1990, and has over 200 members.  January 1997 saw the first bottles sold with the DOCG band. Franciacorta though has been famous from many years. In the Middle Ages, the areas that extended south from Lago d’Iseo were francae curtes, or exempted from customs duties hence the name. In exchange for this privilege, its inhabitants committed themselves to maintaining and protecting the road that connected the lake with Brescia, the route into the city for valuable merchandise coming to Iseo from the Val Camonica.

This wine is made with 90% Chardonnay 10% Pinot Nero. The grapes 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,  this is followed by a chilled gravity-settling for clarity, the fermentation then takes place in steel tanks.

The wine spends at  least 24 months on the lees plus a few more months before release. The cuvée is assembled in the spring following harvest from 150 base wines. With 12.5% alcohol and 7 g/l of acidity and 7g/l of residual sugar, the wine is lovely as an apertivo or with anything really. I had it for dinner with sausage and onions and lunch with a hearty piece of lasagna. 2009 was the first vintage of this wine and it’s suggested retail price is around $34. Berlucchi is brought in by Terlato wines.

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