As the end of the year approaches, and heartfelt toasts abound, I thought it would be a good moment for this friendly reminder: France isn't the sole producer of fine sparkling wines, and Italy's sparkling wine industry is not just about prosecco. Here are some of my favorite classic-method Italian sparkling wines that will sparkle and shine in your raised glass and please your palette into the new year!
Understanding Italian Sparkling Wines
In Italy, metodo classico or "classic method" is synonymous with 'champagne-style' wine-making, which includes the second fermentation in bottle, riddling, disgorgement and, some times, the addition of a dosage, the winery's secret concoction that typically consists of sugar and yeast. (Take a look at this informative chart on sparkling wine-making by Wine Folly).
METODO CLASSICO // THROUGHOUT ITALY
In many of Italy's twenty regions, there are producers who make metodo classico sparkling wines from a myriad of grapes (Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Primitivo, and Garganega to name a few). While perusing the sparkling wine section of your local wine shop, keep an eye out for metodo classico on the label. One of my favorites comes from Piemonte, from a historical winery called Contratto—the first to create vintage classic-method sparkling wines in Italy. It's a stunning place to visit as its cathedral-like cellars, which were dug into a hillside in the town Canelli, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Try Contratto's Blanc de Blancs made from 100% Chardonnay which offers floral, citrus and a touch of ginger on the palette, not to mention a steady stream of fine bubbles.
FRANCIACORTA DOCG // LOMBARDY
While metodo classico sparkling wine can be made anywhere in Italy, there are some metodo classico wines that proudly carry a proper name. Franciacorta is a protected appellation and its wines can only be made in a particular region in Lombardy, using Chardonnay, Pinot Noir/ Nero and Pinot Blanc/Bianco. Bellavista, Ca' del Bosco, and Berlucchi are the historical producers in the area and whose wines are easier to find in the United States. Franciacorta DOCG sparkling wines can range from citrusy and dry to creamy and nutty depending on the grape blend, dosage, and aging.
TRENTO DOC // TRENTINO - ALTO-ADIGE
In the early 1900s, Chardonnay grapes were brought from France to the pre-Alpine city of Trento by Giulio Ferrari, founder of the Ferrari winery. Having studied wine-making in the Champagne region of France, Ferrari was determined to create equally fine wines in his native Trento. Three generations later, Ferrari is still family-run, but now has over 40 neighboring wineries dedicated to producing these rich, well-rounded sparkling DOC wines made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir/ Nero, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Blanc/ Bianco.
As the Italian say onomatopoeically when they clink glasses: