Sipping Franciacorta is like sipping centuries of history. Historical documents suggest that wine has been produced in the region since the 8th century AD. The bubbles of Franciacorta have ancient origins, it is known that fine sparkling white wines were being produced in the region as early as the thirteenth century. It was not until 1961 that Guido Berlucchi bottled the first Franciacorta labeled sparkling wine, and it instantly gained worldwide recognition.
To truly understand Franciacorta you must understand Franco Ziliani. Franco Ziliani & Guido Berlucchi changed an entire region’s destiny, making it one of the most prized areas in the world for sparkling wines made in the classic method. It was in 1961 that Guido Berlucchi and Franco Ziliani produced the first bottle of Franciacorta using Metodo Classico. The Berlucchi Franciacorta gained instant acclaim and was soon associated with Italian glamour and wealth and was served all over Milan. And the rest as they say is history…
A very young Franco Ziliani had made a name for himself by consulting with some large wineries of the time. He had a dream to make sparkling wine in his hometown of Franciacorta. Not just any sparkling wine, but he wished to make the highest quality Metodo Classico sparkling wines in Franciacorta, like the French. The dream came to fruition when nobleman and owner of Palazzo Lana, Guido Berlucchi, approached Franco Ziliani on how to improve his Pinot del Castello.
During his consultation with Guido Berlucchi, Ziliani pitched his dream to make a French-style sparkling wine at Palazzo Lana. The property had centuries-old underground cellars that were ideal for producing sparkling wine. Along with vision and courage, Berlucchi took a leap of faith and agreed to Ziliani’s proposition. Together in 1961, they produced 3000 bottles of the first Pinot di Franciacorta Metodo Classico followed by Italy’s first sparkling rosé in 1962. Today, Franciacorta is one of the most esteemed regions for sparkling wines made in the classic method, thanks to the pioneering efforts of Berlucchi and Ziliani.
In 1961, Berlucchi created the first ever Franciacorta wine. Today the Franciacorta Method is one of the strictest sets of specifications in the world in terms of productive yields and months of aging. A glass of Berlucchi contains no compromises, only the highest quality.
“Berlucchi is all about history and emotions. The wine is not only what we drink in the bottle, but also what history represents.” ~ Cristina Ziliani
Now 60 years later, a new chapter begins with the second generation of Franco Ziliani’s three children: Cristina, Arturo and Paolo. Already a spectacular winery, the new generation at Berlucchi has brought a clear vision and commitment to excellence, not just to the winery but also to the region. Cristina says, “My father had huge success in Italy, and today that has all culminated into being awarded “Winery of The Year” by the prestigious Gambero Rosso.”
It was a year of celebrations with Franciacorta’s 60th anniversary, Franco Ziliani’s 90th birthday and Guido Berlucchi being awarded “Winery of the Year” by Gambero Rosso, a leading Italian editorial group recognized the world over for Wine, Gastronomy and Food Culture. It is a time to celebrate not just for the Ziliani family but for the entire Franciacorta region.
I had the opportunity to taste some exceptional Cuvees from Berlucchi, with Cristina Ziliani in NYC and Arturo(via Zoom) to celebrate the family, the history and the terroir behind Berlucchi Franciacorta.
Berlucchi 61 Line
The refined 61 Line evokes the elegant and easy-going mood of the fabulous Sixties when the first Franciacorta was created in the Berlucchi cellars. A line dedicated to those looking for something extra, without foregoing the lightness of the good times together. It is ideal for aperitifs, but also for lunches and dinners where nothing must be left to chance.
Berlucchi 61 SATÈN NV
SATÈN is the typical style of Franciacorta. Berlucchi SATÈN is 100% Chardonnay that is soft, light and elegant. It is creamy and caresses the palate with its freshness. Rich in acidity with minerality, this is a gastronomic wine, that was meant to be paired with food, like fish, Mediterranean cuisine, delicate pasta dishes or ethnic dishes like tempura and sushi. The balance, acidity and minerality in this SATÈN showcase the terroir of Franciacorta.
Berlucchi 61 BRUT NV
This BRUT is a classic style of Franciacorta that is made with 90% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir with a low dosage. Berlucchi’s precision farming allows them to have a low dosage. A delicious Cuvee that is clean-cut and full-bodied with appealing fruity notes and fine acidity. It has a rich, lingering, and complex mouthfeel. Makes for an ideal aperitif as well as with starters, and dishes based on fish, rice, pasta and white meats.
Berlucchi 61 ROSÉ NV
The Berlucchi 61 Rosé was the very first sparkling rosé to be produced in Italy. This fantastic bubbly has a beautiful deep color. Made with 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, the wine is beautifully aromatic with strawberry and raspberry notes. Pinot Noir plays a critical role in this wine and adds to the body and structure. This is perfect to pair with white meats and cheese. Ready to drink now, but after 5-6 years you will see it develop more complexity.
Berlucchi 61 NATURE Line
Produced only with zero dosage, NATURE expresses the hidden nature of Franciacorta with elegant sophistication. Aged in the bottle for at least 5 years, it is the choice of the most demanding connoisseurs, who appreciate the precise and essential nuances of a wine made without compromise.
Berlucchi 61 NATURE 2015
This vintage Franciacorta is made with 30% Pinot Noir and 70% Chardonnay that was produced in a warm and rich vintage. The 2015 is elegant, fresh and zesty with a salty finish. Bright fruit and minerality leave you wanting for more. You will absolutely fall in love with this wine. Bravo to team Berlucchi for this fantastic wine!!
Berlucchi 61 NATURE 2012
Made with 30% Pinot Noir and 70% Chardonnay from the same 20-year-old vineyards as the 2015 vintage, give this wine great complexity. 2012 was a cooler vintage so you clearly sense the bright acidity and freshness. Showing incredibly well, this is an elegant wine with a long finish and freshness that lingers on. Yet even in a cool vintage Berlucchi has extracted bright fruit and acidity that showcases the terroir.
Berlucchi 61 NATURE 2010
A gorgeous wine made with 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir. There is long maturation on the wine due to the vintage and has a long life ahead of it. This Cuvee is the oldest wine amongst the NATURE wines we tasted, yet it tastes the youngest. It is an amazing wine that is fresh, clean, savory and fruity. The acidic backbone leaves a very long finish. A wine with a long future in the cellar.
Berlucchi Palazzo Lana Line
The jewel in Berlucchi’s crown. Produced only from great vintages, it is aged sur lie for at least ten years. Pinot Noir (100%), grown in two estate vineyards in Borgonato, both planted to a high density: the hillside Quindicipiò, and Brolo, facing Palazzo Lana Berlucchi.
Berlucchi PALAZZO LANA EXTRÊME RISERVA 2010
Franciacorta mostly focuses on Chardonnay. Palazzo Lana is a very unique wine as it is made with 100% Pinot Noir. This is an amazing wine for special occasions. This Franciacorta from Pinot Noir is about force, complexity, intense flavors and minerality. It is chock full of citrus and salty notes. Palazzo Lana has great aging potential.
Berlucchi PALAZZO LANA EXTRÊME RISERVA 2007
This Franciacorta is drinking beautifully now. It is elegant with lots of complexity and freshness. There are beautiful tertiary aromas of brioche, coffee and biscuit but still lots of fruit and citrus notes. A vibrant and dynamic wine that has a very persistent and long-lasting finish. What makes this wine amazingly delicious is its elegance and creamy caress on the palate. Long maturation(10 years) on the lees gives this wine great texture and body. This wine clearly expresses the magic of Franciacorta.