A couple of Fridays ago I was with Francesco visiting a winery I had never heard of, despite being in the area where I live: Lake Iseo. Romantic Franciacorta is in Passirano, in the province of Brescia, in the area of Italy that has become famous for its classic method sparkling wines that is gracing tables all over the world. Very little is said about this company, yet it is well worth a visit to combine with the Piccola Corte Restaurant. La Avanzi family, whom I also look forward to visiting on Lake Garda, has been making wine for over 80 years and has created this winery to be a little jewel, now a rough diamond shyly asking to shine.
We arrived rather late (after 18:30), but thanks to my wonderful Sony RX100M4 I managed to shoot this beautiful night of the vineyards. They are 10 hectares total property surrounding the cellar, of which 9 of chardonnay e 1 of pinot noir. Certainly, having all the vineyards around the company is a privileged situation that allows the situation to be meticulously monitored.
The cellar is on two floors, with the basement dedicated to ageing and the upper floor dedicated to vinification. The cellar is beautiful, very clean and well-kept... although the aspect that impressed me most was the choice of interior design... which I confess is my greatest passion! Yes, I admit it, interior design is the only thing I love more than wine... I really liked both the choice of red on the walls and the supplies: from Le Corbusier's LC3 sofas to Artemide's Mesmeri wall lights! Light plays a fundamental role sculpting the spaces and emphasising the ambience.
Entering the ageing cellar is exciting thanks to the spectacular use of light! The cellar is small, but I am sure that the attention to detail will win you over... also because it is the same care that you can feel in every bottle of Franciacorta! The room reserved for the barriques is very fascinating!
Strolling through the cellars opens doors that catapult you into a contemporary museum thanks to the study of light. Before telling you what the wines of Romantica Franciacorta are like, do you know what remuage is? (Want to learn more about the magical world of wine? Buy my book How to become Sommelier - II Edition HERE)
During the production of classic method sparkling wine, there is a particular phase called remuage that aims to avoid yeast deposits in the bottle, so it can be said that it is a 'clarification' phase that is necessary if the wine is to be marketed in the same bottle. Remuage today is either manual or mechanical, and, as you may imagine, manual remuage does not guarantee higher quality (indeed, it is easier to obtain non-homogeneous batches) and at the same time is much more expensive in terms of both space and labour. As can be guessed from the (small) number of pupitres inside Romantica Franciacorta, remuage is mostly mechanical.
However, I always find pupitres extremely fascinating! Originating in the early 1800s in Champagne, they are two wooden planks arranged in the shape of an inverted V with holes for arranging the bottles. For us today, these are used for manual remuage, but in reality when they were born they were a 'refinement' of the manual remuage of the time, much less precise than that made possible by the use of pupitres. Before these in fact bottles were taken from the shelf one after the other causing inevitable and unwanted wine agitation. In pupitres, on the other hand, the bottle remains stationary and is only turned 1/8 clockwise and counter-clockwise and then placed more vertically so that the yeast deposits move more and more towards the cork.
But now I want to tell you about the wines of Romantica Franciacorta! Although they are all classified as Brut, the dosage is not high: there are about 6 g/l of sugar (I remind you that to be called Brut there can be up to 12 g/l of sugar). The Franciacorta Brut, Brut Satén and Brut Millesimato are 100 % chardonnay while the Franciacorta Brut Rosé is made 90% from pinot noir and the remaining 10% from chardonnay.
The tasting went very well! The two wines I liked best were the Franciacorta Brut Millesimato 2015 and the Franciacorta Brut Rosé, but I also liked the Franciacorta Brut very much. The one that convinced me the least, as you can deduce, was the Satén. It has to be said that very few Franciacorta Satén have been in my favour so far... very few!
Romantica Franciacorta Brut - disgorgement November 2019
It matures 30 months on the lees and is perhaps, overall, the classic method sparkling wine that convinced me the most... even if it plays a splendid game with Franciacorta Rosé. It is a beautiful bright straw yellow with a rather fine and quite numerous perlage that forms an evanescent froth. The nose is elegant and fine, with hints of yeast, white chocolate, candied citron and lime blossom. In the mouth, it is elegant and enjoys an excellent drinkability.
Romantica Franciacorta Brut Satén - disgorgement November 2019
A small % of the bases is aged in the barriques we saw in the splendid cellar... and it shows! The aromas in fact shift more towards sweet spices and, compared to the Brut, it has a creamier bubble and a less acidic, softer mouthfeel.
Romantica Franciacorta Brut Millesimato 2015 - disgorgement March 2019
It is a beautiful bright straw yellow, slightly more intense than the previous two! The nose is intense, fine and elegant with notes of white chocolate, pink pepper, cream and freshly baked brioche. In the mouth it is creamy, with a very fine bubble. Delicately persistent.
Romantica Franciacorta Brut Rosé - disgorgement November 2019
It is a beautiful bright onion skin pink with a fine, numerous perlage. Delicate and fine nose with scents of cinnamon, vanilla, hibiscus flowers, strawberry pastries, jelly and cream. In the mouth it is elegant and confirms a creamy bubble. Persistent.
Dinner at the Piccola Corte Restaurant
The restaurant is very nice and suitable for a romantic evening, like the one Francesco and I had. Management and cooking are done by two very, very talented young men which, I am convinced, together can go a long way. The menu is interesting and mixes traditional elements with bold interpretations. Another appreciated note: the ladies' menu without the prices! As a woman, I find it hard to swallow the idea of buying my man dinner or, horrors, splitting it in half, and I find it very elegant not to know the cost of the evening. In a couple, the woman can play her part in a thousand ways, come on, let's not lose a bit of gallantry too!
How wonderful these tagliatelle with gorgonzola, pears and coffee! That cheese and pears are a divine combination is probably not for me to explain, but I found this dish particularly tasty! The cooking of the noodles was perfect and the flavours well balanced. The aesthetics of the dish were also beautiful. I chose to preview another product from the Avanzi family: the craft beer! I LOVE craft beer! Manerba Brewery is a microbrewery on Lake Garda opened in 1999 which I hope to tell you about soon. The Fiordalisa blanche beer is divinewith vibrant citrus notes intertwined with a rich bouquet of herbs and spices.
The best executed second course was undoubtedly the braised meat, but I still found the guinea fowl more interesting. This is the dish that 'you don't expect', or at least a Romagna woman like me doesn't expect because we traditionally have a concept of guinea fowl completely different. The meat is perfectly cooked and enhanced by a liquorice sauce that accompanies it to perfection. I love sautéed chicory and this was masterfully prepared, however I found the strong flavour of the chicory too challenging for the guinea fowl with liquorice, in the sense that it covers up its delicate taste a little. Perfect pairing with Romantica Franciacorta Brut sparkling wine.
In summary I find Romantica Franciacorta and the Piccola Corte Restaurant two excellences worth discovering. The passion is great, and so is the desire to do, to transmit, to grow. Combining these two experiences with a dinner at the restaurant is necessary to understand the nuances of a project that makes quality its keystone. The care of the raw material embraces both aspects: to make a wine like this you need to have worked well in the vineyard... and the roast beef I ate at Piccola Corte I think I will never forget!
For Valentine's Day the Piccola Corte Restaurant offers, for only € 150 per couple, an intelligent 3-course dinner with à la carte menu, winery visit, rosé sparkling wine toast and a night in a suite (Info & reservations at this link).
Cheers 😎 😍