About this WINE
The Biondelli family estate of 10ha is located in Bornato, an ancient town nestled at the heart of Franciacorta , in the Italian region of Lombardy, on young, nutrient poor morainic soils that are ideal for naturally controlling the yields of his grapes.
The centre of the wine estate lies in a 16th century farmhouse located in front of the historic medieval castle of Bornato (today’s villa Orlando) and at the inception of the charming Longarone Valley, settled in-between the villages of Bornato, Cazzago San Martino and Calino. It’s the same places where in 1438, during the war between the Duchy of Milan and the Republic of Venice for the control of the territories of Brescia and Bergamo, the troops from Milan under the command of Nicolò Piccinino fought against the venetians soldiers leaded by Antonio Martinengo from Brescia and Erasmo da Narni, better known as “ Gattamelata” (one of the greatest military leaders of the Italian Renascence).
The estate, known as “Breda” (a term deriving from the Latin “proedium” or from the Lombard “braida” and which indicates an estate consisting of different pieces of land distributed around a central farmhouse), was acquired during the aftermath of the second world war by Giuseppe Biondelli, Italian Ambassador tobe and Italian Consul General in Innsbruck (Austria) at that time.
As a matter of fact, prior to becoming property of Ambassador Giuseppe Biondelli, the estate belonged to Count Alessandro Fè d’Ostiani (1825-1905), Senator of the Italian Kingdom and Minister Plenipotentiary (a Diplomatic Envoy) in China, Japan, Brazil, Belgium and Greece. The estate then passed down to his daughter Paolina who married Count Charles Jean Tristan de Montholon Sémonville (1843-1899) who was also a diplomat and became French Ambassador to Switzerland. These traces of a glorious past that saw Bornato as a crossroad of European diplomacy for a century, set the foundation for the will and aspiration of the Biondelli family to bring the wines of Franciacorta far beyond national borders.
The ancient farmhouse has been completely restored and further developed, with the construction of an underground wine cellar, in order to establish a modern structure to vinify expertly the different types of grapes: only Chardonnay for Franciacorta Brut and Satèn spumante, while the black grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Nebbiolo and Barbera are for the still Curtefranca Rosso.
Today Carlottavio, son of Giuseppe Biondelli, along with his wife Mariella and his sons Francesco and Joska, runs the wine business with passion and devotion. In particular Joska, fresh from his own ‘diplomatic’ service abroad as a London headhunter, has returned to realize the dream initiated by his father in 2000. The first vintage to be bottled was in 2009.
Located northeast of Milano, close to Brescia, the 2,800-hectare wine region of Franciacorta in Northern Italy was carved out of the sedimentary rock between 50,000–150,000 years ago by the toing and froing of an Alpine glacier. The glacier’s ‘tongue’ left a fan-like mark on the land, along with moraine debris deposits and a lake. Its path down from the Alps, 50 km away, also created a corridor down which cooling air shuttles, skimming over Lake Iseo’s surface and ventilating the vineyards beyond. In turn, a southern rim of hills, in particular Monte Orfano, blocks the warm air currents travelling up from Italy’s south.
Franciacorta the wine was created in 1985, although it only ‘won’ its DOCG status in 1996, at which point it was forced to handover (to the French) the words ‘Metodo Champagne’ in return for registering the marks ‘Franciacorta’ and ‘Satèn’. Prior to the 1980s boom, Franciacorta made still wine (dating back to the 16th century) and then tested the spumante market during the 1970s with fruit bought from Trentino e Oltrepò Pavese. The grapes now used are predominantly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with Pinot Bianco (aka Pinot Blanc) the ne’er-do-well relative making up the numbers. In fact the story goes that with the surge of interest that followed the release of Berlucchi’s Pinot di Franciacorta (that’s Pinot Bianco) during the 1970s, nurseries soon ran out of Pinot Bianco cuttings, so they sold the thirsty cantine Chardonnay instead.
The way of making Franciacorta is very similar to that of Champagne: the traditional method with the second, carbonic fermentation happening in bottle. Yields are at 100 hectoliters versus 150 hectoliters for Champagne. Time sur lattes has to be a minimum of 18 months (versus 15 in Reims). The maximum amount of must allowed from the press is 85 percent. The maximum residual sugar per litre is 12 grams, although now the trend is towards drier styles.
Some but not all estates have the luxury of using ‘reserve wines’, and even then the wines are not that old (ie one to two years), so they tend to be fresher than their Champagne counterparts. A key point of difference is that Franciacorta producers are obliged put the date of sboccatura (disgorgement) on the back label to inform consumers. The other being that annual production of Franciacorta is currently at 15 million bottles – tiny when compared with Champagne’s 340 million.
Prices are in line with worthy Champagne, which is bullish you might say given the wine style is as good as unknown in the UK. Yet the market is changing: in the early 2000s, 95 percent of Franciacorta was consumed in Italy; 10 years on, producers have become keen to reduce this dependency on the home market.
There appears to exist in Franciacorta, as in Champagne, three categories of producer: ambitious brands making finely-tuned ‘bubbles’ (eg Bellavista, Monte Rossa, Berlucchi); ‘wannabe’ brands keen to flee the nest (eg Lantieri de Paratico); and those that are more interested in making high-quality artisan wines than in the sparkle itself (eg Uberti, Cavalleri, Biondelli).
Chardonnay is the "Big Daddy" of white wine grapes and one of the most widely planted in the world. It is suited to a wide variety of soils, though it excels in soils with a high limestone content as found in Champagne, Chablis, and the Côte D`Or.
Burgundy is Chardonnay's spiritual home and the best White Burgundies are dry, rich, honeyed wines with marvellous poise, elegance and balance. They are unquestionably the finest dry white wines in the world. Chardonnay plays a crucial role in the Champagne blend, providing structure and finesse, and is the sole grape in Blanc de Blancs.
It is quantitatively important in California and Australia, is widely planted in Chile and South Africa, and is the second most widely planted grape in New Zealand. In warm climates Chardonnay has a tendency to develop very high sugar levels during the final stages of ripening and this can occur at the expense of acidity. Late picking is a common problem and can result in blowsy and flabby wines that lack structure and definition.
Recently in the New World, we have seen a move towards more elegant, better- balanced and less oak-driven Chardonnays, and this is to be welcomed.
Jancis Robinson MW - jancisrobinson.com - 04-Dec-2012