In celebration of Mirabella Winery making it to the Wine Spectator Top 100 for their DOCG rosé, please enjoy this article on Mirabella Wines and the region of Franciacorta. Admittedly, Franciacorta isn’t an Italian wine region I’ve covered much or know a tremendous amount of information on. However, when I am able to write these informative blog posts you and I actually learn together.
A Short Lesson in History
There is evidence of grape growing in the region as far back as the Roman Times. Additionally, primitive grape seeds have been found in archeological evidence as well as mentions by ancient writers such as Virgil and Pliny.
The first records of Monasteries credited with vine cultivation are recorded in 766AD. One of the largest and most active was the Cloister of San Salvatore (nuns) which was founded in 753AD by the Lombardi King Desiderius and his wife Ansa. Additional Cloisters included Clusane (a Cluniac priory), Colombaro (Cell of Santa Maria), Timoline (court of Santa Giulia), Nigoline (court of Sant’Eufemia), Borgonato (court of Santa Giulia), and Torbiato (court of the monasteries of Verona and San Faustino.
The next few centuries included periods of peace and violence in the region. However, during this time many of the high towered military structures that are sprinkled on the regions landscape were built around the 1400s.
In 1509, the struggle between France and Venice brought war and unrest to the region yet again. An upheaval called the Vespars of Franciacorta revolted against the French. The people of Rovato for a time were independent until temporary Austrian rule. The region then joined in the unification of Italy and endured the trails and tribulations of the World Wars.
What’s in a Name?
The first mention recorded of the name “Franzacurta” can be traced back to 1277. This mention appears in the municipal statute of Brescia as a reference to the area south of Lake Iseo. “Franzacurta” was also called Franzia Curta and was an important area for the supply of wine to the city of Brescia. Vini Mordaci (sparkling wine), was produced in the Middle Ages as per a documents crafted by physician named Girolamo Conforti in the 16th century.
Although produced locally for many generations, the wines were not officially called Franciacorta until 1957. This is when Guido Berlucchi released a white wine named Pinot di Franciacorta. Franco Zilani, a young wine maker working for Berlucchi, was permitted to produce a sparkling wine and in 1961 also sold under the name Pinot di Franciacorta.
The DOC of Franciacorta was established in 1967. At that time there were only 11 producers, with Berlucchi comprising 80% of production. Franciacorta became the first DOC to explicitly state that all sparkling wines made in the region must be made using Metodo Classico. In 1990 they transitioned to a more self governing model/consorzio. With that change, yields became regulated and eliminated the use of Pinot Grigio. Finally in 1995, Frianciacorta welcomed a DOCG status.
Let’s Dig a Little DeeperTerrior. A French word not easily translated into English but can loosely be described as sense of place. A great sparkling wine needs a great place to grow. Franciacorta is a shaped like a natural amitheater which overlooks Lake Iseo. The proximity to Lake Iseo is key as it produces mild weather conditions and constant breezes which enhance the natural aromas of the grapes.
Soil is another important factor in the success of producing a great Franciacorta. During the Ice Age, the region was shaped by long since gone glaciers. These glaciers formed Lake Iseo and also deposited stones and pebbles. The soil in the region is primarily Moranic soil, with more loam and sand, similar to the Lake Garda region. Additionally there are beautiful hills sprinkled through out the landscape.
Let’s Talk Grapes & Wine Making
The grapes used to make a Franciacorta are Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, and Pinot Bianco. Chardonnay is the dominant grape variety for producing a Franciacorta. There are also minimum requirements for Lees contact, with 18 months being the bare minimum. There is also a Rosé allowed for production with a maximum 2/3 of Chardonnay and atleast 1/3 Pinot Nero, with the possibility of Pinot Bianco and Erbamat.
Mirabella; Standing Out From a Sparkling CrowdLast week I had the pleasure of having a lunch meeting with Mirabella at Palma in NYC, coordinated by Studio Cru PR. Palma is a real hidden gem in NYC. It’s the prettiest resturant with a tremendous amount of fresh flowers. It’s a truly stunning spot with a great wine selection and private dining available.
We tasted through 5 different sparkling wines. 1) Pinot Bianco sparkling wine 2) Edea Franciacorta Brut Blanc de Blanc 3) Satèn Franciacorta DOCG 4) Rosé Franciacorta DOCG and 5) Døm Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero Riserva DOCG.
A real standout wine for me was the Satèn. The Satèn is as the name suggests, a satin like feel and texture to the wine. Additionally, this wine spends 36 months on lees making it super creamy. This is 100% Chardonnay and about 10% of the wine sees time in French oak barriques. It’s a real joy to drink and I’m going to have to see where Bacchanal Imports Supplies this wine. All these wines we tasted through are available in the US except the Pinot Bianco.
A hallmark feature of Mirabella winery is its use of the Pinot Bianco grape. The grape is quite rare in Franciacorta and requires a great amount of surveillance and care. As a result, Pinot Bianco is not widely produced in the region. Mirabella grows the largest amount of Pinot Bianco in the region.
Another great aspect of Mirabella winery is that they were making rosé before it was considered trendy. Traditionally in Italy rosé was considered a girly drink and for women only. Now because of the booming popularity of rosé wine, Italy is making more than ever. Mirabella’s DOCG rosé was named one Wine Spectators Top 100 wines of 2019. This is the first mention for Franciacorta region.
Not all wineries in Franciacorta have the luxury of Riserva wine. Climate change has been a global issue and not all grape crops survive. In response to this issue, Mirabella has a large vat of mixed Riserva wines, with the oldest wine in the mix from 1989. Their oldest bottled riserva wine is from 2001.
Last, Mirabella Winery has been focusing on lowering the amount of sulphates in their wine. Elite by Mirabella is the first of its kind: zero added sulphates and zero added allergens. For example, milk and egg products which may have been used for wine making techniques are completely eliminated. Mirabella has perfected their own special in-house process for keeping the total sulphates in the wine below 10mg/L.
Final ThoughtsI’ve always enjoyed tasting my way through wine regions I know little about. When I close my eyes many times I enjoy imagining myself within the landscape sipping wine amongst dear friends. Wine is special by nature but, Mirabella is taking it to the next level. 75% of Mirabellas vineyards are practicing organic. With the future firmly on the horizon for Mirabella I’m excited to see them grow and have more of a US market presence.