One of the most eagerly awaited awards in the Gambero Rosso guide goes straight to Franciacorta to celebrate two important anniversaries.

“What if we made a French-style sparkling wine?” This was the question that young oenologist Franco Ziliani asked Guido Berlucchi at the end of the 1950s, when he asked him for advice on his white wine – not too stable – produced from the Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay vines grown on the family’s land at Borgonato di Cortefranca. Guido Berlucchi liked the idea, and so, after a few experiments, the first, almost three thousand bottles arrived in 1961. “We’ll be drinking them for the next twenty years!” noted the butler, who had been entrusted with the thankless task of store them in the cellar. Fortunately, he was wrong, very wrong.

Berlucchi: the history of a winery and of the classic Italian sparkling wine

Berlucchi is the history of the classic Italian sparkling wine and Franciacorta. Those first 3,000 bottles in 1961 led to the discovery of an extraordinarily suitable territory, one of the cradles – numerically the most important – of the Italian metodo classico. Today, Guido Berlucchi means 4 million Franciacorta bottles every year from its 247 acre-vineyard and 1359 acres from vine growers, closely monitored by the winery throughout the year. More than 12 million bottles rest in the cellar awaiting disgorgement. “Every seven seconds a bottle of Berlucchi Franciacorta is uncorked around the world,” says Paolo Ziliani, who runs the company with his siblings Arturo – oenologist and managing director – and Cristina. After the exponential growth and commercial success that led the company to buy grapes from other prestigious DOCG areas, the 2000s saw a gradual return to Franciacorta.

Berlucchi: the new Franciacorta, Bolgheri and Accademia lines

Released in 2012, the two new Franciacorta lines – the 61 and the Palazzo Lana – showed the world how the three siblings have made their father’s mission their own and how Guido Berlucchi’s goal is quality at the highest level. The Franciacorta winery has been joined by a great estate in Bolgheri, Caccia al Piano 1868, which brings the spirit of the winery into the world of red wines with outstanding results. “We’ve got a lot of work to do for our company and for Franciacorta. We believe in sustainability, both in our territory and in the whole area, and we are working for this. We believe that Franciacorta can grow with a cultivated, ‘experiential’, eco-cultural tourism, and with Academia Berlucchi we are always creating new opportunities for meetings and discussions. The Castle of Borgonato has been perfectly restored… we also want to authoritatively promote worldwide the image of Franciacorta as a land uniquely suited to winemaking but also as a wonderful place to visit” says Cristina. Today, Guido Berlucchi is an ever-changing company, which regularly releases excellent cuvées that boast an increasing number of connoisseurs around the world. Franciacorta’s 60th anniversary and Franco Ziliani’s 90th birthday deserved to be specially celebrated. For us, Guido Berlucchi is the Winery of the Year.

The Tre Bicchieri-awarded wine

Franciacorta Nature 61 ’14 is a wine of extraordinary elegance and depth. It is made from a cuvée of Chardonnay (70%) and Pinot Nero obtained from the company’s high-density vineyards Arzelle, Rovere, San Carlo and Ragnoli (10 thousand vines per 2,5 acres). Some of the wines age in small wooden barrels before the second fermentation, which lasts a good 5 years. The result is a Franciacorta with a pale, brilliant colour with beautiful greenish hues and a very fine and continuous perlage. It opens broad and fragrant on the nose with aromas of peach and apple, citrus, white flowers, cedar and then again hazelnut and lees. On the palate it is ample, fresh and bold at the same time, offering a caressing effervescence, then again fruit and an extraordinary lingering finish as a perfect Berlucchi-style wine. But it is the quality of the whole range that impresses, starting with the excellent Palazzo Lana Riserva Extrême ’10, made from pure Pinot Nero: deep and mouth-filling in its mature and spicy bouquet, with a deep savoury origin. Rich in fruit and aromatic cleanliness, you only need to taste the Franciacorta Brut 61 to understand the overall level.

by Marco Sabellico

Guido Berlucchi  –  Cortefranca (BS) – piazza Duranti, 4  – 030 984381  – https://www.berlucchi.it