The best Italian sparkling wines are obtained from a second fermentation in bottle (so-called Metodo Classico or Traditional Method), a method as old as the Italian Republic. The first Italian sparkling wine, known as “Italian Champagne”, was born in 1865 as a result of joined efforts between the Gancia Family and Earl Augusto Vistarino, who imported the vines of Pinot Noir from Burgundy. Unlike in the French tradition though, the liqueurs de tirage was not used in making Italian champagnes.
After Camillo Gancia, Antonio Carpenè (1868, from Conegliano Veneto) and Giulio Ferrari (1902, from Trentino Alto Adige) were certainly two of the greatest winemakers of that time. The former was not just one of the most visionary science and business mind of the nineteenth century, but also an “enolic visionary” becoming a pivotal figure in the winemaking history, when he transformed the Glera grape into an innovative and structured Italian sparkling wine, the Prosecco. Produced today using Charmat fermentation method in steel tank, the Prosecco became an extremely popular wine and nowadays it leads the international wine market bringing a significant economic and social impact. In 2018 Carpenè Malvolti winery, still run by a direct descendent of Antonio, has celebrated its 180th anniversary.
Giulio Ferrari was the creator of the legendary Ferrari sparkling wines from Trentino, following his dream of producing a wine capable of competing with the best French champagnes. Giulio was not just a great inventor but also the first winemaker to plant extensively the Chardonnay vines in Italy and produce only few selected bottles with an obsessive attention to quality. When Giulio Ferrari began to look for a successor that shared his vision, he chose amongst all Bruno Lunelli, owner of a wine shop in Trento, that thanks to his passion and entrepreneurial talent succeeded in increasing production without ever compromising the original quality. Nowadays, the third generation of the Lunelli family is keeping the Ferrari dream alive, combining innovation and tradition, taking the Ferrari brand around the world, which won them in 2019 the most prestigious international accolade of Sparkling wine Producer of the Year. Thanks to the outstanding number of Gold Medals received and acknowledging the quality of its wines, the Ferrari Metodo Classico Trento DOC is recognised as one of the best Sparkling wines in the world.
In 1905 the wine cooperative La Versa was formed, originally made of 22 winemakers and all strictly owners, tenant farmers or settlers of vineyards in Versa valley, in the Lombardy Oltrepo’ Pavese area. In late 1950s, Duke Antonio Giuseppe Denari joined the board taking over the helm in 1974 and becoming a key figure behind numerous achievements. By making fundamental changes to production, distribution strategies and marketing he led La Versa to be established as one of the most important wine-making brands in Italy, and further developed the Oltrepò area dedicated to Pinot Nero to be increasingly used as the base for sparkling wine production.
Also in 1905, after visiting the Champagne region in France, Piero and Lodovico Antinori, invited Lucien Charlemagne, the famous “chef de cave” (cellar master), to the cellars in San Casciano and lead their production of sparkling wines. Under his guidance, in 1908 the Gran Spumante Antinori was born, the first family sparkling wine produced with Metodo Classico. Following this successful debut and the positive feedback from experts and personalities of that period, the Antinori family invested further in Franciacorta, a land between Brescia and Lake Iseo in Lombardy.
Franciacorta, Italy’s best-kept sparkling secret, is indeed one of northern Italy’s leading area for sophisticated, dry sparkling wines made by Traditional (Champenoise) method, an austerely elegant sparklers with a fine, creamy mousse of bubbles. In 1967 the name Franciacorta was granted official recognition thanks to the efforts of a small group of producers, encouraged by the new Italian laws regarding designation of origin. Pinot di Franciacorta DOC was made from Pinot Blanc with the possibility of adding Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, with natural fermentation in the bottle or in the vat. The early 1970s set the stage for the great revival of Italian wines, and Franciacorta had already laid solid foundations to start manufacturing quality products, which were granted in 1995 with the ultimate level of quality, the DOCG.
“Franciacorta can be complex, rich, almost like the flavour of Champagne, but there are great differences between the two. They have the same production method but absolutely different terroir due to the origin of soil – there is lower acidity in Franciacorta, which gives it a fruitier character.”
(Franco Ziliani, wine writer)