Stunning Franciacorta Pinot Noir – Berlucchi’s Brolo Vineyard

Back from a short and hectic trip to Italy and the fantastic European Wine Bloggers Conference in Brescia. Yesterday I went to Stockholm for a tasting of some 150 sparkling wines. But alas there were not one single Franciacorta wine among the featured wines. There are only a handfull in the so called “beställningssortimentet” – bottles that aren’t stocked in the monopoly’s shops and that you need to pre-order.

And what a pity it is – because the best Franciacorta sparklers are such stunning wines. Some of us at the conference got to experience that first hand when we visited the historic Guido Berlucchi estate this last sunday. It was here in the village of Corte Franca just south of lake Iseo that it all started back in 1961 when the Berlucchi and Zilliani families decided to make good metodo classico wines. Six years later they got the DOC-denomination but it was not until 1977 that other producers came along.

The Berlucchi operation is almost mindblowingly huge. They produce around 5 million bottles a year and got some state of the art technology. All their wines are made using gyropallettes (and they are quiet open with this – which you’ve got to admire) – even the prestige bottlings. And the wines are really good. Once again a proof for the motto that all good wines really are made in the vineyard!

We met with Cristina Ziliani and Arturo Ziliani (both fantastic hosts) and got to sample 24 of the estates different basewines from different terroirs and different pressings that make up their final cuvées. I also got a chance to talk to both the agronomist and oenologist of the estate and they explained some of the intricacies of working with base wines.

More on that subject later here in Ericsson Uncorked (and it’s swedish counterpart Uppkorkat).

Best of the wines is probably the amazing 100 percent Pinot Noir Palazzo Lana Extrême 2005 from the Brolo vineyards just outside the estate. This is a wine that spends some amazing 48 months on it’s lees before disgorging and it is only done in tiny quantities (around 5000 bottles). I sampled the base wine and it was nothing like what I had expected. It was quite round and mellow and had loads of red berries, some notes of fudge and minerals. And the end-product was spectacular.

On the nose I got those complex aromas of red berries, yeasts, minerals, cocoa powder and flowers. On the palate it was quite powerful with intense fruity flavours, fresh acidity, hints of chocolate/cocoa powder and minerals. I’m usually a blanc de blancs kinda guy but I must say that this wine impressed me. It would be so interesting to taste it along some of the best blanc de noirs from Champagne. My guess is that it will do very well in such a line up!

Two stunning champagnes from 2002

Are you a big fan of Champagne you probably know that Delamotte is on of the best buys in the region. Since 1989, when Laurent Perrier took over the estate, it has practically been a sister-domaine of Salon – the benchmark of all blanc de blancs. But Delamotte has been making wine since 1760 and even if it is not on par with Salon – the wines are truly great and deserves a spot in the limelight.

Last week the Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs 2002 (€54) was released here in Sweden. It is one of four cuvées that Delamotte has to offer (the others beeing a standard brut, a rosé and a standard non-vintage blanc de blancs). The Domaine owns roughly 5 hectares in the grand cru village Les Mesnil-sur-Oger but buys in most of it’s grapes from premier cru villages in the vicinity. And in years when there is no Salon made – they’ve got access to Salons vineyards (there has only been 39 vintages of Salon made since the start in 1911 – 36 of which have been released)

Delamotte Brut Blanc de Blancs 2002 is a wonderful champagne. The colour is pale yellowish and clear. On the nose it feels fresh and young with notes of butter, yeast (autolysis), citrus and chocolate/cocoa powder. The taste is developed and almost soft but also fresh with good fruit concentration and acicity. The elements of citrus, chocolate/cocoa powder and mineralas comes back on the palate with signs of maturity and a powerful but also delicate finish. You could easily drink it now but it will most certainly develop well for another 10 years!

Jaquesson is another great champagneproducer and here is antoher great 2002 (also released last week). Jacquesson Brut Millésime is done only in the best years and from the best vats containing wine from grand and premier cru vineyards in Dizy, Ay and Mareuil in Valée de la Marne. At the moment I do not think that it is a match for the Delamotte Blanc de Blancs – even though it is a really good wine. It most definitely feels younger and more undeveloped. The yeast/autolysis character is more pronounced and the taste is very fresh with elements of biscuits, minerals and citrus. I find just a hint of maturity – mushrooms and ripe fruit – and the finish is long and piercing. It needs at least another 3-5 years in bottle before it comes togheter!