A weekend in Franciacorta, where art and nature come together
Until 3rd July there is another reason to spend a weekend in Franciacorta: the world-famous artist Christo has opened “The Floating Piers” on Lake Iseo. It is a 3-kilometre-long floating walkway, linking Sulzano and Montisola with the island of San Paolo. The work is temporary and like all of Christo’s creations, it will leave no trace in the environment, but it will attract millions of tourists right up to the closing date. Don’t like crowds? Not the right moment? Don’t worry, nature and art have been the driving force here for centuries, enriched by the elegance of Palladian villas and other wonders that are not often for all to see: the wineries. In Franciacorta, art involves all the senses: it’s not just to look at, but to touch, hear, smell and taste.
A weekend in Franciacorta. Permanent works of art
To the north, the Franciacorta area borders the shores of Lake Iseo and to the south the slopes of Mount Orfano, and today it is made up of 19 municipalities. In the 1960s, a group of brave, young vinegrowers dared to stake everything on Italian traditional method sparkling wine. Since then, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, with the addition of up to 50% of Pinot Blanc, have been used to make Franciacorta wines, as unique as works of art. Sparkling wine production in this “francae curtes” (meaning “free court” or tax-free zone), where the name Franciacorta comes from, which once allowed the Cluniac monks free trade, is a very old business. Already in 1570, much earlier than the Frenchman Dom Pierre Pérignon, the father of Champagne, the Brescian doctor Gerolamo Conforti was making wines fermented naturally in the bottle and wrote the text “Libellus de vino mordaci”, referring to the lively bubbles produced in the area. As well as Christo’s temporary artwork, on Lake Iseo you can admire a permanent spectacle, also accessible via walkways: the Sebino peat bogs, the result of centuries of extracting peat. Once the fuel has been extracted, the holes are filled with water to recreate new flora and fauna, made of reeds, water lilies and various species of birds.
When art transfers to the winery
Who would have said that the cold, damp walls of the cellars would become a favourite exhibition space for contemporary artists. At Ca’ del Bosco, art and wine create a magic fusion not only inside the silent fermentation and ageing rooms, but also on the outside. Ca’ del Bosco, one of the leading producers of Franciacorta sparkling wines, takes you on a tour that turns into an all-round sensory experience. At the entrance the visitor is welcomed by Arnaldo Pomodoro’s solar gate, which opens onto the vineyards and the whole estate. From the sun to Eulogy to Shade, a sculpture by Bruno Romeda, an artist from Brescia, there are several sculptures positioned in strategic positions around the winery. You can only do the ‘Works of Art tour’ until 31st July, it is a limited edition of the traditional guided tours of the winery, which includes a tasting of Franciacorta Riserva from the historic vaults of the winery for the occasion. Also Mosnel, the winery founded by Emanuela Barboglio, has organized a series of art and wine appointments in the winery on occasion of the installation on Lake Iseo: aperitifs with music, guided tours and vertical tastings until 3rd July. It will be a great occasion to taste Mosnel wines, from the classic Brut without dosage, to the silky and caressing Satèn.
History, beyond art
The offer of art and exhibitions doesn’t end here. The Agriculture and Wine Museum opened in 1986 inside the nineteenth-century villa that houses the Ricci Curbastro winery and farmhouse; there are thousands of work tools from times gone by. Next to the exhibition, which you can visit all year round by booking, the Granario Verde houses an antiques shop with extremely rare objects. Franciacorta DOCG, Curtefranca DOC, Sebino IGT are the lines of production, whereas the Museum Release selection includes sparkling wines that rest on the lees for as long as 10 years. The winery is always open to the public and you can buy wines here directly.
The winery that has probably contributed the most to making Franciacorta’s winemaking history is Berlucchi. Pinot di Franciacorta was created in 1961 thanks to a meeting between the winemaker Franco Ziliani and Guido Berlucchi: it was the first traditional method wine in the area. Its success still continues today, as does the wish to carry on and communicate their production. Also the Berlucchi winery is offering the chance to visit their historic cellars with guided tours every hour from 18th June to 3rd July, while on Thursday 23rd June, the large tasting room will be stage to “Music is Dangerous”, with the musician and composer Nicola Piovani.
The Fratelli Berlucchi winery is located in one of the most fascinating medieval palaces in the whole of Franciacorta. Founded by Antonio Berlucchi, the Borgonato winery is the oldest in the winemaking region: the seventeenth-century frescoes have recently been restored and while the “The Floating Piers” are open, there will be two tours a day, at 10 and 3 o’clock, by booking only.
Also the Biondelli family have built up their winery over generations and the link with the territory has gradually become closer: until the renovation of the new winery in 2010. In 2011 the Cantine Biondelli company became a member of the Franciacorta Consortium and started growing grapes under organic management. Tours by booking only.
The zero-dosage style
The young and dynamic Andrea Arici’s decision is clear: zero dosage. There is no liqueur d’expédition to define the level of sweetness and to tame the wines. The sparkling wines of his winery, Colline della Stella, express the territory to the utmost, maintaining all of the characteristics of the grapes and the land worked on a daily basis (which can be visited by appointment only).
Located in the Campiani di Cellatica area, on the top of the hill, Cà del Vent not only has a unique climate, but also several types of soils whose features are fully respected thanks to the biodynamic approach. The sparkling wines, only vintage and without dosage, are made with base wines from different crus. Also the still white and red wines are made following the same philosophy: to be tasted during the tour.
Founded in 2003 by the businessman Ugo Ghezzi Quadra, it shares both the green approach and the inclination towards zero dosage sparkling wines with the previous wineries, including EretiQ Dosaggio Zero, a revolutionary Franciacorta without its bedrock: Chardonnay. The new wine combines the two Pinots, mainly Blanc, and Noir. The winery also has farmhouse accommodation, the ideal place to end a tour of the winery.
Other ideas: Summer Festival 2016
On Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th June, most of the Franciacorta wineries will be opening their gates and bottles on occasion of the Summer Festival. As well as the above-mentioned wineries, another two flagship wineries in this area will be taking part, Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi. They were both created from the insight of the building entrepreneur Vittorio Moretti. Bellavista was set up in 1977 and quickly made recent history in Italian sparkling winemaking thanks to the elegance of the wines and bottles. Bellavista extends into 10 of the 19 municipalities of Franciacorta, with over 100 plots of land. Perfectionism and tenacity are the key words and the aim is to give each cuvée a style: the Bellavista style. Moretti could only choose a brick factory for the new cellar of Contadi Castaldi, which has been transformed from an industrial building into a production site for sparkling wine. It was a short step from solid bricks to bubbles.
Where to eat
- Osteria Quadra, in Cologne. The restaurant overlooks a Japanese garden and the Franciacorta countryside. The cuisine is modern, young and experimental.
- Trattoria La Madia, in Brione. You don’t come across this place by chance, but once you get here you will enjoy the food that is carefully prepared and explained, as well as a view over the whole of Franciacorta. The cheeses are a real speciality.
- Dispensa Pani e Vini, in Torbiato di Adro. Restaurant, wine cellar, wine bar and shop where you can taste Franciacorta wines accompanied by food on a par with the elegant and comfortable environment.
Where to sleep
- Agriturismo Ricci Curbastro, 8 apartments inside a farmstead just 5 kilometres from Lake Iseo.
- Cappuccini Resort, a charming hotel in Cologne
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