Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Nino Franco

The wines of the Nino Franco winery are quality benchmarks in Prosecco and specifically Valdobbiadene (North East Italy) and this is thanks to the tireless work of Primo Franco, who both labours in the vineyards and travels around the world to explain the differences between his Prosecco and other Prosecco.

At a revealing dinner in February 2013 (full article here) Primo Franco rallied against volume-orientated producers in Prosecco and extolled the virtues of wines produced from hand-tended vines located on the verdant hillsides of his Valdobbiadene, over those that are machine tended and located on the plains below. The tasting of Primo’s range of “Nino Franco” Prosecco that followed was conclusive and showed that vines tended with love, affection and human hands(!) tended to produce wines that are more flavoursome, complex and attractive than mass produced equivalents. It is this that is that is at the heart of the Nino Franco winemaking philosophy.

Originally established in 1919 as the “Cantine Franco” winery by Antonio Franco, today the Nino Franco winery produces more than a million bottles of wine a year. Whilst the majority of grapes are purchased from a network of growers (each of whom are assisted by Nino Franco technicians throughout the year) a few hectares of vineyards are estate owned.

More than half a dozen DOCG classified Prosecco are currently produced at the Nino Franco winery, with “Faive” (a Merlot-based sparkling rosé) and the new “Primo Brut” (a sparkling Chardonnay) the only wines of the Nino Franco range not to be produced from Glera grapes.

The “Primo Franco” Prosecco Superiore might be this winery’s signature bottling, but two single vineyard Prosecco (the “Riva di San Floriano” and “Grave di Stecca” bottling) are just as accomplished.

Summary of Scores (Updated 2nd July 2014)

Nino Franco “Primo Franco” Prosecco DOCG
Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco DOCG
Nino Franco “Grave di Stecca”
Noino Franco “Rustico” Prosecco DOCG
Primo Franco “Brut” Prosecco DOCG
Nino Franco “Faive” Rosé
*NV – vintage indicates the tasting date 

Reviews from May 2014

Nino Franco's Riva di San Floriano vineyard
Nino Franco “Primo Franco” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (2013)
Primo Franco is the current winemaker and owner of the Nino Franco winery and this “Primo Franco” Prosecco is his signature wine. Crafted with aim of producing a Prosecco that is both utterly well balanced and reflective of the Valdobbiadene “terroir”, Primo crafts this bottling with some of his best Glera grapes from the verdant hillsides of Valdobbiadene and 32g/l of residual sugar. Aromas of apricots, peach and honeysuckle all appear on the nose, before a succulent and beautifully mousy palate unfolds. As in the 2012 vintage, this wine is extremely difficult to fault. The combination of complex and intense ripe stone fruit flavours and an extremely elegant mousse is hard to resist! 92 points.

Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Sup. DOCG (2013)
“Riva di San Floriano” is a vineyard located above Primo Franco’s home and the town of Valdobbiadene, on a steep hillside (near the church of San Floriano). A distinctive single vineyard wine, this “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco offers aromas of dried banana and white peach and an exuberantly fruity palate. Slightly leaner in style than in other recent vintages, this Prosecco ends long, clean and with the tingle of a gorgeously subtle mousse. 91 points.

Nino Franco “Grave di Stecca” Brut, Valdobbiadene DOCG (2011)
The Nino Franco winery’s “Grave di Stecca” is typically the most distinctive wine in what is an extremely diverse and characterful range. Extremely lean, mineral and saline in character, unless you were told, you may not think that this is from Prosecco! Notes of sage and thyme adorn a salt tinged nose, before the super long palate stretches out. Salt encrusted green apples would encapsulate the flavours on show here, in what is an extremely accomplished and distinctive wine. 92 points.

Nino Franco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (NV)
“Rustico” might be the “entry level” wine of the Nino Franco winery, but there isn’t too much that is “entry level” about it. This is a creamy and elegant fizz that sees flavours of greengage and green apple combined with the wonderfully frothy and elegant mousse that is a Nino Franco hallmark. Ending with a slightly savoury tang on the finish, there are few “entry level” Prosecco that you would rather drink! 89 points.

Reviews from February 2014

Nino Franco “Primo Franco” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (2012)
Ripe, creamy and mouth-filling when tasted, despite this “Primo Franco” Prosecco containing 32g/l of residual sugar there is never a perception of sweetness, only of creamy and ripe fruit flavours. Notes of white peach and pear form the basis of this fantastically attractive wine, with hints of almonds, vanilla and apricots unfolding across this wine’s impressive length. There’s a driving acidity that makes this wine (thanks to it offsetting the sugar) and whilst this “Primo Franco” Prosecco may not be dry enough in style to appeal to sommeliers (who would typically chose a drier style to expand its food pairing options) this does nothing to change the fact that this is one of the most endearing and inherently attractive Prosecco that The Independent Wine Review has come across for some time. 93 points.

Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene Sup. DOCG (2012)
This 2012 “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco is slightly less exuberant on the nose than has been the case in previous vintages, but still offers the hints of banana and sage (that overlay the more common white peach and pear characters) and that make this “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco so distinctive. Creamy and persistent on the palate, this is a Prosecco of serious class which shifts effortlessly from the peach and pear base flavours onto more complex banana, hazelnut and yeasty nuances. If you are truly interested in the concept of “terroir” in Prosecco, this is a wine you simply have to try. 90 points.

Nino Franco Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (NV)
A pale lemon colour in the glass, this Nino Franco Brut seems purer and fresher in style than many Prosecco with greater levels of residual sugar. A bouquet of green apples, pears and a clear mineral salinity segues into a lean and driven palate. The persistent and elegantly crafted mousse is combined with a frisky acidity that will see this wine pair well with many fish starters, or creamily textured risottos. 88 points.

Reviews from 2013

Nino Franco's "Grave di Stecca" vineyard
Nino Franco “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco, Valdobbiadene Sup. DOCG (2010)
Intensely fruity on the palate, this “Riva di San Floriano” Prosecco exhibits creamy white peach, pear and nuances of banana, with support provided by a gorgeous combination of an elegant and persistent mousse and a bright acidity. Segueing to a slightly savoury nuttiness in the mid-palate, this wine finishes long and very, very subtle. A remarkably individual and well resolved Prosecco. 93 points.

Nino Franco “Grave di Stecca” Brut Valdobbiadene DOCG (2010)
Notably dry in style on the palate, it is easy to see why Primo Franco describes this “Grave di Stecca” Brut as “different”. Intense flavours of white peach form the basis of the palate, with a persistent savoury nuance of macadamia, bread crumbs and pineapple that add further subtlety. A nicely resolved mousse and bright acidity play supporting roles. 90 points.

Nino Franco “Rustico” Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG (NV)
Aiming for a consistent “house” style of “Rustico” Prosecco each year, Primo has crafted this “Rustico” to offer a creamy and persistent mousse that supports a palate of white peach, green European fruit notes and the merest hint of slightly savoury nuttiness. Off-dry, there is a gorgeous balance of mousse, fruit and acidity on display, with an impressive length that persists once the wine itself is gone. 89 points.

Nino Franco Prosecco Brut, Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG (NV)
Offering the impression of additional acidity over and above what was seen in the Nino Franco “Rustico” Prosecco (this is a result of the reduction in residual sugar – actual acidity levels are almost identical) this Nino Franco “Brut” seems to be brighter and crisper in the mouth too with a slightly more aggressive mousse. Again this Nino Franco “Brut” is green and European fruit orientated, although a little peach adds subtlety to the finish. 87 points
Nino Franco “Faive” Rosé Spumante Brut (2011)
Produced from a blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc this “Faive” rosé is a highly attractive salmon pink colour in the glass that sparkles as the numerous finely formed bubbles race from the base of the glass. Wonderfully pure strawberry and fresh peach aromas greet a taster as they approach this “Faive” Rosé, before notes of strawberries, wild raspberries and freshly picked nectarines emerge on the palate. Almost completely dry and underpinned by an ever-present (but subtle and nicely integrated) mousse, this “Faive” Rosé bubbles on across an impressive length. 87 points.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Ca del Bosco

Ca’ del Bosco is one of the best known wine producers located within the Franciacorta DOCG region of production, in Lombardy (Northern Italy). 

Production of single vintage Franciacorta began in 1979 and has gone from strength to strength since with seven different expressions of Franciacorta and more than 1.4million bottles in total now produced every year from the winery’s 150 hectares of vineyards. 

Always at the forefront of innovation in the region, the Ca’ del Bosco winery has now coined what it terms “Il Metodo Ca’ del Bosco” – an evolution of the “metodo classico” traditionally used to produce Franciacorta. This encompasses chilling grapes as soon as they are harvested, cleaning them using an “air-bubble bunch-washing system”, crushing and fermentation in an anaerobic environment, gravity (only) transfer between the different steps of vinification and specially designed disgorgement and bottling lines (again designed to minimise the ingress of oxygen). 

Despite all the modern technology though, the Franciacorta of Ca’ del Bosco still reside on their lees in the historic underground cellars (for a period significantly longer than that exercised by many of their competitors). 

The “Cuvee Annamaria Clementi” (named after the mother of Ca’ del Bosco’s founder) today heads the Ca’ del Bosco range, with “Saten”, Rosé and non-vintage Franciacorta also produced. 

Quality is excellent across the Ca’ del Bosco range, with the “Cuvee Annamaria Clementi” amongst the best Franciacorta produced.

Summary of Scores (Updated 29th June 2014)           

Ca del Bosco “Cuvee A. Clementi” Franciacorta
Ca del Bosco “Vintage Collection” Franciacorta Brut
Ca del Bosco “Vintage Collection” Franciacorta Dos. Zero
Ca del Bosco “Vintage Collection” Franciacorta Saten
Ca del Bosco Chardonnay

Reviews from June 2014

Ca del Bosco “Vintage Collection” Saten, Franciacorta DOCG (2009)
Franciacorta labelled with the “Saten” moniker are bottled at slightly lower pressure in order to generate an even more subtle and creamy mousse and this Ca del Bosco bottling is an impressive example of the sophistication of texture that this technique can generate. Understated notes of hazelnut and cider apple mingle with flavours of fresh white bread and almonds, in a palate that is as long as it is velvety smooth. This is an extremely difficult wine to dislike! 90 points.

Reviews from January 2014

Ca del Bosco “Cuvee Annamaria Clementi” Brut, Franciacorta DOCG (2004)
A notably intense lemon colour in the glass this 2004 “Cuvee Annamaria Clementi” Franciacorta from Ca del Bosco offers aromas of lemon zest and white peach, with nuances of pine nuts, honey and candied pineapple lending complexity. A clear saline minerality defines the palate – as does the prodigious length. Lemon and the same developmental nuances as those expressed on the nose float atop a mousse of distinctive and wonderfully sophisticated character. Overall this is one of the most beautifully balanced wines that The Independent Wine Review has come across for some time. 94 points.

Ca del Bosco “Vintage Collection” Brut, Franciacorta DOCG (2008)
Ca del Bosco’s “Vintage Collection” Brut sits in the middle of an extensive Ca del Bosco range of Franciacorta and consists of 55% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Nero and 15% Pinot Bianco grapes that were harvested from the winery’s estate vineyards. 22 still base wines were fermented in small oak barrels and after 40 months of maturation “sur lie” this bottling was disgorged and sealed.  A delicate nose displays notes of custard cream and lemon zest before a pure, long and very subtle palate is revealed. Flavours of lemon, pomelo and hints of biscuit float atop of a cushioning and creamy mousse that lends a delectable texture and mouthfeel. 91 points.

Ca del Bosco “Vintage Collection” Dosage Zero, Franciacorta DOCG (2008)
This Ca del Bosco “Vintage Collection” Franciacorta is one of the success stories of zero dosage winemaking. 65% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and 13% Pinot Bianco, this “zero dosage” Franciacorta offers aromas of waxed lemons and a hint of biscuit on the nose, before segueing into a palate that is extremely refined and impressively long. Lemon and chalky mineral notes define this wine initially on the palate, before the slightly richer biscuit notes of the nose re-emerge. The mousse is extremely cosseting and it is this (along with the subtlety of flavour exhibited) that make this “Vintage Collection” Dosage Zero Franciacorta quite so successful. 89 points.

Ca del Bosco Chardonnay, Terre di Franciacorta DOC (2005)
Produced from Chardonnay grapes sourced from seven different vineyards (with fermentation of each batch of grapes separately in small oak barrels for 9 months before combination) this 2005 Ca del Bosco Chardonnay is an intense lemon colour with hints of gold (a product of fermentation and maturation in oak). Creamy with endless nuances of white peach, almond and hazelnut, a little bottle age has allowed this still Chardonnay to develop well and to be drinking extremely well at the moment. 93 points.