Sunday, August 10, 2014

Franciacorta's "little" problem

“I just don’t get Franciacorta,” the tall lady muttered to her friend at a recent reception. Her friend was pouring all manner of cool wines from Germany, Austria and France. Grower Champagnes chilled in iced trays, alongside Franciacorta. I wondered why she said that, but I was in full-introvert mode, and was in no shape to investigate her motives.

Perhaps the lure of “Farmer Fizz” was too great. Maybe Franciacorta isn’t yet cool enough. I once heard a complaint that Franciacorta wines don’t have any unique sense of terroir. Clearly that person never made a 5K run around the vineyards, never sailed on Lake Iseo.

The real problem for me is that there isn’t enough Franciacorta. That is also a blessing. Franciacorta doesn't need to be anointed by the high hipster priests of the Church of Coolness. Franciacorta has its own orbit, its own universe. Franciacorta doesn’t need to be recommended on Pinterest or endlessly snapped on Instagram.

I find that I drink more Franciacorta than Champagne or Prosecco. And it is not because I have anything against well-made Champagne or Prosecco. Franciacorta appeals to my sense of Italianita’, what it means in my world to embrace the varied culture of Italy. I can have my squash blossoms stuffed with anchovies and fried and I can have my Saten. Sometimes I can have them together.

For me the key to Franciacorta is the food. Yes, we sip the wine (out of regular wines glasses, please, not flutes) in anticipation of a great meal, whether we are in Lombardia or anywhere else in Italy or Sicily.

Franciacorta is like that great suit or pair of shoes, the well-made automobile, or the beautiful tapestry. Franciacorta is part of well-made Italy; where there seems to be a higher standard for whatever is the center of attention, from food to clothing, from technology to music. A higher standard that somehow the rest of the world has not yet “gotten.” That is part of the problem. The people of Lombardia have lived with this higher standard for so long they take it for granted. The other side of the problem, though, is that they don’t promote it like the folks in Champagne or Prosecco-land do. They haven’t seen the need to.

At Vinitaly the luxury brands of Franciacorta are some of the most hip places to hang out. Great food, music, beautiful men and women wearing the latest fashions. After all, Milan is the urban center, and so much of the image of Franciacorta is swallowed up by the larger image of Fashion Italy. Far from being a dumbed down idea though, Franciacorta seems to me to be a smarter wine. What do I mean by that? Look, we all know there are some Champagnes that are more of a brand than a wine. And they are very successful at bringing sparkling wine to the masses. But there isn’t enough Franciacorta produced to necessitate such strategy. Little Franciacorta doesn’t need to push that much. The Italians for years kept most of it within a few regions, Lombardia and the lake districts, Milan and Torino. It is an exclusive wine that happens to be sparkling. But it is so fully integrated into the life of the Lombardians that they didn’t think to take it outside their region.

I “get” Franciacorta. I love Franciacorta. If you don’t get Franciacorta, that’s perfectly fine with me. There isn’t that much to go around. Which means there will be more for me, and everyone else who has ventured into that special little universe.

Further reading:
Franciacorta wines to be featured @TEXSOM 2014 Regional Focus: Franciacorta ~ With Charles Curtis MW, Michael Franz

@Franciacorta Nella Notte di #SanLorenzo un brindisi ai vostri desideri

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