Berlucchi’s vineyards, now totally converting to organic viticulture, cover over 500 hectares, between estate vineyards and those in the hands of trusted, long-term growers. The estate vineyards were completely re-planted in the late 1990s. Today, high-density planting, spurred-cordon training, precision cover-cropping, and pre-harvest cluster-thinning yield clusters that are few in number but of the highest quality, outstanding foundations for producing a great Franciacorta.More
Questions sometimes emerge that can change the destiny of persons and places. “And what if we were to make a sparkling wine as the French do?’” was precisely such a question. In 1955, young and irrepressible oenologist Franco Ziliani directed that query to Guido Berlucchi, a country gentleman who was looking for a consultant who could improve his Pinot del Castello, and what he found instead was a partner for an adventure in fine taste that would profoundly transform the destiny of Franciacorta.
Ziliani was fascinated by the elegant figure of Berlucchi, by his handsome mansion, Palazzo Lana Berlucchi, and by its ancient underground cellars. His youthful dream was to produce a classic-method wine in his native area, Franciacorta, and he boldly proposed to Berlucchi the idea of making a sparkling wine in a winegrowing area long dedicated to still table wines.
Berlucchi accepted, and the two pioneers joined forces with Berlucchi’s friend Giorgio Lanciani. The challenge was taken up, and, after some less-than-satisfactory vintages, 1961 finally saw the corking of three thousand bottles of Pinot di Franciacorta. When the corks were drawn the following year, the wine met all their expectations. Franciacorta was born!
In 1962, Ziliani created Italy’s first classic-method rosé, Max Rosé, inspired by Massimiliano Imbert, a Milan-based antiquarian friend of Berlucchi’s who prized the French sparkling rosés and desired an Italian rosé that would satisfy his refined taste. Max Rosé’s name, appearance, and taste completely won him over.
In the following years, the wine attracted such growing interest that the trio expanded production. Pinot di Franciacorta was re-named Cuvée Imperiale, and the Cellarius Millesimati (vintage-dated) Franciacortas emerged.
The winery grew, but in 2000 it suffered a blow, the death of nobleman Guido Berlucchi. He left a worthy heritage however, the foundation that bears his name, dedicated to medical research.
Franco Ziliani, chosen father of Franciacorta by the area’s winegrowers, guided the winery through the portals of the new millennium, which represents new yet always fascinating challenges. By his side is the second generation, in the figures of his children Cristina, Arturo, and Paolo, who are, respectively directors of Berlucchi’s communications, production, and sales and marketing.
Today’s wine scene is much more protean and competitive than it was in the 1960s, and Franco’s children show every sign of having inherited the pioneer spirit and qualities of the creator of Franciacorta. Theirs is the credit, in fact, for launching the Berlucchi ’61 and Palazzo Lana Riserva lines, but in particular for the total re-structuring of the vineyards and wine-production facility, with the declared objective of absolute quality everywhere and of sustainability.
Today, Guido Berlucchi is a family-run producer deeply rooted in its ancestral growing area and at the same time an ambassador of Franciacorta and Made in Italy to the rest of the world, amply demonstrated by its presence at extraordinary festive occasions–to mention just one, as the official wine for the Oscar won by La Grande Bellezza as Best Foreign Film.
The new generation and all the winery staff are vividly conscious, in all of their activities, of the lesson represented by Franco Ziliani, who still serves as winery president: to realize new achievements, one must have faith in one’s dreams and work hard to bring them to fruition, treasuring the lessons from the past, but gazing fearlessly towards the future.
In the Middle Ages, the areas that extended south from Lago d’Iseo were francae curtes, or exempted from customs duties. In exchange for this privilege, its inhabitants committed themselves to maintaining and protecting the road that connected the lake with Brescia, the route into the city for valuable merchandise coming to Iseo from the Val Camonica.
So the toponym Franciacorta entered history, that blessed corner of earth where traces of vine-growing date as early as the Lombard period in the 8th century AD. It morainic soils, mild climate tempered by the Lago d’Iseo, and cool breezes from the Val Camonica create, in fact, optimal conditions for growing high-quality grapes.
Franciacorta is a vine-carpeted garden comprising 250 square metres and 19 communes, with its 2,900 hectares of vineyards planted 80% to Chardonnay and the remaining 20% to Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco, two noble varieties that, respectively, give to Franciacortas their elegance and personality.
Franciacorta vaunts more than 100 producers who, every harvest, transform their grapes into true treasures of mousse, beading cascades, and aromatic mosaics through a complex of the world’s most rigorous regulations for this category of wine. Proud of the accolades bestowed on their Franciacorta DOCG wines, the producers are pleased to open the doors of their cellars to share with wine-lovers the noble fruits of their passionate commitment.
THE BERLUCCHI VINEYARDS
Berlucchi’s vineyards, now totally converting to organic viticulture, cover over 500 hectares, between estate vineyards and those in the hands of trusted, long-term growers. The estate vineyards were completely re-planted in the late 1990s. Today, high-density planting, spurred-cordon training, precision cover-cropping, and pre-harvest cluster-thinning yield clusters that are few in number but of the highest quality, outstanding foundations for producing a great Franciacorta.
An exceptional foundation enhanced by striving for a vine balance that is the result of a deep understanding of the vineyard itself, which Berlucchi agronomists obtain in turn from the Thousand and One Vines project, in which all of the estate vineyards were analysed and classified, resulting in a comprehensive and reliable “identity card” for each. That information makes it possible for the winemakers to match the character of each wine to the individual qualities of the soils that produce the grapes.
Subsequently, the vineyards were mapped by infrared aerial photography, which produced vine-vigour maps that made it possible to ascertain the fertility of the various vineyard parcels, so that fertilisation could be applied only where strictly necessary and the grapes could be picked exactly when desired. The vineyards became as well a “laboratory beneath the sky,” to test new molecular compounds that prevent the major fungal attacks. Already in use is sexual-confusion pheromone technology, which reduces numbers of the grapevine moth, as well as the Biopass project soil analysis, which has confirmed the presence of a multitude of life forms in the vineyard soils.
The road is truly long before a cluster of grapes becomes Franciacorta. The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, hand-picked into 20kg-boxes, are brought to the press house, where they are separated into homogeneous lots according to grape variety, vineyard, and grape composition characteristics. The whole clusters are then loaded into inclined-plane presses, which exert a slow, progressive, and very delicate pressure.
The clear, fragrant must is divided into divided into four separate quality fractions, and after a chilled gravity-settling for clarity, the fermentation takes place in steel tanks or in oak barrels.
Following initial fermentation and of malolactic–the latter just on certain lots–, selected lots of base wines are given further maturation and bâttonage, which adds structure and aromatic complexity. The base wines then rest in steel or oak, and are analysed and tasted, in order to decide their final destination.
In January of the following year, the winemaking staff begin the cuvée tasting trials, a very complex process, since it involves 150 base wines.
After addition of the liqueur de tirage, the bottles are placed in stacks in the historic cellars, where they undergo the secondary fermentation and successive maturation sur lie, which varies from a minimum of 18 months to more than 6 years. Following riddling and disgorgement, the wine is given further bottle-ageing, and then it is ready for release.
The commitment to sustainability continues in the winecellar as well. Any kind of waste is prevented. Water, for example, is of course crucial for cleanliness of work areas and equipment, and has already cut in half the litres necessary for the production of one bottle of classic-method wine.
Berlucchi has already eliminated use of allergenic substances from its production process, such as eggs and milk. It is also a participant in the Ita.Ca initiative, which monitors and reduces CO2 emissions; an extensive solar-panel system was installed on the winecellar roof, which now supplies 35% of the energy needed by the winery operations.
THE HISTORICAL CELLAR
Buried ten metres beneath ground level, the historic cellar arouses wonder in today’s visitor, just as in the past. This great vault was constructed in the late 17th century by the ancestors of Guido Berlucchi, who aged their wines here.
It is a very impressive sight, with its ancient walls bearing the patina of past centuries, the wooden riddling racks for the Franciacorta Riservas, and the niche that hold the last bottle of the 1961 vintage, eloquent witness of the “firstborn Franciacorta” and inspiration for the magnificent transformation of this growing area.
The fascination represented by the Berlucchi cellar hardly ends with the historic vault, since the cellar continues through galleries and alcoves where the bottles enjoy perfect conditions for slowly maturing.
Equally fascinating is the “historical archive,” where bottles of the finest vintages are stored, neck down, to evaluate their performance over time.
BERLUCCHI ‘61 BRUT DOCG - FRANCIACORTA The aperitif wine preferred by those who can appreciate the qualities of the classic. Generous fragrances and a pleasingly crisp acidity characterise this cuvée of 90% Chardonnay ad 10% Pinot Noir. The grapes are grown in Franciacorta’s most prestigious vineyards, and the wine matures sur lie in the bottle a minimum...
'61 Franciacorta saten DOCG - Berlucchi Those who appreciate silky smoothness and elegance will search out this aperitif wine. A 100% Chardonnay that matures sur lie in the bottle a minimum of 24 months, it is easily recognizable for its seductive creaminess; subtle bead of pin-point bubbles; and ultra-flavoursome palate.