White with fish and red with meat. Only local wines with regional food. When dessert arrives, a sweet wine is always best. And for the big occasions? Pop the cork. All clichés, which rational thought sometimes sweeps away but which resurface when we make a last minute purchase and don’t have the time or energy to do a bit of background research. Or when the waiter comes over and we take the easy option, however clichéd it might be.
The Brescia DOCG’s dates all around Italy – and further afield too – were an opportunity to get across the peculiarities and backdrop to this entirely Italian excellence, but also to show how versatile a partner Franciacorta can be, as both a pre-dinner drink and right through a meal. Together with its pleasant acidity levels, its structure can enhance and successfully balance a wide range of dishes, from starters through to pasta and rice dishes, meat and fish, as well as cheeses and desserts. And from one dish to another, its crispness and sparkles clear the palate and stimulate the appetite.
And these are characteristics which are much appreciated outside Italy too, with 3 and 4 July taking the Franciacorta festival to Hamburg for the first time. Two days organised by the Sommelier Union whose mission since its foundation in 1976 has been to offer a training and information platform and keep the wine community up to date on sector trends, including at the international level. In this spirit the first day focused on the members of this German association, with base wine tastings conducted by regional spokesperson Maximilian Wilm and Consorzio Franciacorta President Silvano Brescianini.
The next day, on the other hand, was open to the general public, with the garden of the Jazz Hall on the banks of the Außenalster hosting over two hundred guests including wine lovers, public figures, journalists and sector experts. The Sommelier Union’s professionals served wines from seventeen Franciacorta producers, giving guests the chance to appreciate Satèn’s savoury and fruity notes, Rosé’s structure and liveliness and the complex and sophisticated personality of Millesimato, which come out in its longer ageing and refining periods. The various types of Franciacorta were combined with Cornelia Poletto’s dishes, together with those of Franciacorta colleagues Mauro Zacchetti, chef at Al Malò in Rovato, and Alessandro Baccanelli, chef at Cadebasi Franciacorta restaurant in Erbusco.
At the same time, the second edition of the Franciacorta Experience tour organised in conjunction with Gambero Rosso came to a close, after touring Italy from north to south in five stages from May to July. Rome, Turin, Lecce, Palermo and Naples hosted double appointments in which prestigious Lombard wines played a centre stage roles in masterclasses followed by gourmet dinners. Palazzo Brancaccio was the stage for the opening step in this entirely Italian itinerary which began in the capital with a menu conceived by Giorgio Barchiesi, better known as Giorgione. This was a menu which confirmed that guanciale, pork rind and beans don’t necessarily need to be paired with a full-bodied red but can also benefit from the acidity of a Franciacorta Brut, this DOCG’s most versatile incarnation.
The Piedmontese stage celebrated the dialogue between East and West at Koi Japanese Fusion Restaurant, inaugurated with the marriage between a Pas Dosé aged on yeasts for 70 months and a do-it-yourself temaki, whose success was ensured by the presence of the Carabineros prawn. Because crustaceans, like all umami flavoured foods, are exalted by sparkling wines which remain on the yeasts for many years thanks to the ability of certain amino acids to stimulate the fifth flavour. It is precisely this “umami synergy”, theorised by a group of researchers from the University of Copenhagen, which was the basis for the pairings proposed for the Puglia stage of the tour. At Palazzo BN restaurant, a smoked fish darne served with a sauce of sea anemones in miso, Polignano carrots and saltwort was washed down with a glass of Franciacorta Rosé which brought out its savoury flavours whilst leaving a fresh and clean finish.
Whilst a pairing with fish raises no eyebrows, matching Franciacorta with Sicilian street food is certainly a less conventional combination. But Franciacorta goes well with everything, even a Palermo “spitino”, a square of fried food which is similar to arancini in its filling but its outer layer looks like mozzarella in carrozza in gourmet form for the occasion. Ristorante Palazzo Branciforte reworked it via a broad bean and sheep cheese macco which remained faithful to the Sicilian origins of this street food purée – even ennobling it – and shoring up the stylish harmony of a glass of Brut.
The tour’s grand finale was at Ristorante Muse in Grand Hotel Parker in Naples where this Brescia DOCG once again fitted perfectly into a strongly locally based menu, this time from the Campania region. Emblematic of this was a creamy combination of a yellow Corbara tomato risotto, a Campania buffalo milk stracciata cheese and a scampi tartare with Franciacorta Satèn whose ultra fine perlage and white flower and nut aromas set the seal on the dish’s freshness and delicacy.
The enthusiastic reception given to every stage of the Franciacorta Experience highlighted the interest by wine lovers and experts in a product and region which has been taking its message outside its borders more and more frequently in recent years, with exclusive events whose audience increasingly includes international tourists as well. This was the logic behind the choice of Versilia to host Franciacorta Week from 16 to 25 June, as the most exclusive seaside town on the Tuscan Riviera, which acted as backdrop to themed dinners and tastings attracting locals and tourists to its main destinations, including wine bars, bistrots and gourmet restaurants.
All these were precious examples of partnership and synergy between regions and countries working together to foster excellence and consign sterile food and wine provincialism to the past.