What are the differences between Prosecco and Franciacorta?

Absolutely everyone loves bubbly. It’s the ultimate celebration wine that perfectly matches all foods, from bruschetta to tiramisù and even popcorn. It makes for an elegant hostess present at a dinner and even for those nights when you just feel like unwinding before settling down to eat. The world of Italian sparkling wines can be difficult to navigate with hundreds of different labels available, so where does one begin? Which labels are the best? What are the important differences between Italian sparkling wine styles?


Two names that get tossed around a lot when speaking about Italian bubbly are Prosecco and Franciacorta. Indeed, many people actually confuse Prosecco and Franciacorta. It’s understandable, as both have distinctly Italian names. However, this recent article by VinePair demonstrates a few key differences between them, such as the grapes themselves, the production methods and when the wines should be consumed.

Barone Pizzini and all quality Franciacorta wines are made in the Franciacorta method, also known as the traditional method or metodo classico. This is the time-intensive method by which the greatest sparkling wines in the world are made. Prosecco is made in the less expensive Charmat method.

Barone Pizzini is one the pioneering wineries that produces Franciacorta in Italy. To find an authentic Franciacorta, all you need to do is look for the Barone Pizzini label as a helpful starting point.

Two other important considerations: Prosecco should be consumed immediately, while Franciacorta needs time to reach its peak flavor, from a few months to two years. Furthermore, Prosecco is produced in different provinces of the Veneto and Friuli-Venezia-Giulia regions, while Franciacorta is produced only in the province of Brescia, near Milan in the Lombardy region.


So have no fear the next time you find yourself perusing the aisles of your favorite wine store for something to gift your host or even just a new addition to your own wine collection. The store’s selection might seem daunting, but armed with this useful information about Prosecco and Franciacorta wines, you’ll know how to zero in on the perfect bottle of Italian bubbly!

Your Favorite Bubbly, Deconstructed

Ever wonder what makes Franciacorta stand out from other sparkling wines? Or why there seems to be so much variation between different types of bubbly – from carbonation level to flavor profile to price?

Sparkling wine might be the most technical of all wine styles, so the folks at Wine Folly have created this helpful guide to sparkling wine. As they tell it, there are no fewer than six methods of sparkling wine production, each resulting in a different style of bubbly. Check out their list, and wow your friends with your expert sparkling wine knowledge:

  • Traditional Method
  • Tank Method
  • Transfer Method
  • Ancestral Method
  • Continuous Method
  • Carbonation

Of those six methods, the most widely used are the Traditional Method, called Metodo Classico in Italian, and the Tank Method, also called Metodo Italiano or the Charmat Method.

The Tank Method is the method typically used to make three of the most common Italian sparkling wines – Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti, and Lambrusco. In this process, sugar and yeast are added to base wines in a large tank. The wine undergoes a secondary fermentation as the added yeasts turn the sugars into CO2; the wine is then filtered, any desired dosage (the winemaker’s own mixture of wine and sugar) is added, and finally the wine is bottled. This method tends to produce wines with coarse bubbles, fruity and floral notes, and sometimes strong yeast flavors. It is an easier process to complete than the Metodo Classico, and thus produces wines at a lower price point.

In contrast, Metodo Classico, which is the process used to make Franciacorta, carries higher production costs. The fundamental difference is that the secondary fermentation takes place in the bottles rather than in tanks, and is considered the source of the highest quality sparkling wines.


As sommelier and wine writer Cindy Swain wrote recently in WineTourist Magazine, this process has a palpable impact on the sensory experience of Franciacorta: “Two other main differences between the two styles are the bubbles and the aromas. The Charmat Method produces sparkling wines with larger, coarser bubbles and primary aromas that are fruity and floral. A Classic Method wine yields a fine perlage, or tiny strings of bubbles, and the long aging process creates complexities in the wine that go beyond primary aromas to tertiary aromas of butter, nuts and brioche.”

To receive the distinction of the DOCG appellation, Franciacorta has to adhere to additional production standards. Swain writes, “Unlike many other Italian sparkling wines, the Franciacorta DOCG—the highest level of Italian wine classification—requires that all grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a limited amount of Pinot Blanc) are hand-harvested and aged on the lees and in the bottle for a minimum of 18 months for non-vintage wines, 24 months for rosé and satèn, 30 months for the vintage “millesimato” and 60 months for the wines marked riserva. Because of the limited production numbers and rigorous production methods, the price point of Franciacorta is relatively high…”

This underscores the importance of understanding what distinguishes Franciacorta from other styles of sparkling wine! Barone Pizzini is further distinguished by being the first Franciacorta to switch to organic production, putting it at the top of an already elite category of sparkling wine makers.


More than one reason to raise a glass of Franciacorta this 4th of July

As Americans get ready to fire up their grills and put the finishing touches on their berry pies this this 4th of July, Italians remember a significant event in their own history; the birth of Giuseppe Garibaldi, largely credited with the nineteenth century unification of Italy.sparklingwinefireworks

He was a man after the American founding fathers’ own rhetorical hearts. In an 1854 letter to English liberal politician Joseph Cowen, Garibaldi declared: “My heart is entirely devoted to liberty, universal liberty, national and worldwide – ora e sempre.” (Joseph Garibaldi, Patriot and Soldier).

Garibaldi monuments can now be found in cities and towns throughout Italy, but the first is said to have been erected in 1883 in the town of Iseo – within the production area of Franciacorta.

You can bet that in Lombardy they’ll be drinking Franciacorta this weekend in honor of one of history’s greats. And while in the US July 4th is typically associated with beer or light cocktails, sommeliers agree that wine is a great pair for typical barbecue foods. Franciacorta’s floral acidity goes well with summer fruits and can help cut the fattiness of hamburgers or hot dogs.

So this weekend when you gather with friends around the grill or under the fireworks, pop open a bottle of Barone Pizzini, and together let’s hope for a future worthy of Garibaldi’s aspiration for liberty around the world, ora e sempre.

Celebrate Biodiversity with Barone Pizzini

Vineyard mountainsThis weekend, June 25 and 26, lovers of Barone Pizzini can experience the biodiversity of the region with a “passeggiata” in the vineyard, led by a wild herb specialist and followed by a tasting of three organic Franciacorta wines in the cellar, constructed according to green building criteria.

As the first certified organic Franciacorta, Barone Pizzini is dedicated to keeping their lands free of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that can damage the living flora and fauna that contribute to the richness of their vineyards and the surrounding region.

But you don’t have to travel to Lombardy; there are plenty of ways to discover biodiversity in your own backyard – urban or rural – wherever you are. Here are just a few ideas for your summer nature exploration – and where to enjoy a bottle of Barone Pizzini while you’re at it!

  1. The Pine Barrens, NJ

This sprawling stretch of forest in the center of the nation’s most densely populated state has the distinction of being the first National Reserve. Due to its uniquely diverse plant and animal life, it was designated an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations in 1988. Head to the Winslow Wildlife Management area for hiking trails, blueberry and huckleberry picking, and the “blue hole,” rumored to be one of the homes of the legendary Jersey Devil. Then calm your nerves with a bottle of Barone Pizzini Franciacorta from nearby Maro Brothers in Williamstown, NJ.

  1. Daniel Island, SC

This 4,000 acre island has long been a natural oasis within the city of Charleston, SC. Undeveloped until the 1990s, it is now home to a planned residential community, but still contains hundreds of acres of parks. Enjoy your fill of flower walks, biking, and fishing along the Wando River, and then stop by Sauer Grapes for a cold bottle of Barone Pizzini.

  1. Baltimore, MD

The Baltimore Bird Club offers a rich summer program for amateur ornithologists. Catch glimpses of flycatchers, American Kestrel, Wood Ducks and more among the gardens and wetlands of Patterson Park, a verdant space in the center of Baltimore. With or without that elusive rare sighting you’re hoping for, finish the day off right with a visit to the Wine Source for a bottle of Barone Pizzini.

Artist Christo comes to Franciacorta this summer for his “Floating Piers”

christo franciacorta iseo brescia

In June of this year, the artist Christo will be mounting his next work on Lake Iseo in the heart of Franciacorta, “Floating Piers.”

From June 18 to July 3, 2016, weather permitting, Italy’s Lake Iseo will be reimagined. 70,000 square meters of shimmering yellow fabric, carried by a modular floating dock system of 200,000 high-density polyethylene cubes, will undulate with the movement of the waves as The Floating Piers rise just above the surface of the water.

Visitors will experience this work of art by walking on it from Sulzano to Monte Isola and to the island of San Paolo, which it encircles. The mountains surrounding the lake will offer a bird’s-eye view of The Floating Piers, exposing unnoticed angles and altering perspectives.

A 3-kilometer-long walkway will be created as The Floating Piers extend across the water of Lake Iseo. The piers will be 16 meters wide and approximately 50 centimeters high with sloping sides. The fabric will continue along 1.5 kilometers of pedestrian streets in Sulzano and Peschiera Maraglio.

Click here to read the complete description of the project.

And click here to read the New York Times preview of the work, “Next From Christo: Art That Lets You Walk on Water.”

Pretty cool, right?

Stay tuned for more and stay tuned for more: We will visit the work next year when it comes online.

Image and text via ChristoJeanneClaude.net.

Franciacorta Consortium has a new blog

franciacorta blog

We published the first post here on the Barone Pizzini blog on the day after Christmas, 2012.

We’re now into our third year of active blogging and social media engagement.

Over the last ten years or so, social media and blogging have become an integral part of life on this planet. From Facebook to Twitter to whatever blogging platform you prefer, social media users and consumers in general expect to interact with their favorite brands.

That’s just one of the reasons it’s so important for wine trade members to actively “curate” their virtual media presence and to engage with their end users.

The Franciacorta consortium has been blogging for some time now.

And most recently, it has launched a new blog geared for the current generation of American wine professionals: Franciacorta, the Real Story.

The last five years have seen an explosion of wine education among young American sommeliers. The movie “Somm” (released in 2012 by Samuel Goldwyn) is a great example of this new ambitious and exuberant wine movement.

The new blog is for them: it focuses on geography, topography, winemaking methods, cultural context, and enogastronomy — all the elements that make Franciacorta so wonderfully unique in the panorama of sparkling wine today.

The blog will also feature a series of “round table” tastings to be held across the U.S. in coming months.

Check out Franciacorta, the Real Story here…

Barone Pizzini & Pievalta in Houston, Texas! @houstonsomms @CamerataHouston

barone pizzini houston

Above: on Wednesday, Barone Pizzini manager Silvano Brescianini addressed a group of Houston’s leading wine professionals at the Houston Sommelier Association (photo by top Houston wine blogger Amy Gross).

Barone Pizzini manager Silvano Brescianini took time out from his Gambero Rosso Tre Bicchieri tour of the U.S. to spend a day in Houston, Texas, this week.

The highlight of his visit was the seminar and tasting he led at the Houston Sommelier Association, a group that offers weekly seminars and tastings to its members as well as anyone else who would like to attend the gatherings (free of charge).

As he walked them through Franciacorta’s different subsoil types and unique climatic conditions, Silvano was impressed by the members’ and other attendees’ professionalism and keen interest in the appellation and the wines.

But its was their collegiality and their sense of shared mission that really struck him as unique.

After the tasting, each participant — and there were roughly 30 people in attendance — worked to reset the room at Camerata (the popular wine bar where the events are held) and clean the 60+ glasses used for the tasting. It took the group about 10 minutes to turn the room around.

Houston is quickly becoming one of the A-list destinations for wine in the U.S. today and it’s not hard to understand why: the wine community there has the passion, drive, wine knowledge, talent and camaraderie that any major city needs to become a leader in fine wine.

Thank you again, Houston, Camerata, and the Houston Sommelier Association for your interest in Franciacorta and Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi!

We’ll post some dining highlights early next week. Stay tuned!

A note from enologist Leonardo Valenti on the 2013 Franciacorta Brut

best italy enologist

Above: Leading Italian enologist and consultant Leonardo Valenti visited the Barone Pizzini winery today where he tasted base wines for the 2013 Franciacorta Brut.

Notes on the 2011 Franciacorta Brut

Parcelization and balance in our work in the vineyards and in the cellar are the two pillars of our technical approach since the 2011 harvest.

The thing that makes our winery different from all the others in Franciacorta isn’t the winemaking technique but rather the unique characteristics of our vineyards, each with its own unique and unmistakable characteristics.

Employing the same winemaking process, you can obtain wines that are completely different from one another because their provenance is different.

Parcelization: every vineyard has its own characteristics and for this reason each parcel is managed differently in all phases of production (pressing, lees aging, clarification, etc.).

We manage 25 vineyards and each one bears unique fruit, an expression of that parcel. In the winery, we try to make the most of that difference by employing a different, ever respectful approach to each parcel via two paths:

-Customized treatments for each single parcel (no standard treatement);
-Careful use of the lees that helps to reduce the artificial nature of extraneous elements (thus the wine helps itself using its own tools).

Coordination between our work in the vineyards and in the cellar


Every parcel produces grapes with unique sensorial characteristics. The very shape of the berries reflects this diversity. The berry can more or less elastic and it can have a higher or lower juice content. For this reason, it requires a studied approach to pressing. Grapes with different characteristics cannot be pressed in the same cycle. We’ve also reduced the yields during pressing from 65 to 60% in order to increase the quality of our musts.

Lees Aging and Clarification

The must needs to be perfect. It needs to be nurtured the same way a child is nurtured as she/he becomes a healthy adult.

Once the wine reaches “adulthood,” it’s much harder to perfect it. The use of lees aging is an important tool in the wine’s development.

The lees allow us to reduce the amount of sugars used because they impart sweet components to the wine that help to create its balance. This means less artificiality and more longevity for the wine.

We should add that the lees capture oxygen and thus allow us to reduce the use of sulfur. Again, clarification is individualized for every single parcel. No standard approach is every employed.

This approach uses the vineyard and its grapes as its guide as we examine each parcel individually and then create the blend using the individually vinified parcels.

Leonardo Valenti

Cause for adultery? Barone Pizzini 2009 Franciacorta Rosé Brut & NV Franciacorta Brut

According to WineSearcher.com, both of these wines are available at a few retailers in New York.

barone pizzini rose

Made from 100% Pinot Nero grapes, the Barone Pizzini 2009 Franciacorta Rosé Brut is one of my personal favorites in the winery’s portfolio.

Last year, when I tasted the 2010 with the winery’s general manager, Silvano Brescianini, I told him that “my wife could possibly cheat on me with this wine.” It’s just so good and so decadent.

Last night, when we opened the 2009, paired with some gardiniera and lightly toasted bread, the fruit had that Technicolor quality that you only find in organically raised wines like this. It was that brilliant.

Red berry and even some white fruit notes, held together with a beautiful, delicate salinity (a hallmark of great Franciacorta). The wine was as good in on the nose and on the palate as it was gorgeous to behold in the glass.

Spectacular wine.

barone pizzini franciacorta brut

The non-vintage Franciacorta Brut is made mostly from Chardonnay with a smaller amount of Pinot Nero.

Most hold that Chardonnay is one of the world’s most transparent grapes and that no variety better expresses the character of the terroir where the wine is raised.

To my palate, this wine was a perfect example of that. Fresh and bright on the nose and on the palate, it had that subtle herbaceous character that — in my experience — sets the wines of Franciacorta apart from Italy’s other classic-method wines.

I’m a terrible blind taster, but I could have easily picked this out as Franciacorta were I forced to taste it blind.

A superb example of what Franciacorta should be and a great wine for the classic lake fish dishes they serve there.

I loved both of them and highly recommend them to you.

Jeremy Parzen
blog master

The origin of the name Franciacorta (isn’t what you think)

bruno vespa television italyIt’s widely known that the place name “Franciacorta” comes from an ancient toponym for the area, francae curtes, the free court, in other words, a “tax-free zone,” a designation probably owed to the fact that the monastery that helped to revive agriculture there was not subject to taxation.

But a few weeks ago, many Italian wine trade observers were surprised to learn that Bruno Vespa, the Italian television personality and journalist, was the first to suggest that classic method sparkling wines from the area be called Franciacorta.

In an article published in the November-December issue of Civiltà del Bere, the Italian media icon told an interviewer that he was approached by Franciacorta pioneer Maurizo Zanella, founder and owner of the Ca’ del Bosco winery. According to the interview, Zanella asked his advice as to what the Franciacorta consortium (founded in 1990) should call its classic-method sparkling wine, which was originally called “Pinot di Franciacorta” when Franco Ziliani released his first bottling in 1961.

“One day,” says Vespa, “Zanella came to me asking me for suggestions on how to launch Lombardy’s classic method wines. The first thing I told him was that he should avoid using the word spumante and instead call it [simply] Franciacorta. To make a long story short, I’m the one who gave him the idea. And I did it for free.”

The interview is available only to subscribers of the magazine. But it was also reported by leading Italian wine writer Luciano Ferraro for the Italian national daily Corriere della Sera wine blog, DiVIini Corriere.

According to Ferraro’s synopsis of the interview, Zanella did not deny Vespa’s account.

The Franciacorta DOCG was created in 1995. It is one of ten European appellations that have the privilege of using a place name, without any qualifier, to denote a wine. Of those ten, only three — Champagne, Cava, and Franciacorta — are sparkling wines. This sets them apart from appellations like Crémant de Bourgogne or Moscato d’Asti, for example.

Click here for the English-language Wiki entry on Bruno Vespa.