Types of wine-growing
The forms of vine cultivation provide a historical record of the development of the vineyards and the cultivation techniques that have taken place in a given territory. In Franciacorta different types coexisted for several years depending on the age of the plant, providing evidence of the viticultural renaissance that brought rapid and significant change to this region in terms of its quality and landscape for the thirty years between the 1970s and 1990s.
If we trace the history of vine cultivation in Franciacorta, we can identify three essential phases. The first phase of planting took place in the 1960s and 1970s, and signs of that era remain in the last pergola plantings, the surface of is disappearing because the qualitative performance of these vineyards are no longer in line with Franciacorta current standards. The second phase of planting took place in the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. This was the era of choices driven by new demands to mechanise work in the fields, and producers therefore opted for forms of high-spur training like Sylvos, which then changed to Miotto or Casarsa. A small proportion of the vineyards are still grown in this way, but their production has been reorganised according to meet today’s quality criteria, with careful and evolved cultivation practices. The third phase in the establishment of Franciacorta’s vineyards took place around the 1990s. In that time there was a precise steering towards denser plants, with at least 4,000-5,000 plants per hectare, and with vines with reduced vegetative growth and limited production of the vine stock. The Codice Vitivinicolo (Wine-growing Code) had a fundamental role in determining this change. This was the technical document for self-regulation produced by the members of the Consortium, which imposed a minimum planting density of 3,300 vines per hectare. Since then, the planting strategy has been consolidated in keeping with this trend, with average densities of between 4,500 and 6,000 plants/ha, with some extreme densities of up to 10,000 vines per hectare. Today it is not disputed that the “grape quality” factor is linked to a limited production per stock, to the order of 1.5-2Kg. The current specification imposes forms of spur training, with guyot pruning or pruned-spur cordon training, and a minimum density of 4,500 plants per hectare. The consortium regulations, as always, are more restrictive, indicating a minimum investment of 5,000 plants per hectare.
Chardonnay Chardonnay, a very highly valued white-skinned variety, has now been grown in Franciacorta for several decades and currently covers over 2300 hectars of vineyards, which corresponds to approximately 80% of the total area.
The Chardonnay plant is characterised by medium vigour, with light green leaves and characteristic greenish to yellow, medium compact clusters and berries with thick, strong skins.
The wine made from this grape variety has an excellent consistency, and an intense, fragrant and complex aroma with varietal tones of fruit and flowers, good structure and pleasant freshness.
Chardonnay is mainly used in the production of the base wine of Franciacorta DOCG and only to a lesser extent that of the still wine Curtefranca Bianco.
Pinot Noir Pinot Noir is the second most widespread vine in Franciacorta and occupies about 15% of the total area. This vine, originally from Burgundy, has a variable behaviour that can sometimes cause it to interact unpredictably with the environment in which it is planted, but it can produce great results when vinified either in red or sparkling wine.
The Pinot Noir plant is quite sturdy and rustic, and normally has lobed and/or five-lobed leaves that are dark green in colour, with a pinecone shaped cluster that is very tight and small. Pinot Noir is used mainly in the Millesimati and Riserva varieties of Franciacorta DOCG, to which it contributes structure and longevity. It is also a necessary component for the cuvée of Franciacorta Rosé, at least 25% of which must be composed of this grape.
Pinot Blanc Pinot Blanc is the third most popular vine in Franciacorta. It is of French origin and belongs to the large family of Pinot. It now occupies about 5% of the total area. The Pinot Blanc plant has good vigour, its leaf is bright green and the cluster tends to take on less of a golden hue than Chardonnay, and is also much more compact in comparison. Pinot Blanc is not used on its own, either in the production of the base wines for Franciacorta or the Curtefranca Bianco still wines, but is used in the cuvée up to a maximum of 50%. The wine has a full and elegant body and good acidity. Its aroma is reminiscent of freshly baked crusty bread, and after development, has intense aromas of almonds.