Let’s take a look at the most important terms found on Berlucchi Franciacorta labels: learning to recognise them will help you choose the best wine for the occasion and for your tastes.
In Italy, the only wines to which sugar can be added are sparkling wines. That’s why the sugar content of the wine is shown on the label.
From the driest to the sweetest – with the most common terms in bold – here is the sequence of sugar levels in Franciacorta wines:
Pas dosé, nature, zero dosage
Sec, secco o dry
Demi-sec o abboccato
However, our perception of sweet and bitter does not only depend on the sugar level, and we only perceive it clearly when the differences are large.
Even for an expert taster it can be difficult to distinguish an extra brut from a brut, or an extra dry from a dry.
Actually it does, and this often creates some confusion, because an extra-dry wine is certainly not bitter; in fact it tends to be almost sweet.
Then there’s the term demi-sec, which would suggest an “almost dry” wine, but in fact it is quite the opposite.
So if you don’t want to mistake sweet for bitter, pay attention to the label.
Another term you will find on the label, exclusively in Franciacorta wines, is Satèn.
It identifies a wine of the brut type with the particular characteristic of having a pressure of less than 5 bar – meaning the bubbles are more delicate – and of being produced only with white grapes, or blanc de blancs. As you would expect from a name that sounds like “satin”, Satèn wines are particularly silky on the palate.
In the case of Franciacorta wines, “riserva” indicates a wine that has remained on the lees for at least 60 months (5 years).
When we find a year on the label of a Franciacorta wine (2008, 2009, etc.), it means we are dealing with a “vintage” wine, and the year tells us when the grapes used to make the wine were harvested. To be precise, at least 85% of the wine contained in the bottle must come from the vintage indicated on the label. Vintage wines come from particularly successful years.
The term blanc de blancs identifies wines produced with white grapes only: in the case of Franciacorta this means Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. Blanc de noirs refers to wines produced only with red grapes: usually Pinot Noir. But as it is possible to make white wine with red grapes, we should not be surprised that a blanc de noirs is white in colour.
The term rosé identifies a sparkling wine made wholly or to a large extent from red grapes, which gives it its traditional pinkish colour. In Franciacorta, for example, Pinot Noir must represent at least 35% of the total.
On some sparkling wines you may still see the acronym V.S.Q.P.R.D., which has nothing to do with the historic Roman S.P.Q.R., but means Quality Sparkling Wine Produced in a Specified Region.
Some of these terms are clearly of French origin, because the classic method, once known as the méthode champenoise, originated in the Champagne production area of France.