Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Premium Sparklers of il Mosnel, Franciacorta, Italy

Christian G.E. Schiller with Lucia Barzanò, il Mosnel

The 4th European Wine Bloggers’ Conference was held in Brescia with Consortium of Franciacorta, the local sparkling wine, as the main sponsor. During the conference, I participated in an evening visit of il Mosnel di Emanuela Barboglio e Figli in Camignone di Passirano, which included a gorgeous dinner prepared by1 star Michelin Chef Stefano Cerveni from due colombe. I will report on the food aspects of the evening in a separate posting.

Franciacorta: Grape Varieties

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc are the 3 grape varieties of Franciacorta. Chardonnay is the most important one, accounting for 85% in terms of plantings. Pinot Noir (10%) and Pinot Blanc (5%) follow with a sizable distance. The designations for dosage are exactly as those of Champagne.

A Short History

Unlike the Champagne region, which can look back to several centuries of fame, Franciacorta’s history is very short. It started only 50 years ago, when Franco Ziliani produced a couple of thousand bottles of a sparkling wine for the Guido Berlucchi winery, which sold very well. It sold so well, that over night, the region of Franciacorta was born and the well-equipped and architecturally varied wineries we know today sprang up within a short period of time to establish the region.

Christian G.E. Schiller with the General Manager of the Franciacorta Producer Consortium, Giovanni Salvioni

Types of Franciacorta Sparklers

There are 5 main types of Franciacorta sparklers:

Franciacorta – Chardonnay and/or Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco up to 50% of the blend. Even this regular non-vintage wines need to be aged on lees for 18 months, and then in bottle for further 7 months. Can come at different dosage levels.

Franciacorta Satén – Must be a Blanc de blancs with only the use of Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco permitted. Possibly the most approachable and unique style in Franciacorta, with lower (4.5 atmospheres of pressure instead of 6) pressure and therefore creamier feeling of bubbles. Must be aged 24 months (almost half as much again as Champagne's requirement). Always brut. Saten is a Chardonnay-dominated, creamy, soft-textured wine with fine mousse and restrained perlage.

Franciacorta Rose – Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero (at least 25%). Can come at different dosage levels. A Franciacorta Rose must contain at least 15% Pinot Nero.

Franciacorta Millesimato (Vintage) – At least 85% of the grapes must come from the same vintage. Aging period increases to 35 months. Can come at different dosage levels.

Franciacorta Riserva – This is a Millesimato, although it may also be a Saten or Rose. Needs to be aged on lees for 60 months, and then in bottle for further 7 months. Can come at all dosage levels.


There are about 200 producers in Franciacorta, with a total output of 13 million bottles. The total vineyard area of Franciacorta is 3000 hectares. As opposed to Champagne, there are no big Estates in Franciacorta, which buy grapes from other producers. Franciacorta producers own vineyard land and grow the grapes they need for their sparkles themselves. Production of a Franciacorta producer rarely exceeds 400,000 bottles. One exception is Guido Berluccio, the largest producer, accounting for 1.5 million bottles of Franciacorta (in addition, Guido Berluccio produces 2.5 million other sparkling wine). 85% of Franciacorta is sold in the country.

The Still Wines of Terre di Franciacorta

Franciacorta is not sparklers only. In the same area, still wines are also produced, both white and red, under the appellation Terre di Franciacorta (or Curtefranca). The red Terre di Franciacorta is produced with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes.

An Evening at il Mosnel with Lucia Barzano

In the heart of Franciacorta, in Camignone di Passirano, lies the historic villa of il Mosnel with its 16th-century wine cellars and surrounding properties that the Barboglio family inherited in 1836. Directing il Mosnel di Emanuela Barboglio e Filgli today is the fifth generation of winegrowers, the children of Emanuela Barboglio. Giulio Barzanò oversees production and sales, while Lucia Barzanò directs marketing, external relations, and administration. Emanuela Barboglio was in 1968 one of the first to produce DOC Franciacorta sparklers. She passed away in 2007.

Giulio Barzanò and Lucia Barzanò 

In 1976 the name of the winery was changed from Azienda Agricola Barzanò Barboglio to the current il Mosnel, a local dialect word, of Celtic origin, that means "heap of stones." Il Mosnel produces 250,000 bottles a year with Franciacorta accounting for 90%.

Grape Varieties and Vineyards

We saw a little bit of the vineyards, when we arrived at il Mosnel. Il Mosnel has 40 hectares of vineyard area, of which 38 hectares under the Franciacorta DOCG. 35 hectares of the Franciacorta DOCG are planted with Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay; the rest with Pinot Noir. The (remaining) DOC vineyards are planted with Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon) and Merlot for the production of red wine. The vineyards are all around the winery. Everything is hand-picked using a team of 60-70 pickers.

In the il Mosnel Winecellar

After a welcome drink and an introduction by Lucia Barzanò, we toured the winery. The cellars are located in historic structures from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, providing good conditions for ageing Franciacorta wine. Lucia explained: “il Mosnel was among the very first producers in the area to adopt stainless steel fermenters, refrigeration facilities, and pneumatic presses.”

Lucia Barzano on how il Mosnel Franciacorta is made: “The grapes, all from our estate vineyards, are harvested into shallow boxes and are quickly brought to the cellar, where they go through a painstaking quality examination. The clusters are then gently pressed in several cycles, which yields three fractions of must, each of different quality. These lots are then fermented separately, at controlled temperatures, either in small oak barrels or in steel fermenters, depending on each lot's ageing potential.”

“During maturation, the wines, all subdivided according the grape variety, vineyard, and press fraction, remain in contact with their own spent yeast, or fine lees. In the spring, the wines undergo a lengthy series of careful tastings and are then blended, in varying proportions, into the various stylistic versions of Franciacorta. They will then be given a second fermentation in the bottle, a procedure known here as the Metodo Franciacorta.”

The Wines that were Poured by Lucia Barzano

During the fabulous dinner prepared by 1 star Michelin Chef Stefano Cerveni from due colombe, on which I will report in a separate posting, Lucia poured the following wines.

Chef Stefano Cerveni from due colombe

Il Mosnel Franciacorta Pas Dose

We started with the Il Mosnel pas dose, a blend of 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Bianco and 10% Pinot Noir. This cuvée spends 30 months on the lees. It has subtle full bouquet, crisp and dry on the palate, elegant texture, long-lasting mousse with extremely tiny bubbles.

Il Mosnel Franciacorta Brut Saten 2007

Produced exclusively from Chardonnay, partly fermented in stainless steel and in small oak barrels, the Brut Satèn has a dosage of 8 gm per liter and a little less pressure than the other Franciacorta sparklers. At least 30 months on the lees. A rich bouquet with some hints of vanilla, the leisurely mousse caresses the palate with great finesse.

Il Mosnel Franciacorta Rose Brut

A very attractive Rosé Brut, made from 20% Chardonnay fermented in small oak barrels, 20% Chardonnay fermented in stainless steel, 20% Pinot Blanc fermented in steel and 40% Pinot Noir fermented in steel after a brief maceration on the skins, which gives the typical pink colour.

Prettily pink with lots of red fruit flavors and enough acidity in the finish to be refreshing, quite elegantly toasty and spicy.

Il Mosnel IGT Sebino Passito Sulif 2009

In addition to its Franciacorta ultra-premium sparklers, il Mosnel also makes (1) Curtefranca Bianco DOC, a wine made of 60% Pinot Blanc and 40% Chardonnay, (2) Curtefranca Rosso DOC, a red wine composed of 25% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Nebbiolo and 10% Barbera and the IGT Sebino Passito Sulif.

The latter is produced solely from Chardonnay grapes that were dried for several months before fermentation. The grapes loose over 50% of their moisture during the drying period; this is then followed by a long, slow fermentation, in small barrels. Straw wines are typically sweet wines, capable of long life, but do not have to be sweet.

schiller-wine: Related Postings

The Wines of the 2010 Giro d'Italia

Italy's Top Wines - 2011 Gambero Rosso's Vini d'Italia Wine Guide

Meeting Winemaker and Owner Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy and Tasting His di Lenardo Vineyards Wines

In the Glass: 3 Easy Drinking Wines from the Soave Region in Italy

The Wines of casa 236 in Italy – Peter Schiller

In the Glass: 2010 Pinot Grigio, Venezia Giulia IGT, Attems, Italy

Kobrand’s Impressive Tour d'Italia 2011 in Washington DC, USA

The 2010 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Vienna

Blogging, Wining and Dining at the European Wine Bloggers Conference (#EWBC) October 2011 in Brescia, Italy – A Tour D’ Horizont

Wining and Blogging in the Soave Region, Italy

Christian G.E. Schiller’s Views on Soave – a Video Interview

1 comment:

  1. Marco Giovanni ZanettiJanuary 24, 2012 at 8:24 AM

    This is truely good and authentic Franciacorta!! No huge Marketingmachine or a big brand. Excellence in every bottle!

    Outstanding without the philosophy of making a champagnecopy... Thenx Christian G.E. Schiller