Last summer I went to Italy for the month of August. That sounds super fancy, I know, but I do not have the funds to be considered fancy by any stretch of the imagination, so please withhold your judgement and snark for the time being. Though I do really love the snark. I was able to go because Bossy cashed in her airline miles to get me a gratis ticket (which was insanely generous) and we had a free house to stay in Panicale in Umbria.
Panicale is ideally located right next to the Tuscan border, so driving around from cute little countryside village to walled gothic town was really easy (well, for the most part considering I did get car sick for the entirety of the month, which was less about Italian roads and more about the driver of the rented Cinquecento but whatever).
The first day trip we took was to Montepulciano (where my beautiful copper stock pot was forged), and it was one of my favorite places in the whole of Tuscany because of the breezy, beautiful walled in spot on the top of a hill overlooking the region. It was a gorgeous day and we were lucky enough to have access to the best wines of the region in the numerous bars that dotted the peak of the city.
The word “montepulciano” isn’t just a place name, it is also the name of a type of grape cultivated in central and southern Italy; Montepulciano, the city, is known for its red wines (vino nobile di Montepulciano) though they are generally made with sangiovese grapes, and not montepulciano variety, just to be as brain-scrambling as possible. Confusion is, after all, the ultimate Italian pastime.
Anyway, we should have been drinking the specialty of the city, and naturally that didn’t happen with Bossy and me being, well, Bossy and me. I love the bubbles. It’s one of the reasons I became a Francophile and attempted to learn menu French. But I do not and did not love Proseco at the time, for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on-- was it created differently? Why is it so sweet? And would people please stop bringing the cheap stuff from Trader Joe’s to my house because it gives me a headache... According to wikipedia (no judegement, please) “Unlike Champagne, its main commercial competitor, Prosecco is produced using the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks, making the wine less expensive to produce.” So maybe I just don’t like it because it’s cheaper. I am nothing if not super superficial.
So I asked the local who was sitting at the bar next to me what he was drinking--it had a beautiful yeasty-tint and very fine bubbles. He said it was Franciacorta. I blinked my eyes in rapid succession.
Did I know nothing of bubbles? Had I not had a sparkling variety from every wine producing region in France, California, Italy and Australia (yes, I’m a drunk)? How was it possible that I’d never heard of this. I assumed it must be bad.
Despite the fact that Franciacorta wasn’t made anywhere near where my ass was sitting at that moment and that it may be a bit of an insult to the Montepulcianinos, I ordered a glass as my Italian wine guide barfly explained to me that Franciacorta is made in the méthode champenoise in one tiny little town in northern Italy and it’s the only Italian sparkling made this way. And he offered a bit of trivia-- that the Romans were the first to plant vines in northeastern France. Yes, Italian regionalism seems to even apply to France.
But I digress. The bubbles are very fine. The glass was crisp, yeasty, delicious and refreshing. I won’t get too much more specific with my notes (was it peach? I don’t know). I don’t really remember since this was a YEAR ago, but I will tell you a nice bottle of Franciacorta is the perfect thing to drink in Montepulciano on a hot August afternoon with your Bossy, terrible driving, curly-haired blonde friend. Or in Houston, Seattle, New York, Boston, Toronto or Los Angeles if you can find it.
So after I got back last year I went to my all-time favorite wine shop, K & L Wines (ask for Steve Greer) and had a heart to heart with Mr. Greer. I challenged him to “make Franciacorta happen”. Well, in true “Mean Girls” fashion, I am Gretchen Wieners and even though my father invented Toaster Strudel, I just haven’t been able to get anyone interested in it out here. I think I drank all of the bottles K & L ordered, but I did enjoy every single one of them. Come to think of it, I might have gotten a little lucky after serving it. Hmmm. I may need to order up some more.
But YOU, Regina George, YOU can make it happen... call up your wine purveyor and ask for it. You won’t regret it, I promise!