Alain Ducasse’s three Michelin star restaurant at the Dorchester was the setting for the launch of Ca’ del Bosco Edizione 45 and a full range tasting of Maurizio Zanella’s other Franciacortas from this prestigious North Italian estate. Dodging the blue lobster risotto, ceviche, caviar and top cuvées from the Vintage Collection was our own Victor ‘take-one-for-the-team’ Smart who came away suitably impressed.
“The minerality, the structure and the finish are all there: this is not a substitute for champagne, but an equal,” writes Smart about the new Ca’ del Bosco wines.
Two years ago, former Michelin star chef Roger Jones accorded Ca’ del Bosco’s line-up of wines a rapturous review in The Buyer. The Cuvée Prestige Edizione 43 was “forthcoming, textured, and elegant” while the Prestige R.S. Edizione 30 was “a superlative fresh, bright, clean wine, so pure and special”. He was equally taken by Maurizio Zanella, the estate’s founder, a man’s “whose presence brings sunshine to the room”.
This month and the Italian producer is back in London to release his latest Edizione 45 at the Dorchester in Mayfair (which boasts three Michelin stars). It’s worth remembering that a few years back, not everyone had been won over by Franciacorta’s virtues – one distinguished wine writer saying sniffily of it, “so what?”
But it is evident that Zanella is taking his Franciacortas on a bold, decades-long journey towards perfection.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Franciacorta is a sparkling wine made in the traditional way (like champagne) in a region not so far from Lake Garda in the north of Italy. It was awarded DOC status in 1967 and since 1995 the DOCG classification has applied exclusively to the sparkling wines. Thanks to its low volumes of production (a stark contrast to champagne) outside Italy it has always been one of those wines that are a bit less well known.
For decades Zanella has been assiduously cultivating Franciacorta’s prestige with the aim of making it a stand-out amongst sparklers. In fact, he proclaims that his wine is “not a sparkling wine, it’s a wine that just happens to have bubbles”. And a glance at the label reveals that – at the request of the local producers – Franciacorta is not described as a sparkling wine at all. Neither does the label explain that it is made by the metodo classico – nor is the DOCG even mentioned. No one expects that the label of a Brunello di Montalcino says “red wine”, points out Zanella.
At the Dorchester we are greeted with a glass of the newly released Edizione 45 (12.5% abv, £32 RRP ex VAT). This is largely, but not entirely, a 2020 vintage with Chardonnay (82%), Pinot Néro (16.5%) and a tiny amount of Pinot Bianco. In this rarefied line-up of sparklers we are tasting, the Edizione range with 25 months on the lees qualifies as the entry-level wine. Extra brut, this is still youthful but is bright and lively with rich stone fruits. And it comes in A distinctive orange wrapper.
And on to Ca’ del Bosco’s Vintage Collection
With the serving of blue lobster risotto and pecorino romano we move on to what’s branded as the winery’s Vintage Collection.
We start with the Dosage Zéro 2018 (12.5% abv, £49 RRP ex VAT). With 48 months on the lees, disgorgement takes place in the absence of oxygen to avoid oxidative stress or the need for additional sulphites. Then on to the Satèn 2018 (12.5% abv, £49 RRP ex VAT), gentle and creamy, and the Extra Brut 2018 (12.5% abv, £49 RRP ex VAT).
What’s immediately apparent is that Italy’s upmarket fizz can be every bit as good as a champagne at the same price. The minerality, the structure and the finish are all there: this is not a substitute for champagne, but an equal. And the style seems much closer to the French than English sparklers with their more distinct fresh apple notes and more noticeable acidity on the palate.
After tuna ceviche, furkikake, seaweed mayo and tabiqo caviar we conclude with a wonderfully light tiramisu accompanied by the top-of-the-range Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2014 (£98 RRP ex VAT). With an ABV of 13%, slightly higher than you would expect in a sparkler, this comprises Chardonnay (76%), Pinot Blanc (9%) and Pinot Noir (15%). This manages that supreme feat of being both rich and delicate at the same time plus it boasts a long and persistent finish.
I leave with just one regret. Zanella apparently also produces a sought-after still Chardonnay which we have not tasted. Something for next time perhaps.
Ca’ del Bosca wines are distributed in the UK by Berkmann Wine Cellars.