Above: three of my closest friends and some of the most talented winemakers I know, from left, Andrea Rudelli, Nico Danesi, and Giovanni Arcari. Photo taken in Houston at La Mexicana.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about my cherished friendship with winemakers Giovanni Arcari and Nico Danesi and my new partnership with the Arcari + Danesi winery and the SoloUva (Just Grapes) project. But Giovanni and Nico are just two of Franciacorta’s Three Musketeers: the other is another good friend, winemaker Andrea Rudelli (who shares my passion for guitar playing and rock music).
While Giovanni and Nico manage their group’s vineyard on Montorfano (Mt. Orfano) in the southern edge of the Franciacorta appellation, Andrea oversees the group’s vineyard in Adro township, smack-dab in the center, just below Lake Iseo, the appellation’s defining geographical feature.
While fruit from the Montorfano vineyard is used to produce the Arcari + Danesi line, Andrea’s Chardonnay vines, which are more than 30 years old, are employed in the production of the group’s SoloUva label. The Arcari + Danesi wines are the group’s higher tier, while SoloUva, made from 100 percent Chardonnay, is made in a fresh and approachable style. All the wines are produced today using the SoloUva method, whereby no cane (or beet) sugar is used to provoke the second fermentation or to top the wines off at disgorgement (the dosage). Instead, reserved grape must is used. Hence, the name SoloUva or “just grapes.”
When I call the trio the Three Musketeers of Franciacorta, the metaphor is by no means facile or gratuitous. Together, the three winemakers have bucked the Franciacorta system. And they’ve ruffled more than one feather in the process. They developed the SoloUva method themselves and they were the first in the appellation to make wines using this process. But they also gave birth to the “grower Franciacorta” movement: not only did they encourage other small estates to stop selling their grapes to the négociant houses in Franciacorta when they initially launched their consulting business over a decade ago, but they also led the way by example when they started bottling their own “estate-grown” fruit.
Franciacorta is an appellation shaped primarily by large wineries, owned by a handful of powerful families. For many of those families, grape growing and winemaking aren’t the primary sources of their income. Industry is. Together, Andrea, Giovanni, and Nico have led the new wave of young Franciacorta producers who grow, bottle, and market their wines themselves — as their primary income stream.
That’s not to say that the big wineries don’t make fantastic wine. Many of them do. (Pour me a drink and I’ll tell you my favorites.) But like Dumas’ Musketeers, the SoloUva team has challenged the monarchic status quo. And Giovanni, through his excellent blog, Terra Uomo Cielo (Earth, [Hu]man, Sky), has shed light on the way the current appellation system favors the big gals and — how can I say this gently? — hinders the smaller potatoes.
So if these guys really are the Three Musketeers of Franciacorta, does that make me d’Artagnan? Sorry, Giovanni. I know you wanted to be d’Artagnan. But remember: united, the four of us will face l’Éminence rouge!
US Ambassador for SoloUva
If you’re in Southern California this weekend, come taste with me and Giovanni in San Diego on Saturday (details below). And I have great news to share with my fellow Texans: the group will soon have a Texas importer and Giovanni and I will be showing the wines in Austin and Houston next week. Just let me know if you’d like to taste with us.
SoloUva tasting with
winemaker Giovanni Arcari
Saturday, February 25
@ Jaynes Gastropub (San Diego)
$25 per person
includes light bites by Jaynes
4677 30th St.
San Diego CA 92116
Registration not required but please shoot me an RSVP email
to let me know that you are coming so that we can get a headcount.