Stay tuned for more on our new labels and new line of wines…
So what is the SoloUva method anyway?
SoloUva is a method whereby classic-method sparkling wines are produced without the traditional addition of cane sugar to provoke fermentation or to top up the bottle before the wine is released. Instead, reserved grape must is used. Grapes alone go into the wines. As a result, the wines are a pure expression of the terroir where they are produced, not least of all because nothing extraneous is added to the wine.
In the 1960s, winemakers began producing classic-method sparkling wine in Franciacorta using the French model.
Classic-method sparkling wines are produced by creating a “base wine”; provoking a second fermentation in the wine using added sugar; carrying out the second fermentation in a pressurized environment (a sealed bottle); aging the now sparkling wine on its lees, i.e., without removing the dead yeast cells that result after the second fermentation; disgorging the resulting sediment; and the balancing the acidity and sweetness of the wine by the addition of sugar (or in the case of “zero dosage” or “nature” wines, foregoing this last step).
Historically, grapes have been harvested in Franciacorta before complete phenolic ripeness is achieved, when the grapes still have higher levels of acidity and lower levels of natural sugar.
Phenolic ripeness is the full development of the wine’s phenolic compounds, in other words, the elements that give wine its color, flavor, and texture (see this Wikipedia entry on “phenolic content in wine”; see also this excellent post on “Ripeness in Wine” by Jamie Goode).
Sugar ripeness is what determines its final alcohol level (fermentation is the result of yeast turning sugar into alcohol).
Keep in mind that this formula emerged and evolved in France where sparkling wines are traditionally produced in a continental climate, in other words, in a much colder place than the alpine climate of Franciacorta.
As in France, the approach was based on a model whereby cane sugar — an extraneous element — was added to compensate for the resulting high levels of acidity in the wine and to achieve the desired sweetness.
When the SoloUva team began experimenting with the application of reserved grape must in place of cane sugar, the winemakers discovered that it was indeed possible to provoke the second fermentation using the natural sugar in the previously reserved grape must (which is frozen at the time of pressing).
They also found that the natural sugar of the reserved grape must served as an ideal sweetening agent to achieve the desired sweetness or lack thereof.
Because they grew grapes in an alpine (as opposed to continental) climate, they furthermore realized that they were able to allow the grapes to ripen fully — a major break with the French and Franciacorta models.
Ultimately, they produced wines without the addition of any extraneous components (namely, cane sugar). And the wines they produced impressed them with their rich fruit character and tannic structure, traits that the winemakers ascribe to the ripeness at the time of harvest.
With the development and evolution of the SoloUva method, a new category of Franciacorta has emerged.
Is it better or worse than the canonical style? No, it isn’t better or worse. It is different.
Does it represent a new and more pure expression of the place where it is grown, the vintage’s growing cycle, and the sensibilities of the people who make it?
That is a question you can only answer by visiting us in Franciacorta and tasting these extraordinary wines.
On Tuesday, December 8, Italian wine writer Walter Speller (JancisRobinson.com and Oxford Companion to Wine) will be pouring Arcari e Danesi Dosaggio Zero in a tasting flight of sparkling wine selected by him at Quality Chop House Butcher in London.
Italy’s claim to fame for sparkling wines seems to be completely monopolised by Prosecco, while its world-wide success overshadows the fact that the country has a long history of making fine and highly individualistic Spumante. This wine class aims to show Italy’s breathtaking bandwidth of ancient as well as new styles.
Expect ancient metodo ancestral Prosecco, bottle-fermented single-vineyard Lambrusco, new-wave zero dosaggio Franciacorta, a replica of what Thomas Jefferson might have drunk in the Langhe at the end of the 18th century, classic method Sangiovese, as well as the first efforts with Barbera, complemented by truly exciting Asti and the traditional Fior d’Arancio. plus anything quirky and wonderful I can get my hands on.
Photo credit: Stefano Caffarri (Walter Speller’s Facebook).
While some of the content has lived previously on an earlier version, the new site includes English translations from the original Italian.
One that we are particularly proud of is the following poem by Arcari e Danesi and SoloUva winemaker Nico Danesi:
When the sun shines, the Apennines appear in the distance and the plains don’t seem so vast.
When it’s cloudy, our vineyard appears to float in the sky.
There’s a persimmon tree.
There’s an old snake.
There are falcons.
The din of the road below, the road we travel, the roads we know, the bridges we cross.
We sit on a rock and Giovanni and I pop another one open.
P.S. If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it. R.F.
The natural wine writer from New York Alice Feiring visited Franciacorta during harvest this year and she wrote about her experience this week on her blog, the Feiring Line.
Click here to read what she had to say about her visit, which was sponsored by the Franciacorta consortium.
She mentions SoloUva as one of the more promising producers in the appellation right now, although not everything she had to say about her time there and the wines she tasted was positive.
Positive or not, it’s always interesting to read her insights and we are glad that she was able to come here.
And thank you Lisa Marchesi for the photo!
1964 Cappellano Barolo. 1968 Mastroberardino Taurasi. 1977 Quintarelli Recioto. 1964 Antoniolo Gattinara. 1978 Giacosa Barbaresco Gallina.
These were just some of the wines poured last night to honor Italian wine writer Walter Speller at a dinner held in New York City at Maialino. Walter was in North America for the presentation of the fourth edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine, which includes his entries on Italian wine.
The flight of wines was selected by Jamie Wolff, owner of Chambers Street Wines and one of the leading collectors of rare Italian wine in the U.S.
And the wine they raised in hand to toast the man of the hour?
2011 Arcari e Danesi Franciacorta Dosaggio Zero.
We were excited when Jamie informed us that he would be pouring our wine at this momentous event. And we were even more happy to learn that Walter would be speaking about our wines alongside some of the greats of Italian winemaking.
Cheers, Walter! We are looking forward to reading your work in the Oxford Companion to Wine!
Above: Oyster culture in Seattle, one of the best places in the U.S. for molluscs and Franciacorta!
It seems like every week we learn about a new venue in the U.S. where you can order our wine.
And with every “placement,” as they call it in America, we achieve another little piece of our dream of sharing our wines with Americans.
It’s run by celebrity sommelier and author Rajat Parr, whom we’ve never met but whom we’ve heard is a super cool guy.
What a thrill and an honor for us to be included on his list!
And wow, we’ve also heard that RN74 is one of the best places in America for oysters. We can’t think of better west coast pairing!