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UK ‘culture of wine’ central to Franciacorta’s export drive

Published:  11 March, 2019

Franciacorta is positioning itself as ideal for “a new drinking demographic”, with the UK at the forefront of a renewed export drive.

Speaking at Hide restaurant in London, new president of the Franciacorta Consortium, Silvano Brescianini, identified the UK, Germany, US and Japan as its main targets for growing exports, with work also beginning in Hong Kong and Canada this year.

Switzerland overtook Japan as Franciacorta’s prime export market in 2018, with proximity to the region playing a factor.

“The percentage of exports is very low, because it just seven years ago we started to export out of Italy, and Italians – luckily for us – love Franciacorta,” said Brescianini.

“We are a small region, producing an average of 17-18 million bottles, from around 100 wineries, but we want to introduce Franciacorta as a wine, as a region, around the world.

Brescianini, a producer and ex-sommelier, added that while the UK would not be a major volume market for the high-end sparkling wines, its importance lay as a place for “wine culture, for talking about wine.”

“Your country, for us, is not a main volume market outside of Italy, but the UK is a very important place for raising [awareness], from Singapore to Vancouver”.

Brescianini was joined by Tom Harrow, the UK ambassador for Franciacorta, who described Franciacorta’s mix of being sparkling, good quality, of lowish dosage (and thus lowish residual sugar) and moderate alcohol levels, plus its affinity for food as being idea for engaging with “ a new drinking demographic” of younger wine consumers.

Franciacorta also ticks many sustainability boxes, with 70% of the vineyards being farmed organically, and ongoing projects in partnership with Padua University looking into how better to capture and keep CO2 in the vineyard soils, along with work into better understanding the relationship between soil types and wine style (a central aspect of terroir).

Severe frosts in 2017, which saw the vintage down 50%, will have some impact, slowing the export ambitions of this 3,000 ha regions, said Brescianini, but a healthy 2018 and hoped for a good 2019 harvest should help rebalance inventories of wines in the cellars.

Asked about the ‘P’ word – Prosecco - Brescianini politely corrected insinuations from some of the assembled UK wine writers that Prosecco doesn’t really count as a wine and that “if they drink Prosecco, does that mean they enjoy wine?”.

“We are all in the wine business, we have to remember that the consumption of wine is dropping down in Europe, so as a wine producer, if a new generation is enjoying wine, that is good news – Prosecco is a positive if it’s the way to bring a younger generation to drink wine,” said Brescianini.

News that a legal amendment by the Franciacorta Consortium to allow the ancient indigenous grape Erbamat to finally be used in production was also formally announced at the lunch tasting.

Erbamat, which ripens between six and eight weeks later than Chardonnay, will join other base white grapes Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero in some blends, bringing lower sugar but high acidity to the final wines.

“It’s a local variety that we’ve been introducing for two years, which farmers left behind because it was hard to ripen, but I personally believe, with its high acidity and lower sugar, that it represents a good opportunity to help with climate change as it has been native to Franciacorta for many centuries,” said Brescianini.