Franciacorta is a rural area with a lengthy history and traditions.
Opinions as to the name's origin differ widely, but the most convincing is that it derives from francae curtes, small medieval communities of Benedictine monks who obtained exemption from taxes and duties in exchange for teaching the local inhabitants how to grow vines.
Still marked by the original boundaries, Franciacorta is an area renowned for the production of sparkling wines of the same name, made according to the classic method, with slow fermentation in the bottle.
All wine bearing this name is obtained from grapes grown in this area, which is delimited to the north by Lake Iseo, to the east by the foothills of the Rhaetian Alps that separate Valle Camonica from Val Trompia, to the west by the river Oglio and to the south by Mt. Orfano.
Franciacorta DOCG is Italy's prime sparking wine, the country's first and bottle-fermented Brut to obtain this recognition, in 1967.
Franciacorta production, though, is not limited to sparkling wine. The Terre di Franciacorta DOC status was awarded to still white and red wines in 1995.
The Franciacorta method was recognized in 2003 by the European Community as the maximum expression of excellence and quality.
Various combinations of Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir grapes are used to make the wine, which ferments slowly in the bottles in contact with the yeasts for at least 24 months for non-vintage and at least 30 months for vintage Franciacorta.
There is nowhere in Italy quite like Franciacorta, where wine makers have found just the right balance between modern technology, development, experimentation and tradition, bringing the area worldwide renown.
One of the best ways to discover what this area has to offer is to take time off to visit some of the numerous wineries to be found here.
Many are in ancient villas and palaces still steeped in the fascination of the past. Other more recent ones blend in with their natural surroundings of vineyards and gardens.
Perfect examples are the Bellavista and Contadi Castaldi wineries belonging to the Terra Moretti group.
The Bellavista, founded in 1977, lies on a verdant hill of the same name, that offers magnificent views of the ancient park, woodland and vineyards, stretching as far as Mt. Orfano, Lake Iseo and the pre-Alps.
The Contadi Castaldi winery was inaugurated in 1987. It occupies the former brick-kiln of Biasca di Adro, an interesting building erected in 1880 and later converted – using state-of-the-art preservation methods – into an ideal place for refining Franciacorta wines, where long arched underground passages, separated by thick walls, maintain the optimal temperature and moisture level.