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4 Days in Franciacorta: Wine, Beautiful Landscapes and Elegant Fare

Written by Rachel Tepper Paley

Where to eat, drink, and stay in this famous sparkling wine region.

The first thing that strikes me about Franciacorta is the lushness of its landscape, which I glimpse through the window of my shuttle van. I’ve recently landed in Milan, and the roughly hour-and-a-half journey from the Italian fashion capital quickly has my party winding through endless fields of vineyards that swooped over ancient hillsides. A light rain shrouds the region in mist, exaggerating the green all around us and lending the fields an emerald glow.

The area is famous for its eponymous style of sparkling wine produced in the traditional method, which will accompany every meal for the next few days. Grapes grow all around: Rows upon rows of Chardonnay, which occupies more than three-quarters of the total surface area. There’s also Pinot Nero, the second-most planted variety, plus smaller amounts of Pinot Bianco and the indigenous variety Erbamat. The soils, I learn, are mineral-rich, full of stones and other debris left behind by glaciers that defined this region during various ice ages. Today, precariously steep hills are all that remain of the region’s glacial past.

One could spend weeks exploring the small towns and lakeside sights in this remarkable corner of northern Italy. But with four days—and a taste for superlative sparklers—there’s plenty of time to experience the region’s top offerings.

The view of Ferghettina. Credit: Archive photo

Day 1

Our first stop is Ferghettina, whose hilltop winery affords majestic views of the surrounding landscape. In the distance, we spot Lake Iseo. Inside, many wines are poured from an unusual-shaped bottle, square on the bottom with pyramid-shaped sides. The untraditional shape, designed by founder Matteo Gatti, allows the wine increased contact with the lees—2.5 times more than with customary round bottles. Glassfuls of Ferghettina Franciacorta prove the point better than words ever could: They deliver finesse and flavorful notes of citrus and crusty bread, plus fine, persistent bubbles.

In the evening, we bunk at Cappuccini Resort, a hilltop relais ensconced in a former monastery dating to the 16th century. Rooms have a rustic elegance, with exposed wood beams and views of the property’s manicured gardens.

Dinner, at the hotel’s restaurant, features perfectly cooked risotto enriched with asparagus and barely-cooked scampi, a lobster-like crustacean with pale pink flesh. It’s perfectly complemented by a glass of Franciacorta Rosé Brut Clarabella 2019,which confers excellent structure and minerality with notes of cherry and bread.

Day 2

The day begins with a visit to Contadi Castaldi. The bottles here are different from those I’ve seen before, with shorter necks and a reduced diameter at the base. The result, again, is increased surface area inside the bottle on which flavorful yeasts are deposited—equivalent to that of a classic magnum or jeroboam bottle. I’m especially moved by the Satèn, a sparkling style only found in Franciacorta. These sparklers are soft and creamy—satin-like, in fact—and are exclusively made from white grapes at lower bottle pressure. Contadi Castaldi’s 2018 Satèn bottling presents with steely minerality alongside lifted aromas of yellow peach, baked apple and brioche.

Lunch is at the Franciacorta Golf Club, which is fittingly nicknamed the “Wine Golf Course.” The standout dish is the butter and sage-anointed casoncelli, a cheese-filled style of stuffed pasta traditional to Lombardy. It’s expertly paired with a powerful Franciacorta Extra Brut Ca’ Del Bosco Vintage Collection from 2019, with exquisite notes of apple and pear.

The casoncelli at Franciacorta Golf Course. Credit: Archive photo

Afterward, we conclude our visit with a private golf lesson on the pristine driving range with one of the club’s on-site teachers. In just 20 minutes, I go from not being able to make contact with the golf ball to hitting it to the 25-meter marker. A win if I ever had one!

Dinner, at restaurant Cadebasi, features a flight of dishes that highlight the flavors of Franciacorta with a modern twist. An intriguing pasta enlivened with peas, sweet-tart kiwi kimchi and oyster foam is a standout—especially when paired with Franciacorta Brut Majolini, which offers notes of yeast, vanilla and hay.

Credit: Rachel Tepper Paley

Day 3

At Barone Pizzini, Franciacorta’s first organic winery, we learn that the name Franciacorta appears for the first time in 1277. It derives from the Italian “corti franche,” which were medieval villages exempt from tax or levies. We leaf through a dusty but well-maintained book—we’re shocked to see it was printed back in 1596.

Standout sips include the Naturae, which is made with grapes that, in part, come from a higher-elevation vineyard. The limestone-rich soil delivers a noticeable mineral note, which complements the wine’s rich structure and enthusiastic acidity.

A toast with Franciacorta at Dina. Credit: Rachel Tepper Paley.

Day 4

Our last day, the trip ends with a visit to Mosnel. I’m struck by the Brut Nature bottling, which presents clean notes of citron and grapefruit with aromas of hawthorn, honeysuckle and verbena.

It’s an ideal complement to the lunch that follows, which turns out to be a DIY affair: A cooking class. The winery’s chef leads the group through making handmade tagliatelle, which boasts a golden, nearly saffron hue courtesy of rich egg yolks. It’s paired with a straightforward, but complex salame-infused ragu; the Brut Nature’s bracing acidity expertly cuts through it.

Returning to the airport, the mist that had ensconced the trip finally lifts—the vineyards that flick past us are dappled in sunshine. This is a beautiful corner of the world. We’re all plotting our return to this place—and our next glass of Franciacorta.