Franciacorta v champagne: The fight of the fizzes

25 January 2017

Two bubblies went head to head in the fight of the fizzes last night at Osteria restaurant in London's Barbican.

The taste-off between classic champagne and Italy's franciacorta was designed to find which would fare best with a menu of salty, fishy and tart flavours, and which ones would we rather drink alone?

Round one, the Battle of the Blanc de Blancs, saw Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines NV go up against La Valle Franciacorta Satèn 2011. The wines were paired with a crab cracker, raw oyster and beetroot and seaweed relish dish. The Besserat de Bellefon, with its apple, pear and candied fruit flavours was delicate, but was full bodied on the palate, with the wine opening up with reveal hazelnut notes.

The high acidity cut through the salty, fatty oyster, clearing the palate and enhancing the flavour of the relish – a perfect pairing.

However the Franciacorta, 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Blanc , paired equally well; with a fresh, fruity aroma, the palate gave way to a dry, subtle fruity flavour with less fizz and a creamier mousse.

The texture of the mousse went well with the texture of the oyster and the subtly acidic flavours cut through the salinity of the dish.

However, the more subtle flavours of the wine enhanced the fatty, salty flavours of the dish. While champagne was our favourite, the franciacorta was a strong contender.

The next round, Classic Cuvée Clash, saw Henri Giraud Homage NV v La Valle Franciacorta Primum NV. Paired with seared scallops, Jerusalem artichoke and vanilla purée, both wines held up well.

The Franciacorta was a clear winner for us, balancing richness and fullness (typical of Franciacorta) with minerality. It paired perfectly with the creamy rich scallops, its mousse clearing the palate and enhancing the texture of the purée.

The final course, lemon tart with raspberries, showed that rosé is an ideal dessert wine, with its red fruit flavours and subtle sweetness. In the War of the Rosés, Brice Rosé NV was served with La Valle Franciacorta Rosé 11. Both wines fared very well, with Brice offering a sweetness and strong red fruit flavour that enveloped the mouth in creamy sweetness. Franciacorta paired excellently with this dish, a drier, less fruity rosé than the Brice. This lack of sweetness cut through the tart lemon flavours, a subtle pairing to a rich and creamy dish.

The evening once again proved how well sparkling wines work with food. While franciacorta is often missed from wine lists, it is a serious player in wine and food pairing, offering not a single bad match in the tasting. The fact that it has a slightly lower price point than champagne should make it more attractive still to sommeliers.

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