Franciacorta is produced in the traditional method rather than the charmat method used by Prosecco, creating wines with greater complexity and finesse.
But production is tiny compared to Prosecco: Franciacorta produces 16.5 million bottles annually compared to Prosecco’s 500 million.
Franciacorta only exports around 12% of its production and just 5% comes to the UK, which equates to around 100,000 bottles, meaning very few Brits have sampled the delights of the region that lies an hour west of Milan.
But that could change as producers increase their focus on exports. Japan and the US are the leading markets, but exports to the UK have grown by more than 100% over the past couple of years, albeit from a small base (Consorzio Franciacorta).
Mosnel is one of the larger Franciacorta producers, but its total output stands at just 250,000 bottles a year. In line with the region, it exports around 12% of its wines, but it wants to increase its focus on the UK and drive value into the sparkling wine category.
Its wines are stocked at London merchant Vini Italiani and are available via Amazon and Uvinum, but it is seeking a UK distributor to expand its reach, and it would like to see more independent wine merchants take on its wines.
Co-owner Lucia Barzano told OLN: “It’s not easy to work in the UK. It’s a very big market for Champagne. But it’s also a very big market for sparkling wine lovers. We are looking for an importer in the UK and we would like to grow the number of stores that sell Mosnel.”
Mosnel, which recently rebranded from Il Mosnel to make it friendlier for exports, was one of the stars in a Judgement of Paris-style blind tasting where Franciacorta performed well against Champagne.
It has a 39ha vineyard that is organic certified and all grapes are hand-harvested, with none bought in. It commands a far higher price point than Prosecco, but it is good value when compared to Champagne.
Mosnel produces seven SKUs and its top expression is its EBB, named after Emanuela Barzano Barboglio, mother of current owners Lucia and Giulio and one of the pioneers of the region.
It was Emanuela Barzano Barboglio that first started to focus on the traditional method, known as the Champagne method or in Italy the classic method, instead of the charmat method, setting Franciacorta as a region famous for premium sparklers (catwalk models and A-list guests at Milan fashion shows now drink Franciacorta instead of Champagne).
EBB is 100% Chardonnay and was first released in 2003. The 2012 is now ready, meaning the producer could offer dozens of guests a first even vertical tasting of the wine spanning a decade when they gathered at the winery.
They are elegant, nuanced sparklers that get richer and more interesting with age, and the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2009 were particular highlights among several of Italy’s leading wine writers.
Vini Italiana has sold the 2008 EBB for £33.50, a very competitive price compared to a vintage Champagne.
The main challenge for Franciacorta when it comes to exports is overcoming barriers created by the ubiquity of Prosecco – the star performer in the UK drinks trade with sales up 34% in the past year but carrying a low average price point close to the £6 mark (IRI).
Barzano said: “Prosecco makes it difficult. When we face a new market outside Italy and speak about Italian sparkling wine people always say Prosecco, and we have to explain Franciacorta.
“It’s not so easy to explain the difference, because now Prosecco is a big successful wine all over the world and it’s now the Italian sparkling wine. We have to tell our history and our specificity and it takes a little time.
“Prosecco makes 500 million bottles and Franciacorta makes 16.5 million, so we don’t have the numbers of Prosecco and we will never have that. Franciacorta can reach 20 million bottles in some years and that’s it.
“We don’t want to conquer the world, but we would like to gain new interesting markets. It’s difficult to convince more people to pay more for Franciacorta, because we are between Prosecco and Champagne, but I can see some markets growing and I think it’s possible.”