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Winery of the Week • Bellavista

Bellavista commands a sweeping view of the entire Po Valley, the enchanting Lake Iseo, reaching all the way to the foothills of the Alps.

Bellavista is true to its name, “Beautiful View”.

A sweeping vista over the entire Po Valley, the enchanting Lake Iseo, reaching all the way to the foothills of the Alps. If you stood on the other side looking back at Bellavista, you would no doubt be also moved to exclaim “Bellavista”.

The same is true of Bellavista the wine.

The Franciacorta is made with chardonnay and pinot noir (and 1% of pinot bianco in their flagship Brut)to the same exacting requirements of champagne. The Franciacorta sparkle is created organically in the same bottle – via the secondary fermentation – that reaches your table and into the awaiting glass (I hope it is a large one).

Vittorio Moretti bought the hill of Bellavista in 1977 in order to build his house. As a hobby, he planted pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot bianco.

If the stunning view at Bellavista inspired the name of the hill and the winery, Bellavista the wine is no less riveting. A bottle – better still a magnum – of Bellavista can properly be translated as “Beautiful Bubbles”.

The person responsible for Bellavista is Vittorio Moretti, a self-made man whose business acumen is only matched by his artistic personality. Wealth alone does not buy good taste. Sensitivity and a cultured mind are the prerequisites. Vittorio Moretti possesses an abundance of both, like his wines with their endless trailing bubbles.

An understated person, Moretti is quick to acknowledge the important contributions made by Mattia Vezzola. The oenologist joined the winery in 1981 and is pivotal in defining the Bellavista style.  In 2007, Gambero Rosso-Slow Food – Italy’s most famous wine guide – named Mattia Vezzola “Oenologist of the Year”. Sine then, more bottles of Bellavista have gone on to tickle the fancy of what is now a worldwide following.

The origins of the first bubble can be traced to 1977 when Vittorio Moretti bought the hill of Bellavista. At the time, there was nothing there except hill and forest. The future vigneron had acquired Bellavista in order to build his house. And, as a hobby, planted pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot bianco. A thriving business in construction was not enough material to satisfy the visionary and satiate his intellect. Bellavista began as a house, a garage, a lot of passion but was not supposed to be a winery. But, the seed was planted.

La Franciacorta is both the region and the wine. Situated between Milan and Verona, Franciacorta is in Lombardy, just outside the bustling City of Brescia. The origin of the name is not vinous but political. Franciacorta is derived from the two Latin words Franchae Curtes which mean “Free Region”. During the Middle Ages, the area was protected by the church which exempted the region from taxes by the Venetians.

The sparkling wine we refer today as Franciacorta was made only as recently as 1961. Prior to that, reds and still whites were produced including from merlot, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. The Franciacorta DOC (DOCG in 1995, the first for an Italian sparkling wine) was created only in 1965 and the permitted varieties are chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot bianco (pinot meunier is not allowed). The last variety is permitted because of its suitability to the soils of the region which can comprise lots of minerals – including deposits of skeletal shellfish – because more a million years ago this was a glacier, which then melted away.

Mattia Vezzola joined Bellavista in 1981.  In 2007, Gambero Rosso-Slow Food – Italy’s most famous wine guide – named him “Oenologist of the Year”.

Franciacorta regulations stipulate that Brut has a minimum 18 months on lees in bottle while vintage must see at least 30 months. At Bellavista, they strive for greater quality and the minimum ageing of wine and lees in bottle is 36 and 48 months for Brut non-vintage and vintage respectively.

Bellavista owns 206 hectares of vineyards. Annual production is around 1.5 million bottles. Sparkling wine takes up 95% of that while the balance is still wine. The flagship Brut in the distinctive orange label alone commands 1 m bottles. The biggest bottle size for a bottle of Bellavista is Salmanazar, the equivalent of 9 litres or 12 standard 750 ml bottles.Annual production of Franciacorta is about 17 million bottles from 3,000 hectares of vineyard. (Champagne annual production is about 300 m bottles).

Sixty to 65% of the sparkling wine at Bellavista, the primary fermentation is in 228-litre barrels. Not a single one is new. The minimum age of the barrels is seven years with the maximum being 42 years (the age of the winery). The rest is fermented in stainless steel tank.

Bellavista owns 206 hectares of vineyards. Annual production is around 1.5 million bottles. Sparkling wine takes up 95% of that while the balance is still wine.

About 65% of the wine is fermented in 228-litre barrels. The minimum age of the barrels is seven years with the maximum being 42 years (the age of the winery).

Bellavista Alma Brut

You may also want to read … Bellavista Alma Gran Cuvée Franciacorta Brut (from magnum)

Bellavista Alma Non Dosato

Bellavista Saten 2015

You may also want to read … Bellavista Brut 2014

Eighty percent of all Franciacorta produced is greedily consumed within Italy. The balance is exported. For Bellavista exports are approaching 25%. Japan is the top market followed by Switzerland and the USA. This is more or less the case also for other producers. Bellavista, though, stands unique in a singular regard.

La Scala is arguably the most famous opera house in the world. Inaugurated on 3 August 1778, most of Italy’s greatest operatic talents and many of the finest singers of the world have performed there. The opening night of the pride of Milan is officially declared by a Franciacorta. Any Champagne house would give an arm and a leg to be so honoured.

Just as the view from the winery and the bubbles in the bottle are beautiful, the sublime, soaring human voice deserves nothing less than Bellavista.

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