I went to the older sparkling wine producer of Italy.
For the ones who personally know me, it’s not a hidden fact that as soon as Franciacorta is compared to Champagne I launch lightening with my eyes … Mainly due to the fact that Franciacorta was born in the 60’s and Champagne in the 600’. How can you think that 40/50 years of knowhow can compete with 400 years of history?
Though I do think Franciacorta has been brilliant in marketing development, offering unique experiences around wine (live jazz music or picnics in the vineyards are a perfect illustration ); but it’s not the topic of today...
The other day my bf told me, it’s not because someone has been doing a process for a longer period that he does it better. Well it’s true, you could reproduce a process inappropriately for years and thinking to be correct.
I have been in Piedmont twice recently and discovered two wine producers both active in developing a specific typology of wine for only a few years, but already performing an excellent work.
Contratto is part of them.
The funny fact is that Contratto was born in 1867, making them the oldest sparkling wine producer of Italy.
In 1872, 200 persons get involved in the construction of their wine cellar in tuff limestone.
In 1900, they become expert in sweet sparkling wine called Moscato Champagne.
In 1910, they produce one million bottle per year!
In 1920, as a big part of their production was exported to England, they start to produce this wine named “for England” with a drier palate. Yes, as for Champagne, the English are still involved in the "Méthode Traditionelle" sparkling wine.
With the World war II and then the birth of Franciacorta, the wine house start producing less sparkling wine and more red wines and vermouth.
Contratto will have to wait 2011 and the arrival of La Spinetta, as new owner, to invest again in sparkling wine. They will first produce sparkling wine with pinot nero from oltrepo (Lombardy region)!
In 2015 they start acquiring vineyards in Alta Langa above 800 meters.
Today, they yearly produce 180K bottles, all “millésimées”. 3 Millions bottles are ageing in their cellar. All the “remuage” is made by hand, by one single person.
Why am I giving so many details around their story? Well, it’s because it took them less than 10 years to produce a premium sparkling wine, knowing they had lost 130 years of “know how”.
In an amazing cellar, Contratto is manually producing a simple, well executed sparkling wine, perhaps still lacking a bit of complexity and persistence for my palate. But they did accomplish an exploit and have a product that the foreign market can only love for a competitive price.
Last? Their lovely retro label to fall for, representing a woman drinking alcohol. The commercial was realized in the 20's but was never used as it was controversial to see a woman associated to alcohol at that time. Times have changed...