Contadi Castaldi Rosé NV
Centrally situated in Italy’s northern reaches – on the country’s figurative bootstrap about an hour northeast of Milan – Franciacorta touts its claim as the first appellation to achieve the coveted stamp of quality, the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita), for its sparkling wines. There, ancient winemaking history, tracing to the 1500s, carries with it trials and traditions that pay off for the present-day consumer, yet the level of quality the region pulls off with non-still wine is especially impressive. That’s because Franciacorta caught the sparkler wave fairly late; only within the past half century or so.
The success is due largely to low-yield vineyards, rocky terrain and the “traditional” method, or Méthode Champenoise, of performing the wine’s secondary fermentation in-bottle, following a first round that’s typically accomplished in steel tanks. The sugar and yeast added during the secondary process creates the carbon dioxide bubbles that tickle the palate and give well-crafted sparkling wine that indescribable X-factor enthusiasts crave.
Bubbly from this part of Italy is, as with Champagne or fine sparklers from other regions, produced primarily from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, dubbed Pinot Nero by paisanos. Pinot Bianco can also be used.
The Contadi Castaldi Rosé NV, available in Pennsylvania, is a firm substantiation of Franciacortan skill. At $22.99, it would prove a reasonable and delicious compliment to holiday festivities and feasting. It’s pretty in pink (more precisely, it’s a peach-rose tint), and balanced in style between fruit and dryness. Flexibility with food makes it a natural with cheese, poultry, pork, seafood and plenty more. I’d love to see how it volleys with a crab cake.
Rosés of Franciacorta are non-vintage by definition and must, by volume, contain at least a quarter Pinot Noir juice. The Contadi Castaldi, no exception, has a makeup of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir. It’s frothy from the first pour, converting to a slow climb of sporadic tiny bubbles that punctuate the brut (dry) style. It’s not all tongue-sucking astringent, though, as a kiss of berry provides a sweet, sweet lift in the middle before casting off into the mineral-dry finish. A terrific level of acid keeps the experience sharp and focused. At 13% alcohol content, you may want to check your inclination to cin cin liberally.