Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d’Italia 2017. Stage 21: Monza — Milano

The finale of this year’s Giro is an idividual time trial. The stage starts at the Monza race course. When I was young, which is longer ago than I like to admit, I was very interested in motor sport. This interest has faded. But Monza is a classic. Years ago it had a normal race course and an oval with banked curves. The Oval is no longer in use. The speed was too high, even for Formula 1. Monza is a dagnerous course, and still the speed is high. During the history, 52 drivers and 35 spectators have been killed at Monza. It is a fast time trial today, but far from the speed of formula 1 motor racing.

The move “Grand Prix” from 1966 shows a full round at the old course, including the oval:

The fatal crash at the end of the movie, happened at the oval at Monza. Special effects in movies have improved since 1966.

Today it is cycling, not motor racing. The riders start with a full round at the race course (not the oval), before going into Milan. It is a fast stage, which goes more down than up. The big question is if Nairo Quintana has a sufficient lead over Tom Dumoulin before the time trial. But a time trial at the end of a three weeks grand tour is different from a time trial earlier in the race.

The time trial is a race for the riders with ambitions in the general classification, including the white jersey for the best young rider. As far as I can see, there are noe time trial specialiasts, the type of Tony Martin or Fabian Cancellara in the race, who will go for a stage win. For those without GC ambitions, the race is over. They have to comlete the time trial within the time limit.

We start our wine journey about 50 km to the east of Monza, near the town Brescìa.
Here we find a wine worthy of a grand tour final. Italy’s best sparkling wine: Franciacorta. The first sparkling wine was made in this area in 1961n by the wine maker Franco Ziliani at Guido Berlucchi. They had learned from champagne.

Their success got others into sparkling wine production. The demand was growing fast, really too fast. There were not enough grapes from the area, and in the 1970s Berlucchi started to buy from other areas in Lombardy. And the quality declined.

Franciacorta was saved by some rich nobelmen and businessmen, with Maurizio Zanella at Ca’ del Bosco and Vittorio Moretti at Bellavista as the leading figures. With some other producers, they had a vision og making a sparkling wine based on quality only. In 1990, 29 producers formed a consortium to define the criterias for production of Franciacorta. It was not before 1995 that Franciacorta became a classification for sparkling wine only. Up to then, it had been a classification for both still and sparkling wines. There is another classification for still wine, Curtefranca. But we will not open this wine now.

It is very unusal that a wine region can build a reputation as good as Franciacorta over a relatively short period of time. In Italy, franciacorta is more popular than champagne, but it is not as well know outside of Italy. Not very much is exported.

As with any quality product, good raw materials are crucial. The top sparkling wine producers have not only copied the production method from champagne, but also the grapes. Champagne is made from the three grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, where Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are regarded as the noble grapes. For franciacorta they use Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Bianco. The grapes are hand picked.

Sparkling wines start a still, usually white wines. The colour is in the skin. If the skin is sifted from the grapes, we get at white must. It is possible to make a white wine from red/black grapes. If the skin is sifted from the must after a short time of fermentation, we get rosé. Some sparkling wines are made as a rosé.

The wine is fermented to a relatively low level of alcohol, 105 — 11,5%. The yeast die at a certain level of alcohol. As the wine will go through a second fermentation, it cannot be to strong. The wines, or cuvées are blended from these still, base wines. They may use wines from different years in a blend, if it is not a vintage wine. This is difficult, and they need a lot of experience. The blended wines will go through a second fermentation, where the level of alcohol goes up one percent (to a 1% higher degree, not by 1%), it gets carbonic gas and will be stored for a long time. They have to predict what the final product will be like, after these changes.

New must and yeast are added to the blended wines, and it is bottled. Then the second fermentation happens in the bottle. The better sparkling wines are stored with the lees, dead yeast cells etc, for a long time. For champagne the minimum requirement is 15 months, for franciacorta 18 months. For vintage wines, longer periods are regiured. The better producers will store their wines for much longer periods. This is important for the taste of the wines.

The bottles are roteated slowly, and gradually canged from horisontal to vertical position (top down). The sediments will then sink down to the cork. The neck is frozen by putting the neck in cold liquid. The sediment freezes to an ice plug. When the bottle is opened, the pressure in the bottle will should out the ice plug, the bottled is topped up with wine, corked, labeled and is ready to enter the marked (usually after another few months of storage).

They use selected, high quality grapes that are expensive. The process is complicated and long lasting. It should come as no surprise that high quality sparkling wine is expensive. As usual, there will be champagne for the final stage into Paris in Tour the france. We will come back to champagne July 23rd.

Det er utvalgte og relativt dyre druer. Prosessen er komplisert og langvarig, så det er ikke overraskende at vinen blir dyr. Som vanlig vil det bli champagne til avslutningsetappen på Tour de France inn til Paris, så vi kommer mer tilbake til dette 23. juli.

This was all for Giro d’Italia this year. We will be back for Tour de France in a month, and in october we will know the route for Giro d’Italia 2018, and can start the planning for next year.

Tom Stevenson: Christie's World Encyclopedia of Champagne & sparkling wine

1402772246This book is the international refernce when it comes to sparkling wines. The title says Champagne & sparkling wine, and it should come as no surprise that champage get the broadest coverage. Og the book'a 500 pages, 150 are dedicated to champagne, 50 to a general introduction to sparkling wine, and 300 pages to sparkling wines from other regions than Champagne. More than 1600 wines are rated.

Buy it from Amazon UK or Amazon US.


Italian Wines 2016

Italian Wines is published yearly by Gambero Rosso. This is a detailed guide to Italian Wines. 22 000 wines from 2 400 producers are listed in the book. If you want to fine the best wines from the various regions of Italy, this is your guide. This is a type of book I usually use when I am visiting producers, to find the producers to visit.

The book is available in a paper edition and a Kindle edition. One year, I bought the Kindle edition. But for this kind of book, I prefer the paper version. It is available from Amazon UK on paper and for Kindle. And from Amazon US in paperback and as Kindle edition.

Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d'Italia 2017

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