Villa's Franciacorta Selezione Brut is, as one might guess from the name, a selection made only in the best vintages, to show the finest that the winery has to offer. Production is very low, 2-4000 bottles per year, made from the best bunches grown in the estate's vineyards.
As a rule it's 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, which are barrel fermented using a mix of mostly old and some new barrels; the cuvée is then assembled and the wine spends 5-6 years on the lees. The liqueur is fairly light; residual sugars are about 6%, and the wine is disgorged about a year prior to release. The 95 Villa Franciacorta Selezione Brut has been available for 15 years by now, whereas the 2005 has not yet been released.
Villa Franciacorta Selezione Brut 1995
This is the last of this wine -- they thought they had more, but they don't. Fairly brilliant yellow gold with brilliant brassy reflections and slight greenish highlights. The bouquet is rich, with caramel and spice mingled with minerality and pleasingly minty balsamic accents, some underlying bitterness, slight honey, and hints of peat smoke of the sort Isla whiskeys exhibit. On the palate it's full and creamy, with rich caramel laced savory notes mingled with some melted butter and pleasant dried apple, while the sparkle is deft and savory, and flows into a long slightly sweet zabaione laced finish. It's very fresh, and if one were asked to guess the vintage one would likely get it wrong. These are wines of the sort one remembers eagerly.
Villa Franciacorta Selezione Brut 2000
Brassy yellow with brilliant brassy reflections and faint hints of green, and also fine perlage. The wine looks a touch younger than the 2004. The bouquet is powerful, with intense gunflint and hints of caramel mingled with dried apples and some pungent bitterness. Graceful and quite elegant. On the palate it's quite mineral, with very clean mineral fruit supported by peppery accents from the sparkle and slight vegetal accents - celery - mingled with sea salt and spice, and it all flows into a fresh mineral laced finish. Tremendously fresh, and given the reputation of the vintage, which saw an extremely hot August, it comes as a bit of a (positive) surprise. It invites large sips.
Villa Franciacorta Selezione Brut 2001
This was disgorged in 2007. Brilliant brassy gold -- it's more charged and more yellow than the other wines served to before it -- and fine steady perlage. The bouquet is intense, and ripe, with caramelized notes and savory notes mingled with spice and slight bitter accents. On the palate it's fresher than the nose, with considerable minerality supported by savory notes and sea salt with hints of bitterness, but only hints, supported by creamy sparkle and by deft minerality with hints of green apple crispness and slight butterscotch laced honey as well. Great depth and extremely elegant, and a wine that is very pleasant to drink. The palate is a little richer and more interesting than the nose.
Villa Franciacorta Selezione Brut 2004
Brilliant brassy yellow with slight greenish highlights and fine steady perlage. The bouquet is fairly intense, with gunflint laced with honey and spice mingled with some hardwood ash and pleasing spice. On the palate it's crisp, with bright mineral laced dried apple fruit mingled with savory unripe peach, supported by a sparkle that starts our creamy and then gives way to peppery notes, and flows into a fairly long honey laced finish with pleasant mineral accents and slight spice. Nice length, especially of the savory notes in the finish. It's more savory than the 2005, and brighter, and while this is in part youth, it's also attributable to the vintage.
Villa Franciacorta Selezione Brut 2005
Prerelease sample, unlabeled as of yet. Brilliant brassy gold with brassy reflections and moderately intense fine perlage. The bouquet is fairly intense, with savory lemony fruit supported by gunflint and some spice, and by some greenish vegetal accents. On the palate it's bright, with lively lemony fruit supported by peppery sparkle that isn't quite integrated yet, but rather stands out and flows into a fairly long peppery finish with a savory citric underpinning. It is still recovering from having been disgorged, and is in an angry phase; but promises well for the future. It needs another year at least to come together.
I began with the still wines and then progressed to the Franciacorta:
Villa Campèi Sebino Chardonnay IGT 2010
Brilliant brassy gold with brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet s fairly intense and rather ripe, with tropical fruit, in particular slight banana supported by greenish vegetal accents and pleasant underlying savory notes, followed by some gunflint as it opens, while tart wild strawberry also emerges. On the palate it's ample and full, with fairly rich savory gunflint laced wild strawberry supported by warm peppery spice and moderate minerality that flow into a fairly mineral finish with underlying wild strawberry fruit. It's fairly direct, a wine that one could set out with vegetable or fish based dishes, and be fairly certain of soon needing another.
Villa Pian della Villa Curtefranca Bianco DOC 2008
Brassy white with brilliant brassy reflections and white rim. The bouquet is deft, with pleasant minerality laced with loquat and some dusky shadowy accents with some greenish savory overtones. Nice balance. On the palate it's fairly full and quite mineral, with gunflint laced struck granite more than fruit supported by fairly bright minerality and slight citric accents that flow into a fairly long bitter mineral finish. Pleasant in a fairly rich though not opulent key, and will drink nicely with lake fish or white meats, and also with roasted sea fish. Quite a bit of power, well balanced by minerality more than acidity that provides guidance.
Villa Gradoni Curtefranca Bianco DOC Rosso 2007
Deep black almandine black reflections and almandine rim. The bouquet is heady, with ripe cherry and berry fruit supported by greenish slightly balsamic accents and acidity, cedar, hardwood ash, and by quite a bit of peppery spice with underlying alcohol. Quite charged, and very intense. On the palate it's bright, with lively graphite laced forest berry fruit supported by considerable minerality and tannins that have a graphite laced peppery burr and flow into a long worm mineral berry fruit finish. Pleasant, in a powerful and rather brooding key, and will drink well with roasts or stews; the tannins have a pleasingly smooth feel to the, while the fruit is ripe but not into opulence. Quite substantial.
Villa Bianchi Roncalli Barbera Sebino IGT Barbera 2007
Alessandro Bianchi made this to demonstrate the potential of the estate's terrains, and it's a one time thing, a Barbera from the Gradoni vineyard that is going to be released only in Magnum-format bottles. It's aged in oak, and then in bottle. Deep black almandine with black reflections and almandine rim paling to brownish white. The bouquet is fairly intense, with cedar laced red berry fruit supported by greenish notes, spice and some alcohol, and by considerable warmth as well. On the palate it's bright, with fairly lively sour cherry fruit supported by bright peppery spice and by tannins that have a warm peppery burr and flow into a fairly long hot peppery finish with powerful greenish alcohol and some underlying sour berry fruit. It's a classic well oaked Barbera, and if you like the style you will enjoy it considerably. If you are more of an unoaked Barbera fin it won't work for you. A wine that takes no quarter, but is what it is. This in a tasting situation; if you serve it with a steak or grilled lamb chops your guests, unless they are hopeless wine geeks, will be very happy regardless of their feelings about oaked wines.
Villa Franciacorta Satèn 2008
30 months on the lees, Lot 12.11
Pale brassy yellow with brilliant brassy reflections and greenish highlights, and fine steady perlage. The bouquet is elegant, and rather luscious, with honeydew melon and minerality mingled with some citric accents and some greenish notes. Welcoming and rather seductive. On the palate it's fairly full, with pleasant loquat fruit supported by deft mineral loquat acidity and by the sparkle, which contributes creamy peppery accents, and flows into a clean fresh seductively soft finish in which citric accents emerge. Quite pleasant in an easily approachable key, and a wine that those who like sparkle but are not fans of the bone dry end of the spectrum will enjoy very much. It is also a good wine for a romantic occasion.
Villa Emozione Brut Franciacorta 2008
85% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Bianco, 10% Pinot Noir. This is the 30th vintage this wine, and to celebrate the occurrence they changed the packaging, devising a new label and giving it a new name, Emozione, which sums up what they feel about it. Pale brassy yellow with greenish highlights and brassy reflections, and wine steady perlage. The bouquet is deft, with savory minerality mingled with gunflint and some heather, and also some brambly accents with some greenish overtones. Quite pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's mineral, with moderately intense citric acidity supporting minerality and the sparkle, which fades gradually through pepperiness into clean minerality with a moderate citric mineral underpinning and moderate sweetness that continues at length. It's quite elegant, with quite a bit to say in a fairly seductive key.
Villa Cuvette Franciacorta DOCG 2006
Lot 2 10-11, 42 months on the lees
85 % Chardonnay, 15 Pinot Noir; some of the wine spends time on oak. Pale brassy gold with greenish highlights and brilliant brassy reflections, while the perlage is fine and continuous. The bouquet is intense, with minerality and some gunflint laced with ripe white fruit, some honey laced greenish accents, and slight butterscotch as well. On the palate it's bright, with considerable minerality supported by some dusky graphite shaving bitterness and conisderable salinity, and it flows into a clean slightly savory decidedly mineral finish with peppery sparkle that gradually fades into savory citric notes. Quite pleasant, and is a wine that has a lot to say. One could simply open it with friends, but it also has what is necessary for it to work well with foods.
Villa Extra Blu Franciacorta Extra Brut 2007
Lot 03 12
This is 90% Chardonnay, 10 Pinot Noir, and 30% goes into wood briefly prior to bottling; it then spends at least 42 months on the lees. Pale brassy green with brilliant brassy reflections, greenish highlights, and fine continuous perlage. The bouquet is fairly intense, with caramel supported by slight greenish vegetal accents and some gunflint, and by pleasantly tart mineral spice. On the palate it's dry, with considerable crisp minerality supported by peppery sparkle and pungent vegetal acidity that flows into a fairly long very mineral finish. Very pleasant minerality, and it will be a very fine aperitif, or a wine to drink with fish or white meats. The first sip seems fairly direct, but there's a lot going on and it is quite refreshing. I hated to pour it out.
Villa Diamant Pas dose Franciacorta 2005
Lot 202 - 11
85% Chardonnay, 15% Pinot Noir, 48 months on the lees. Pale brassy greenish yellow with brassy reflections and greenish highlights, and fine steady perlage. The bouquet is intense, with gunflint and struck granite mingled with spice and greenish vegetal accents, and pleasant underlying minerality. On the palate it's quite dry, with lemony minerality supported by mineral acidity and slight pungent accents that flow into a long savory decidedly mineral finish. Quite nice, with very pleasant savory accents that flow into a clean decidedly savory finish. Quite pleasant, and a wine that one could drink with foods, especially antipasti, but that would also be nice far from the table. Much to think about.
Villa Selezione 2004 Franciacorta Brut
Pale brassy yellow with brassy reflections and greenish highlights, and fine steady perlage. The bouquet is intense, with deft greenish accents mingled with butterscotch and minerality, and by greenish accents and peppery spice, with some underlying gunflint. On the palate it's ample and fairly soft, with bright minerality and some dried apple fruit supported by clean peppery notes and hints of caramel that flow into a fairly long decidedly mineral finish. Very pleasant, and will drink quite well as an aperitif or with friends far from the table.
For more about Villa, which is also a beautiful place to visit, with a fine agriturismo and a nice restaurant, check their site.