Lombardia has a number of so-called lesser appellations, and Botticino, a red from the Alpine foothills to the west of Brescia (mid-way between Brescia and Lake Garda), is one of them. To be honest, the major reason Botticino is obscure is the volume produced; were the appellation larger, and more wine available, it would be much better known.
The climate and topography of the Botticino appellation resemble those of Piemonte, but the winemakers have been wise enough not to tangle with Nebbiolo, which is extraordinarily picky regarding where it is planted, and instead work with a mixture of at least 30% Barbera, at least 20% Marzemino, at least 10% each Sangiovese and Schiava Gentile, and up to 10% other non-aromatic red varietals permitted by the Province of Brescia.
The wine must be fermented and bottled locally. Botticino D'Annata cannot be released until the June following the harvest, while Botticino Riserva must age for at least a year, and cannot be released until the second November after the harvest. Minimum Alcohol contents are 11% for the vino d'Annata and 12% for the Riserva.
This year the Azienda Franzoni sent me three wines to taste.
Franzoni Ronco del Gallo Botticino DOC 2007
Lot 0942, 13% alcohol
Pale cherry ruby with brilliant reflections and cherry rim. The bouquet is fresh and vinous, with lively sour berry fruit -- cherry and some currants, with other dark wild fruit as well -- supported by bitter underbrush and some wet tree bark, with slight graphite shavings and a fair amount of alcoholic warmth. Scrappy, and rather tomboyish. On the palate it's bright, with lively sour cherry acidity that has some graphite laced bitterness to it, and some underlying minerality, with slight cedar as well, and tannins that have a savory burr and flow into a long rather sour finish. It's as brash on the palate as it was on the nose, and if you're coming from softer smoother international-style wines you'll think you have landed on a different planet. But it is welcoming, leaving the palate clean, and is the sort of wine that will work very well with mixed grilled meats or even fried meats and vegetables. F you're more traditionally minded and like this style you will enjoy it considerably.
Franzoni La Foja Botticino DOC 2006
Lot 3201, 13.5% alcohol
Deep cherry ruby with black cherry reflections and rim paling to ruby. No real signs of almandine yet. The bouquet is elegant, and richer than the Ronco's, with more seductive berry fruit laced with slight hints of cedar, and a little less acidity -- where the Ronco was brash, this is slightly more curvy, the tomboy grown up as it were. Quite pleasant to sniff. On the palate it's deft, with fairly rich slightly balsamic sour red berry fruit supported by moderate rather balsamic acidity and by tannins that have wet leafy underbrush accents and flow into a clean underbrush laced finish. It's more refined that the Ronco, but cut from the same cloth, with an interplay sourness and grape tannins that is much more traditional than international, and it will work nicely with grilled meats (less fatty cuts than the Ronco; I would think about a steak) or light stews that aren't too spicy. It is still quite young, and will age nicely for another 2-3 years, though its current freshness is also quite enjoyable.
Franzoni Foja d'Or Botticino Riserva DOC 2004
Lot 3271, 14% Alcohol
Deep black cherry ruby with black reflections and cherry rim that has slight almandine accents; the wine is 8 years old and the colors are starting to shift. The bouquet is deft, with red berry fruit supported by slight cedar with hints of almonds and some savory notes, and also slight nose tingling spice, with some alcohol as well. On the palate it's medium bodied, with rich sour cherry fruit that has fairly bright raspberry acidity -- the Barbera in the blend -- supported by deft rather mineral acidity with some graphite shaving bitterness, and savory accents that flow into a long rather savory sour berry fruit finish. Very nice, with beautiful balance in a fairly traditional key; it again revolves around the interplay between fruit and acidity, while the tannins support and provide backbone without distracting cedar or other influences. Very pleasant, and if you like this style you will enjoy it very much; it is ready now, but will also age nicely for another three to five years at least, assuming you have the patience. I'm not sure I would. In terms of accompaniments, succulent not too fatty red meats, either roasted or off the grill.
A last thing to note: for their more important wines, Botticino's wineries employ a bottle called a Deformata Piemonte, which resembles an Albeisa-style bottle, but has a twist in it that throws it off-center. Looks a bit odd, but fits the hand very well and is easy to pour from.
More about Botticino, from Roberto Giuliani's fantastic writeup of Italian appellations.
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