Ferghettina – sparkling wine in square bottles?

There is a restless about the human spirit. At its best there is a constant searching for improvement and development, new ways of doing old things, or indeed, doing new things.  When it comes to sparkling wine there are broadly two ways of working if you want a quality product – second fermentation in bottles, the classic method, or second fermentation in pressure-containing tanks, known as Charmat/ Martinotti. There might be all sorts of minor variations on these two methods, including the transfer method, but in principle that is it.  So there is a relatively little to play with in terms of innovation. But Italian winemakers are endlessly exploring the possibilities of minor modifications which might turn out to be important. For an interesting twist on the tank method (pressurised tank as a giant bottle), see the post on Collavini, but here we are focussing on bottle fermented wines.  How can the process of the development of aromas and flavours in a bottle-fermented sparkling wine be further enhanced?  What about a square ended bottled with flat sides? 

IMG_2023IMG_2027The character of classic-method sparkling wines is often expressed in terms of length of time on the lees during and after second fermentation has taken place in the bottle.  Once the sugar has been consumed by the yeast, the yeast cells die and a complex series of interactions take place which create the biscuit or brioche range of aromas we associate with good Champagne.  Dorigati in Trento told us about handling each bottle once a year, giving it a shake and putting it in a new stack – but they have relatively few bottles.  Others just keep the wine on its yeast deposit in bottles for three, four, five or more years.  But what about increasing the area of contact between the deposit and the wine?  This is Ferghettina‘s novel approach, achieved by creating a sparkling wine bottle with a square base and flat sides.  What happens naturally is that the dead yeast cells drop to the bottom of the bottle (which is lying on its side) and, in a bottle with flat sides, that means that more wine is in contact with the lees.  And of course it gives you a highly distinctive bottle to put on the shelf – a giant perfume bottle if you will.  The only real disadvantage is that the bottles need to be made of more glass to be strong enough to have squared off edges and resist six bar of pressure.  As the bottles are made of clear glass, they also need a protective cellophane wrapper to provide a UV filter to protect the colour of the wine – but that adds to the image. 

The company currently produce and market two wines in the new bottles.  While I did not find them to be markedly different from other comparable wines, they are very good examples of a Franciacorta Brut and a Rosé. You would only really be able to tell the difference that the bottle does or doesn’t make by tasting the same wine matured in different bottles – and I am sure they have done that.  Milledì Franciacorta Brut 2007 is an excellent vintage wine with a fine sharp palate. None of the top Franciacorta wines are unbalanced, but they tend of course to the riper end of the spectrum, given the warm climate. In this example the balance of the yeast related notes, the fruit and the acid is very impressive.   Equally good is Franciacorta Rosé 2007, also in the new bottle, 100% Pinot Noir, with very subtle red fruit, a restrained bouquet but with real structure, excellent fruit and convincing length on the palate.

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IMG_2017And of course there is something else you can do with the new shape bottle – it makes a very fine avant-garde light fitting too!  Joking aside, Ferghettina are making very good wines.  They have won a series of prizes for their wines (especially the Extra Brut, not tasted on this occasion), and show every sign of being one of Franciacorta’s best ambassadors. And with innovation in the winemaking and packaging, the indications for the future are very good.  

With many thanks to all at Ferghettina. 

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