Cortefusia is one of the most exciting projects in Franciacorta. It’s a collaboration between Daniele Gentile (winemaker) and Gigi Nembrini (agronomist), and I caught up with Daniele and his partner Elisa over dinner to hear the story and taste the wines. Gigi had planned to come but apparently the night before was a big one and he couldn’t face another.
Daniele and Elisa returned from travels abroad and started a small boutique winery back in 2010. ‘The winery was born when we both came back to Italy,’ says Elisa. She was a biologist (a PhD scientist) working in the USA while he was working as a winemaker in Margaret River. Their idea was to make Franciacorta the way they liked it: drier with more minerality.
As young people they got some assistance from the government to help turn the building they’d bought into a winery and equip it with tanks and a press. Deciding to go ahead with the project was quite impulsive. ‘There was this crazy night when everyone was drunk and we said tomorrow we should make a winery,’ explains Daniele.
He is a real wine geek, and while his friends were playing Playstation, he was drinking wine. ‘I started drinking wine at 18/19 and it is my passion,’ he says. He studied enology at university and then worked at COS in Sicily, and then in La Marche. He also worked at Cullen in Australia.
None of their families had a background in wine. They rented some old vineyards that had been abandoned on the Monte Orfana, which is a specific terroir in Franciacorta. It faces south, is warmer than other parts, and has much older soils. Orfana is 26 million years old, with conglomerate soils, while the rest of the region is the result of glacial activity and is just 600 000 years old. Altogether, they are renting 8 hectares of vines, and this usually means around 35 000 bottles a year, but this can fluctuate. 2017, a year of spring frosts, saw them make 17 000 bottles, while in the abundant 2018 vintage they made 52 000. They don’t really want it to go beyond 50 000 bottles, which is a comfortable size for them.
I asked Daniele about pressing and his eyes lit up. I’m crazy about pressing, he said. They use a 2.5 ton pneumatic press, and he loads it without any turning. He starts it, increases the pressure, and doesn’t turn. He might decrease the pressure and then increase it again, but when he turns, then the juice that comes out is the second selection. 30-35% of the juice is the first selection, then the second selection is a further 20-25%. The third selection is sold off.
They farm organically but aren’t certified, and yields from these hillside sites are a third of those on the flats. ‘Our first aim is to drink our wines,’ says Daniele. For example, while many people make Satèn that is a bit sweet and soft, theirs is much tauter and mineral: they aren’t trying to appeal to the market.
No barrels are used for base wines, just steel tanks.
Cortefusia Franciacorta Brut NV Italy
2018 base wine year, 26 months on lees, 70% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, 10% Pinot Blanc. This is precise and linear with nice acidity and pure, pithy citrus fruit, as well as a nice hint of bitterness on the finish. This is very precise and quite mineral. Lovely stuff, showing purity. 92/100
Cortefusia Franciacorta Rosé NV Italy
2018 base year. Full pink/red in colour, this has nice density and presence with sweet cherry and raspberry notes. There’s a lovely citrus drive, too. Dry and quite mineral with a lovely harmony and a tapered finish with some subtle saline notes. 92/100
Cortefusia Franciacorta Rosé NV Italy
2015 base year, disgorged in March 2018. Powerful and spicy with some notes of orange peel, honey and intense citrus fruit, showing good structure. There’s a hint of smoke and some mineral intensity. Very fine. 94/100
Cortefusia Franciacorta Satèn 2017 Italy
90% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Blanc. 36 months on lees. Complex and finely spiced. This is mineral and dry with crystalline citrus fruit. Fine, pure and delicate with good acidity. Pristine. 93/100
Cortefusia Franciacorta 2015 Italy
This is 80% Chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, and spent 56 months on lees. Complex with ripe pear, citrus and apricot notes, as well as honeycomb and crystalline citrus fruit. This has great depth of fruit and good acidity. Linear and also quite ripe. Broad with a spicy edge which helps frame the fruit along with the good acidity. 93/100
Cortefusia Franciacorta Brut 2011 Italy
The winery started in 2010, but it was a difficult year, and so this was the first proper vintage. Disgorged June 2013. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir. Rich, toasty, spicy nose with mandarin and pear, and lovely citrus and spice notes. Vivid and brisk with fine toastiness. Lovely citrus, with nice finesse. Expressive and fine. 94/100
Find these wines with wine-searcher.com
- An introduction to Franciacorta, with some top wine recommendations
- Franciacorta: Ca’ del Bosco
- Franciacorta: Cortefusia
- Franciacorta: Corteaura
- Franciacorta: Villa Crespia