Berlucchi sparkling Rose goes well with Chinese food.
Berlucchi sparkling Rose goes well with Chinese food.

J ust in time for Valentine’s Day I have come across a beautiful sparkling Rosé that is sure to get your sweetheart in the right mood.

I love sparkling wine. It goes with all kinds of food and makes every meal a party. The Berlucci Franciacorta ’61 Rosé is especially nice.

It is an Italian sparkler made in the same way and with the same grapes as Champagne. In the glass it is a deep salmon color, with plenty of tiny bubbles. Like most sparkling wines there is not much aroma, except for a pleasant yeast smell.

Berlucchi Franciacorta '61 Rose.
Berlucchi Franciacorta ’61 Rose.

The flavor explodes on your tongue with wild berries and dark fruit. There is a nice balance of fruit and acidity, making the wine especially good with food. It is an elegant wine with some depth and complexity.

Berlucci has about 1,500 acres of vines in the Franciacorta region of northern Italy in the Lombardy area, south of Lago d’Iseo. The Rosé is 55% Pinot Noir and 45% Chardonnay.

After gentle crushing, the must is divided into four lots which are then fermented separately in stainless steel or oak barrels. Some of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation and is given bâttonage, or stirring of the lees, which increases the contact with yeast and increases complexity.

The winter after harvest more than 200 base wines are tasted to determine the character of the final blend. After the cuvée is bottled the wine spends from 18 months to 60 months fermenting and maturing in the bottle.

The name Berlucchi ’61 was created to celebrate year 1961, when oenologist Franco Ziliani created the first Franciacorta bottle fermented in the cellars. Serve it well chilled.

Our tasting panel.
Our tasting panel.

From: Italy
Winery: Wine was made in the area and mentioned by ancient Greeks Virgil and Pliny the Elder. As far back as 1277 the wine was documented as Franzacurta. Curtes was the name for towns and francae was the word for exempt from taxes. The area had large holdings owned by the church, so it was exempt from taxes in the Middle Ages.

Guido Berlucchi, descendent of the Conti Lana de’ Terzi, released a white wine named Pinot di Franciacorta in 1957, but he was unhappy with the wine’s stability in the bottle. A young winemaker named Franco Ziliani proposed producing a sparkling wine, and in 1961 released 3,000 bottles. It was so popular production quickly grew to 100,000 bottles.

Giorgio Lanciani joined Berlucchi and Ziliani and is credited with creating the oval label that has become a symbol of the wine.

Franciacorta became the first wine region in Italy to specify that its sparkling wines must be made by metodo clasico, or classic method of fermentation in the bottle.

The wine is famous throughout Italy and has won a good bit of international recognition. Last year Berlucchi won two of the nine gold medals won by Italian wine at the Japan Wine Challenge, considered the most important Japanese wine competition. Berlucchi ’61 Rosé was awarded Best Italian Wine.

The winery combines tradition and modern practices and equipment. Its 2,600 solar panels produce 39% of the electricity used on the property.

Cost: $35
Year: NV

The wine paired well with all kinds of Chinese food.
The wine paired well with all kinds of Chinese food.
Goes with: I love to be spontaneous when I have time to plan for it. Ha Ha. But I do like having a bottle of bubbles handy when an impromptu party breaks out.

Our friends Tim and Kathie called us one Friday afternoon and suggested we get together with mutual friends Steve and Sandy that night over Chinese takeout. It all worked out, even though Sandy was flying in from Washington that evening.

A festive table.
A festive table.

We had several different wines, but the Berlucchi was perfect with Chinese food, which can be difficult to pair with wine. For about $10 a person Tim and I picked up enough food to feed an army from China, next to the Publix on Washington Road in Richmond County.

I had never tried their food, but it was really good, and the crisp bubbles of the Berlucchi cut through the sauces nicely. We had things like Kung Pao Shrimp, Sesame Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Shrimp with Lobster Sauce, fried rice, egg rolls and spring rolls, and probably some things I’ve forgotten.

It was a feast. I loved the wine with the food. Steve said it had more body than most sparkling wines he had had. Sandy was the only person who didn’t really like the wine, but she generally likes white wines. She thought it had a bit of an earthy taste.

The tasting panel trying to have fun.
The tasting panel trying to have fun.

After dinner we played a rousing game called “Cards Against Humanity” that we got for Christmas. You try to pair up answer cards with question cards to come up with the funniest combination.

Teri won, but I think Tim wasn’t too pleased with the game. He probably thinks I’m coarse and crude because some of the combinations can get a little beyond the boundaries of good taste. But like my hero Popeye says, “I yam what I yam.” Besides, I suspect he was upset because he didn’t get a single point.

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