Tag Archives: Prosecco

Prosecco: The Wines of Nino Franco

The sales figures speak for themselves. Prosecco is hugely popular and seems to be going from strength to strength, outperforming those of Champagne. Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I would like to think the recent tightening of the laws, enshrining Prosecco into the DOC(G) system has done it now harm whatsoever even though it has taken the cheapest versions away from the market. There is still some dreary stuff that carries the name Prosecco, but if you’re willing to pay a little bit more you can get some truly interesting wines.

I’m one of those people who loves Prosecco but I see it very much as a simple, fresh, lightly sparkling wine that is at best a refreshing aperitivo and a good party drink. But a serious wine able to cope with a variety of foods? Boy, how wrong was I.

Nino Franco Prosecco and Oysters
Prosecco and Oysters

When I caught up with the importer of producer Nino Franco recently, the venue was not entirely random. HIX Soho is a hip and happening place and the menu seems almost too perfectly matched. The pork crackling “Mark Hix style” is something to behold, the crispy texture and saltiness crying out for a fresh, soft wine with that little touch of sweetness that takes any sharp edges away. It’s where the Rustico comes in. If you’ve never had oysters with a Prosecco, I’d urge you to try this too. No good if you don’t like oysters, but I’m pretty certain scallops would do nicely too.

The revelation arrived with the slow cooked veal. The single vineyard wine we tasted is a Prosecco the like I’ve never tasted before.

Nino Franco Grave di Stecca
The single vineyard ‘Grave di Stecca’ perfect with slow cooked veal.

The ‘Grave di Stecca’ has been given a little ageing in tank but on the lees, the deposit formed by the dead yeast cells after the fermentation. This gives the wine an extra depth and complexity that was completely unexpected and was unbelievably tasty with the veal. Deliberately left unclassified, the word Prosecco never appears on either the front or back label. The vineyard is walled, something of a rarity in the area, and the vines, by all accounts, are ancient. I suspect that means they were never affected by the phylloxera pest that blighted most of the world’s vineyards in the 19th and 20th century. That story reminds me of the ‘Vieilles Vignes Francaise’ from Bollinger, so perhaps Nino Franco is the Bollinger of Prosecco?

Nino Franco RusticoTwo of the wines also make pretty smooth dessert matches. They are not really dessert wines but the sweeter styles each have around 35 grams of residual sugar, a bit like demi-sec Champagne and both the Prosecco Primo Franco and Superiore di Cartizze work well with my saffron infused custard tartlet and rhubarb compote, but the apple fritters might be an even better match here. It may seem like quite a bewildering array of wines but putting them into the context of food really shows off their uniqueness and excellent quality.

And the quality is undisputed. Nino Franco is one of the oldest producers of Prosecco in the heartland of the region known as Valdobbiadene. Third generation Primo Franco seems a trailblazer for Prosecco and a stickler for detail. By all accounts he’s not a great friend of the ‘flute’ glass, preferring to drink the wine from a white wine glass to fully appreciate its intricacies.

These wines are really worth searching out and if you can, go for the ‘Grave di Stecca’, it may well change your whole perception of Prosecco. It certainly put a smile on my face.

Thanks to Tim McLaughlin-Green from importer Sommeliers Choice and Dacotah Renneau for introducing me to the Nino Franco range.

One heck of a Challenge

The past 50 days I have been running a lot. I have covered over 340km in this period as part of the 5×50 Challenge. A challenge designed to people off the sofa and committing to regular exercise. Today marks the end of the challenge but it doesn’t mean I will now return to sitting on the sofa. This challenge has inspired me to stick with it and keep running through the winter and get ready for some longer runs next year.

The 5×50 core team also inspired me to something else. And that was to find some amazing wines that would appeal to the running types. Because believe me, it is not all health and fitness, there is plenty of room for the good things in life.

Working with Cross Stobs Wine, a local independent wine shop I have found five wines to inspire the runners and of course a sparkling wine to celebrate the achievements. A percentage of each case sold will go to the 5×50 chosen charity, Sport Relief, so not only will you taste some lovely wine, you’ll feel great about it too!

You can now get the six bottle case (one bottle of each wine) for £55,  or two bottles of each wine for £110 (delivery charges apply). And don’t forget you’ll be helping a worthwhile charity at the same time.

The wines?

Domaine de Montredon Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France

An energetic, fast-paced sprinter with lots of energy. Perhaps struggles to keep up with Mo Farah, but who wouldn’t?

Raats Chenin Blanc, South Africa

The versatile type, can do fast-paced runs over long distances and still has a bit left in the bottle to pull out a sprint

Don David Malbec, Argentina

The rugged, outdoorsy type. Thinks nothing of running to the top of Ben Nevis and back for fun but needs some sweet ripe fruit on the way to keep the energy levels topped up. 

La Multa Old Vine Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain

The social runner. Not the fastest and keeping fit is a useful byproduct but it’s really about the chat on the way. Life is for living after all.  

Mas des Amours, Coteaux du Languedoc, France

One for the long haul. More marathon than sprint, but intense, runs it in well under four hours and still manages a beautifully graceful finish. 

Casa Defra Prosecco Spumante, Italy

Cooling down time, don’t forget to stretch and then toast your success and put your feet up. You’ve achieved your goal.

Help yourself to a case by clicking here and join me in next year’s challenge!