We are lucky to have quite a few Venetian friends here in Toronto. Our conversations usually revolve around how different northern Italy is compared to the south (true), how beautiful the Veneto is (very true) and how great Prosecco (especially Nino Franco’s Prosecco) is – also very true!
We visited the Nino Franco winery in Valdobbiadene at the end of August 2016. The late summer sun provided a beautiful, warm back drop for our visit to the scenic winery, which was buzzing with harvest prep.
Founded in 1919, Nino Franco is a legend in the Prosecco world and a large producer whose wines are available across the globe. Our driver and knowledgeable guide, Oriana Balliana, arranged for us to have a private tasting with Primo Franco, a third generation wine maker, and… a real Prosecco-lebrity! Mr. Franco was a charming, charismatic and commanding guy, who was curious about two guys from Toronto touring the Prosecco Road (…we’re the Sparkling Winos, isn’t that reason enough?) 😜
Our private tasting included almost the full suite of wines, including Rustico, Brut, Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano, Grave di Stecca, Faive and Primo Franco. All the wines are made in the Charmat method (which means the second fermentation takes place in a stainless steel tank). Learn more about how Prosecco is made in our “Prosecco 101” post!
Rustico, at the most accessible price point is an easy drinking gem, whereas the Brut is slightly more crisp and complex. The Brut has a beautiful, almost greenish-gold hue, persistent bubbles and we appreciated the dryness of this light bodied Prosecco. Overall, we found it to be very refreshing.
The Vigneto della Riva di San Floriano was another delight. The wine is made from 100% Glera grapes grown exclusively in the San Floriano vineyard, which is located on a steep, sloped edge in Valdobbiadene. As the Brut is more crisp and complex when compared to the Rustico, we found the Vigneto to take that complexity to the next level. The beautiful aroma of apples, citrus fruit and orchard flowers are powerful, and its flavour profile is akin to a beautifully balanced fruit salad with lovely intensity and acidity and a lingering finish. And no, that’s not just because we were enjoying our third glass of Prosecco!
Next came our personal favourites, a toss up between the herbal Grave di Stecca and the almond brioche-y Primo Franco.
The Grave di Stecca is also made with 100% Glera grapes grown exclusively in an ancient, walled vineyard located near the town centre of Valdobbiadene. Mr. Franco explained that the vineyard is exposed to the south and partly screened by the walls and surrounding green space, and therefore has a special micro-climate that contributed to the flavour profile of the wine. The Prosecco has a beautiful, golden straw colour with beautiful bubbles and the aroma of ripe fruit, herbs and flinty minterality, which we very much enjoyed. The wine is beautifully dry but very creamy and the flavour profile had hints of a toasted almond croissant. This was Mike’s favourite!
Faive, a rose petal pink Brut rosé was up next. We enjoyed it’s unique blend – 80% Merlot 20% Cab Franc – which gave it a lovely aroma, something between red berries and white flowers, and a fresh flavour profile. We are still surprised that this is essentially a sparkling merlot!
The Primo Franco capped off the tasting. Made with 100% Glera grapes that are grown exclusively in the high hillside vineyards of the region, the Primo Franco is bright, straw-coloured and beautifully effervescent. Mr. Franco explained that the wine is bottled and cellared for 30 days before sale. Similar to the Grave di Stecca, this wine has a more complex aroma, which included ripe apples, tropical fruit and notes of citrus peel and almond brioche. The flavour profile is fruit-forward, the acidity balanced and overall, it made for a beautiful finish to the suite of wines at Nino Franco. This was Jeff’s favourite!
As the tasting went on, we had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Franco about his favourite Prosecco and heard anecdotes of travelling to the UK, US and Canada. He remarked (hilariously) that the LCBO, or Ontario’s government monopoly on liquor distribution that just so happens to be one of the largest buyers of wine in the world, hasn’t stocked Nino Franco wines in the “General List” section. The “General List” is a coveted spot and after tasting the full suite of wines, we agreed that the Nino Franco wines would “pop” at the LCBO! (#OntarioProblems).
A glass of the Primo Franco would have gone beautifully with our next adventure: a surprise excursion to Nino Franco’s Villa Barberina! Originally, we were to have a tour of the winery but with the harvest buzz and workers working, it was hard to tour safely. We weren’t disappointed riding over to Villa Barberina, with it’s enchanting stone walls, beautiful pool and fig orchard. The historic 18th-century villa turned bed & breakfast would have been the perfect place to spend the night.
When walked by the pool, we really wanted to lounge back and grab a cool glass of Primo (…or, any of the Nino Franco bubbly for that matter!).
Having toured the villa, Mr. Franco took us out to the vineyards, with its sweeping views and cool micro-climate.
Following a brief walkabout, we walked over to the little fig orchard.
We remember basking in the glow of the sun, with the beauty of Veneto all around us. I mean, who else can say they picked figs with Primo Franco himself?
For more from our travels to the Prosecco region of Italy, check our our “Plan a Day in Prosecco” post!