The distinctive main gate at Ca’ Del Bosco.


LOMBARDY - What is a confirmed Champagne girl doing when she extols the ‘divine’ quality of a sparkling wine from Franciacorta in Lombardy’s province of Brescia? The bubbles have obviously gone to her head. True – they have lodged in the brain and the taste buds. Having followed Maurizio Zanella’s vision as it became reality, I toast this remarkable man’s achievements in one of his own creations, the outstanding Cuvée Annamaria Clementi Brut, named after his mother and surely the best tribute you can pay to a parent! To say this is as wonderful as the best Champagne is to miss the point – it is superb in its own right. Nevertheless, if one does pour a glass of this to a Champagne connoisseur (even a top producer!), the assumption is that it is a distinguished Champagne.

How did Maurizio do this? It helps that he is a bon viveur, but I have a feeling that his great love of art and design played a part. He knew that the gravel and sand over limestone in his 150 hectares would be ideal for the Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc grapes that are key to aristocratic sparkling wine and he has invested in the latest technology to craft cuvées that sing. Obsessive attention to detail is what separates the very good from the excellent and it certainly rewards the drinker with something memorable.

I have just been ‘looking at’, a wine trade euphemism for tasting (itself a weasel word for drinking!), the Annamaria Clementi 2004s, a very fine year for Franciacorta sparklers. Both the pink and the white versions have now had seven years’ ageing on the lees, which gives underlying gravitas and aromatic intensity to the wines. The Rosé 2004 has a fruity, wet earth, Pinot Noir nose of incisive distinction, with strawberry elements, great finesse of texture and bubbles – all elegance and extreme harmony. The cristal pale Annamaria Clementi is all vanillin and hawthorn on the nose with lovely fruit, flowers and minerality on the palate and a touch of lemon on the satiny finish. Bravissimo!