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Ronco Calino

Ronco Calino

Franciacorta has been home to the production of sparkling wines in the metodo classico since 1961. Ronco Calino was founded in 1996 by Paolo Radici, the son of an industrialist, who actually did not want to enter the family business but rather produce wine. However,  his father’s wishes prevailed and it was only when Paolo was 50 that he managed to fulfil his dream – he purchased 10 hectares of abandoned vines and started the project that today consists of 13 hectares of vines that in a good year produce 70,000 bottles, assuming there is no damage from bad weather. Such are the vicissitudes facing winemakers in an area where the hot winds from the south come up against the alpine mass.

The vineyard sits on a north facing amphitheatre of glacial moraine facing Lake Iseo and the Alps. The cool breezes coming off the lake provide a perfect microclimate for the Chardonnay and Pinot Nero vines that have been managed organically since 2016.

The beautifully appointed modern and spacious reception area and tasting rooms blend unobtrusively into the geometric precision of the vineyards. The huge glass walls that give views onto the vineyards sit underneath a very traditional wooden-beamed roof topped with terracotta tiles, a delightful synergy of old and new. The surprise awaits underneath where the visitor finds himself in a series of vast rooms that provide the space necessary for not only the fermentation and blending but also the storage of wines that may remain on the lees for up to five years before a final disgorgement. 

This is a concrete cathedral dedicated to meticulous wine-making. The harvest is undertaken by hand and grapes are brought in crates holding a maximum of 20kg. After soft pressing the grapes are fermented in stainless steel with separate tanks for the different grapes and soil conditions. The Pinot Nero remains in steel but a percentage of the Chardonnay matures in barrique. The exact percentage depends on the wine in question. Blending is generally undertaken the following March with bottling the following May. Then the long wait commences as the wine ferments a second time on the lees. 

The first wine I tasted was Saten which is 100% Chardonnay. 30% of the wine is matured in French oak barriques before bottling. The wine then rests on the lees for 30 months before disgorgement, followed by the addition of 3.5 grams of dosage per litre – the term “dosage” is used to describe the wine that is added after the plug containing the yeast is removed and can have sugar added to produce a final result that will be labeled according to the resulting sweetness. For example, brut nature would mean that there was no sugar at all in the “top up”, whereas demi-sec could have 33 to 50 grams per litre. The Saten colour is a delicate pale yellow with a bouquet of brioche with citrus notes of grapefruit and orange. On the palate there are pears and green apples with a good salinity and acidity.  

I next sampled the signature wine of Ronco Calino called Brut. It is a blend of 80% Chardonnay of which 15%  is matured in oak with the balance of Pinot Nero. This is one half of their total production. This wine spends 34 months on the lees with a dosage of less than two grams. The colour is, again, pale yellow with a perfume that is light with almond and blue cheese and, in the mouth, grapefruit. 

Brut Nature is 70% Chardonnay that has had one third matured in oak with 30% Pinot Nero. It has spent 40 months on the lees with no added sugar. Again, the colour is pale yellow but with hints of green and, on the nose, elderflower and vanilla. In the mouth there is a brightly acidic lemon flavour.

Finally, I tried Brut Millesimato from 2014. A 60/40 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero, half of the Chardonnay has been in oak. This wine spends a massive five years on the lees with a final dosage of less than one gram per litre. Pale yellow with hints of green, the bouquet was floral with brioche and vanilla and on the palate a good salinity with lemon.

These are sophisticated wines that have been constructed with care and reflect the dedication of the team of professionals that have made them possible. Yet as you savour the bead of bubbles rising in your glass do not concern yourself with all that has made this happen for that is not what Paolo and his team would want, rather be truly Italian and just enjoy the moment.

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