Ca’ Del Bosco are one of the most important producers of sparkling wine outside Champagne. They are growers, holding 220 hectares of prime Franciacorta vineyard, farmed organically. In the winemaking world, however, it is the cellar operation which raises eyebrows. Take a look at the Metodo Ca’ Del Bosco:
Grapes being washed before being pressed? Three times? Then dried with what amounts to a giant hairdryer? Tanks ascending elevators as if they’re featuring in the long-lost Star Trek episode where Captain Picard starts an urban winery aboard the Enterprise? Disgorging under nitrogen to avoid oxidation? At Ca’ Del Bosco, as it so often is in the most technically-fastidious of sparkling wine cellars, the effect is actually rather simple. Fidelity. Detail. Transmission, without muddying, of the character of a place.
2010 is the third vintage of the prestige bottling Cuvée Annamaria Clementi to be presented without dosage. This would be a daring approach for any comparable wine in Champagne, not only because of the doubts that surround the age-worthiness of zero dosage wines, but also thanks to more straightforward matters of balance and marketability. Here, in sunny Lombardia, that balancing point is a little more forgiving. Hitting it whilst also aiming to minimise sulphites and avoid oxidation, however, means designing a winemaking regime of fantastical precision.
This sort of Willie-Wonka winery in a still wine operation would probably provoke murmurs of manipulation and intervention. Once again we need to adjust our radar, slightly, for sparkling wine. Here is it just about one thing – care.
Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 2010
55% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Bianco, 20% Pinot Nero. 18 vineyards in Erbusco, Adro, Corte Franca, Iseo and Passirano. Notable for the high percentage of Pinot Bianco, otherwise declining in importance in Franciacorta. Whole bunch pressed to 39% extraction – coeur de cuvée style. 100% fermented in small oak barrels (minimum 3 yrs old), on which the base wines remain for 6 months. Full malolactic. Disgorged Autumn 2019 with no dosage or sulphite addition.
2010 opens up with explosive charred grapefruit, ripe yellow apples and blossom honey. It manages to tone down anything too peachy or tropical, trading off delicious verbena/bergamot perfume and a gorgeous spicing from white pepper, cinnamon and basil. Shifting in its seat, it gives you a different view every 5 minutes. Proper complexity from blending here.
It’s also pretty remarkable for a 100% oak-aged wine, letting the wood play brilliantly off reductive smoke and frangipane sweetness without smudging the fruit in butter or toffee. Golden crystal fruits just march steadily, evenly, towards more charred grapefruit and spice as it closes out. Lingering almond skin sends you back in. Wonderfully addictive.
It does offer that little squeeze though the mid-palate you get with some zero dosage wines (and a touch of powdery, rocky grip), but here it is refreshing and light, not hollow or abrupt. There’s intensity, but it’s delivered with a cool, steady hand. Will it maintain this poise with age? I wouldn’t bet against it. Don’t feel bad about drinking this now, though. 18