In Episode 19, we sit down with Giammario Villa, Master Taster, Sommelier, and US Ambassador for the Consorzio Franciacorta

In this episode, Christian Oggenfuss sits down with Master Taster Giammario Villa an Italian native, sommelier, author, and ambassador for the Consorzio Franciacorta. We discuss Gammario’s journey and explore the origins of Italy’s premier sparkling wine region. This is their story.


0:00:00.0 Christian: Why don’t you tell me your first and last name and what you do in the wine business?

0:00:06.4 Giammario: The first answer is very easy to give you. Giammario Villa. [chuckle] Thank you for being here. I really appreciate and love being part of this podcast. What I do in the wine business is a bit more complex. I’m gonna try to simplify. It’s a long journey that started around year 2000 or so, and today I’m now public speaker. I still teach some wine courses for the wine pairing, in particular. I collaborate with UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Research as well as UCLA Extension together with other entities and association, like the Getty Museum and so forth. I guess my goal right now is to be a dad and to teach everything I know about wine and write about wine when I find some time. But before that, I spent many years traveling around US and Canada teaching for sommelier association, part of the council, I was a councilmember, marketing director of that association as well.

0:01:08.5 Giammario: And I treasure that period of my life because I was able to see the wonderful scenario that composed this mosaic, which is today America, and traveled a lot, met a lot of people and challenged myself teaching and answering too difficult question and training sommelier. I became a master taster, an official taster and also an official teacher. So I surrounded myself of people in love with wine, first of all, but also in love with life, because wine is a beautiful part of life, wine and food.

0:01:40.0 Christian: Absolutely. So tell our listeners where… You’re obviously a native Italian. Tell us where you come from in Italy and what your early life might have looked like.

0:01:48.8 Giammario: Oh, I might have a tear in my eyes after that. I come from a town called Rimini, which gave the birth to Federico Fellini, among others, and I think that kind of oneiric word surrealism and dreamy character is part of my life since I was a kid and a teenager, and I kind of applied that to my work. I started off as a journalist and as a photo reporter. I major in political science, history and mass communication, and I always try to combine my skills and my knowledge in what I was doing. So I never loved labels. I never liked to identify myself with one tag. I like to wear different hats because I believe in the renaissance form of expression. I believe that people should focus on a specific job or profession but in the same time, expand their horizon and also fall in love with different part of their skills.

0:02:47.0 Giammario: So I was born and raised in Rimini. I lived between Rimini and Bologna. I lived in France for a little bit and when it was time to actually to move to France, for some reason, I decided to come to New York. At that point, I was already a certified advanced sommelier, by the way. I spent a lot of years between journalism and marketing, but I had a secret desire to know more about wine and food. And I remember one night I was walking in a dark alley and there was a side door of a restaurant, “Tomorrow first class of the first level of sommelier, from the Italian Sommelier Association” and I… Why not? Let’s go try.

0:03:20.0 Giammario: And then the first class led into the actual first level and then if you do the first, you wanna do the second. And that point, you wanna get certified, and inside of me, I knew that nobody could take away that degree, and if I wanted to restart my life from somewhere, I could propose myself as a wine director or a wine journalist or a somm and that’s what happened in New York, which was the beginning of my experience in US, who led to a family and now I’m a citizen.

0:03:47.9 Christian: Amazing story. And you are a Renaissance man in the truest sense, from going from journalism to the wine industry and teaching at museums and all that, so it’s gonna be an inspiring story for our listeners. Tell me a little bit about one of your titles as a master taster. Why don’t you tell our listeners, what does that mean and what does that entail?

0:04:05.6 Giammario: Yes. First of all, I was part for a long time with the North American Sommelier Association. I actually studied to get my certification to teach and actually, I had to relearn everything. My vocabulary was in Italian, French and some basic English, but to teach in English, it’s pretty hard because the communication is not me talking, it’s on people understanding what I’m talking about. I had to relearn the vocabulary, also to learn how to communicate, how to get hold of the attention of people, how to be entertainment and also educational at the same time. So the idea was to keep studying and being certified, which means you can show a diploma.

0:04:44.1 Giammario: Where I’m from, you’re a somm, not because you work a restaurant, because you’ve got the certification, and I believe in education and I believe in teaching today. So I became eventually master taster, which was another step on top of the advanced certified sommelier because it was a title I love to put next to my name and also I love the tasting part because I believe that tasting a wine is the… You start double-checking the facts.

0:05:13.8 Giammario: You start checking out if there are any scenes behind the bottle. You start understanding the background of a wine, what the winemaker wants to tell you and most importantly, how to enjoy a bottle with food. I am a big foodie. I am writing a book right now with a chef here based in Los Angeles, Gino Angelini, which I adore. He is from my hometown, Rimini, and it’s about Federico Fellini food stories. So those are eight and a half food stories behind the scene of Federico Fellini. So I interviewed directors, actors, producers and so forth, but from a food point of view, and wine comes always through the window. We have a beautiful expression in Italian which says, “Whatever does not come through the door, can come through the window.” So in this food book, wine is gonna come through the window.

0:06:00.4 Christian: That’s amazing. So what it is like writing a book? That seems like a daunting thing. How’s the process going?

0:06:04.3 Giammario: We are experiencing unusual times these days, so everything got off the schedule a bit, off the timing I expected, but it’s exciting. I find myself in a sort of autotherapy writing because you decide eventually what to write about. You decide eventually who you wanna interview and what to talk about. I’m an independent freethinker and I like to it keep that way. It’s exciting because, again, you focus on what you love, which is a fundamental part of anybody’s life and I wish I had this kind of knowledge back in my teenage life okay? I was more enjoying jazz and blue feelings sometimes but eventually, you come to a moment, you get to know yourself better and it’s the only way also to be a good companion for your friends and family. And the only way to make people happy is to be happy yourself and writing makes me happy right now.

0:06:55.0 Christian: That’s amazing. You also have probably a very envious job for many people, and that is to you work with probably one of Italy’s most renowned wine regions. Why don’t you tell us what you do for the wine region? I’ll let you introduce the wine region and tell us a little bit about what you do for them, because I’m excited to dig into that wine region, exploring it with you a little bit today.

0:07:15.8 Giammario: Yeah. I worked for a few consortia in my recent past, but this one is the one excite me the most. Because I feel like I’m wearing a special jacket with a Gold medal when I talk about it. Franciacorta is the finest way of drinking a Metodo Classico from Italy. Franciacorta is always associated to special moments to extraordinary wines through a breathtaking landscape. It’s considered the top of the pyramid, and the quality of wines from Italy and it goes together with the important names of the rest of the drinks of course from red to white.

0:07:52.1 Giammario: We’re talking about… I don’t like to say the sparkling wine. Franciacorta is Franciacorta. It’s a Metodo Classico. Second fermentation in the bottle, we’re gonna talk about this. But like I said, it makes me proud and happy because when they offered me the position to be their brand ambassador in California, which is the number one market with Franciacorta in US, together with New York. I knew I was taking over a big challenge ’cause Franciacorta needs to communicate their reposition, the brand, the reputation are most important to explain. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about when you were at the bar, sitting at the bar and enjoying a glass of wine. People normally ask for a champagne wine when they mean a sparkling wine. And that was… I feel goose bumps in my body because Franciacorta is Franciacorta. Champagne is Champagne. Cava is Cava and so forth.

0:08:42.9 Giammario: So I believe what is needed here it’s to explain. Yes, to the wine industry because it’s the most important hobby eventually to the wine market, but also to the audience. People make the history. People make the choices. People drive the market. It’s not the other way around, so we need to talk to people to let them know.

0:09:03.2 Christian: How did you get to become the brand ambassador for the region? Did they call you out of the blue? What’s the process for becoming a brand ambassador?

0:09:10.9 Giammario: They found me. They asked me to submit my name for the position frankly. I had a friend working in the industry saying that they were looking for someone, and then eventually they called me. We had several talks, it was not an easy step. I’m sure there were a lot of people in line for this position, and they eventually put together a plan. I put together a plan of action, and I am a bitter sweet person. Meaning like, I know what I want. I know how I want to achieve it. And when I propose something, it’s because I believe it’s the best to the cause, and I leave not a lot of room to compromise. I do believe in compromise, I majored in political science, my family wanted me to be a diplomatic. So I do believing in compromise, but when you have a high expectation on the final goal, then you need to have a street plan, the shortest route from A to B is a straight line, not a curvy route.

0:10:05.6 Christian: Very well said. Well, let’s dig in to the region a little bit because it is first of all, probably one of the most beautiful wine regions in Italy. But let’s talk a little bit about the history first because it has a unique history while winemaking goes back, I think back to the 13th century. The sparkling wines of Franciacorta are, relatively speaking, a recent development. Tell us a little bit about the birth of sparkling Franciacorta.

0:10:29.6 Giammario: Yes, you actually are right. And when you have a deep history, when you go back for centuries on something, you can actually explain partially the importance of a wine in this case, or you can apply the same concept to other fields. But in terms of history of Franciacorta, I would like to start with etymology. Franciacorta comes from “curte franc” or “franchae curtes” in latin, which are basically were street courts exempted from taxes. And in the 11th-ish century with the arrival of Cluniac monks from Burgundy, from Cluny, Burgundy, but also from other parts of Italy, Cistercian monks, which are basically the two entities that re-established the wine production after the fall of the Roman Empire around Europe and Italy in particular. They settled in this area and we will know shortly why and they were exempted from duties and taxes. So this is the beginning also for what was the rising of a new form of business.

0:11:30.8 Giammario: Don’t forget around that time also, or shortly after wine merchant from Tuscany start traveling around Italy and then to England. And the wine merchant category became more important and wine became from an essential part of the religious aspect of the daily life of Europeans and Italians to actually a major business factor and trade. Back in the history, the first time we can actually find in the records the name Franciacorta or actually Franchae Curtes, as you know, every word has a long process of adapting in the people’s language, was in the 1277 in a municipality called Brescia, which is actually a drive-by the district of Franciacorta. And from then we start finding actually records of names, styles of wines. Actually, you mentioned sparkling wine. The first time we see written on paper a referral to the sparkling wine is actually from Gerolamo Conforti 1570, when he talks about the mordacious wines of this area. Mordacious is like are referred to bubbles to lively sparkle wines.

0:12:41.2 Giammario: So as we know today, of course, the second fermentation in the bottle, the Metodo Classico, which is a sort of a technological step ahead on modern wines. But back at that time we already see how common was the consumption of lively sparkle and sparkle wines in the area. Also, the Napoleonic army, by the way, which invaded the northern part of Italy register in their land of registry about a thousand hectares vines planted for the production of fizzy wines, this is back in 1809. The contemporary version of the wine as we know, comes only from the ’60s on actually. The pioneer we want to mention is Franco Villani because he’s the first one who produced the Pinot from Franciacorta in the early ’60s. And then from then we start seeing a very quick evolution of the district because in ’67 they achieved the DOC Appellation.

0:13:39.0 Giammario: And then eventually shortly after a viticultural study, which I want to talk about a bit later, in ’95 they achieved the DOCG. And for the first time, an appellation focused exclusively on the production of Metodo Classico achieve a DOCG which is a landmark in the Italian history.

0:14:00.3 Christian: That’s amazing. And I know in the late ’90s to early 2000s too Franciacorta saw a huge growth in production of the quality wines, but also an interest in the wines. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

0:14:11.0 Giammario: It’s around the time I started studying to become a sommelier, so something was happening around Italy.

0:14:16.9 Christian: Any relation?


0:14:17.9 Giammario: Well, first of all, I was a major contributor… Actually, I was thinking about Franciacorta the other day. I’m like this is like a high school love because I loved Franciacorta back in the days when I was cruising around Rimini, Bologna, Milano, but I rediscovered this love today… I really like these two steps kind of love because it’s a mature love. It’s a riper love for me for Franciacorta. But because in ’95, we have the DOCG appellation established from Franciacorta, and because we have an average of between 18 months to 60 months, so we’re gonna talk in a bit about the different styles. And naturally, from year 2000 on, we started seeing more products around. We started seeing more producer coming in production or investing in Franciacorta.

0:15:06.6 Giammario: And I’m not talking only about maybe a major investor that believe in Franciacorta but also family. Franciacorta is made of family owned wineries, of women winemakers, of wineries that invested in sustainability way before the word became popular in our language, wine industry language these days. So I believe when you receive a sort of recognition like the achievement of the DOCG at that point, that they all the industries are getting stronger, planting more vineyards, producing more wines, but not forgetting about the quality. I know we talked about high quality apply to a lot of concepts these days, okay?

0:15:49.2 Giammario: But when we talk about Franciacorta, we talk about an area with barely 3,000 hectares of land, 62%, by the way, are already certified organic. So we’re talking about a land that is pretty limited, but not in the goal they want to achieve, so quality over quality over quality and slowly they start spreading and today they produce about 80 million bottles. And the size, the average size is medium to small of this Winery because again, they’re mostly family-owned and run.

0:16:22.9 Christian: Amazing. I know, I think it was Tom Stevenson who said once that this region is the only compact wine area producing world class sparkling wines in Italy. So a great compliment from him.

0:16:34.4 Giammario: I will steal the quote and mention Tom after that.

0:16:38.6 Christian: Let’s talk a little bit about beyond the fact that Franciacorta is in Italy. Beyond that it’s in one of the most beautiful areas around Lake Iseo. Let’s talk a little bit about what makes it special from a grape variety perspective, and then maybe let’s talk a little bit about the different styles, because there’s some interesting styles as well.

0:16:56.0 Giammario: I’ll be honest, I asked myself that before I took the job. Because when he’s trying to communicate and to preach about an area, you wanna make sure you know the answer. I believe, I think I got the answer in this. Wine is always the product of the combination of three factors. One is… And Mother Nature is really dominant on this, one is the meteorology, the climate. So the macro and micro climate, the geography and the geology and I’m a nerd. I’m a part-time nerd on geology. And the history and the culture on the area, which is the human effect. So combining these three factors, we can explain and decode the wines.

0:17:37.3 Giammario: And I believe, to make the long story short, then we can expand the story a little later, the proximity to the Iseo Lake which is a lake of a glacier origin, the proximity to the Oglio River, the proximity to the Alps, which I adore. I was born and raised in Emilia-Romagna nearby the Adriatic with sweet rolling hills, but the Alps are breathtaking. And the Rhaetian Alps of the Franciacorta area are stunning in the landscape.

0:18:09.9 Giammario: So when you combine the high altitude, the high latitude also, we’re far from the Mediterranean concept of winemaking here. When you combine the exceptional Morainic soil coming from the moving glacier, coming from the north, the temperature day and night, summer and winter. The effect of the lake warming up the temperature in the… During the freezing part of the year, releasing heat, that’s really what makes the difference to me and why I’m just defining such an amazing, outstanding quality on these wines for sure. And together, I will go with the “Made in Italy.” I sound like a promo. I am also a promo right now, okay?

0:18:52.6 Giammario: But I have to say, when I drink French, I like to detect that French twist. When I drink Spain, I like to feel Spain in a wine. You like to… When you go as a tourist, you don’t wanna go in the commercial route, you wanna find what the real… The locals eat, the real part of a town or a country side. And the same with the wine, you want to understand in between the lines, and I think given that made in Italy, deliver the extra element so you drink Italian. You feel the Italian landscape, you get that beautiful acidity coming from the area, the minerality coming from the soil. You can feel the freezing temperature, but in the same time, a warm hug.

0:19:37.0 Christian: Amazing. Talk to us maybe a little bit about the soils. You said it’s one of your passions is soil, so love to dig a little bit deeper, no pun intended or pun intended, on the description of the soils that can be found in this area.

0:19:49.4 Giammario: Absolutely, and then I’m gonna mention also the style of Franciacorta. First, let’s relocate where we are. We are in the deep north of Italy. Deep north of Italy, literally a stone throw from Milan in the central east portion of Lombardy. You have the Rhaetian Alps in front of you and Switzerland above that. So we are definitely on the non-stereotype landscape of Italy, okay? But we have a beautiful river running on the west, the Oglio River, the north is the Iseo Lake, the Brescia down in the South, and this beautiful amphitheater-shaped wine district. I don’t use the word region because the size is really a district. And the amphitheater is the key word here, because about 10,000 years ago or so there was a glacier moving, heading south.

0:20:37.4 Giammario: And then, at some point around the Iseo Lake split in two, forming this amphitheater shape, and brought extra mineral content to the morainic soil to an area already rich on mineral content, so mineral of the minerals, which is in terms of wine you can find complexity in the descriptor for the minerality. At that point, we already have the majority of the work done. Mother nature did his job, her job. You have a spectacular landscape and a spectacular area where you only want to receive vines, plant vines and start your production, that’s what the monks actually got it right first. So this is the area we’re talking about. And in terms of geology, it starts clay or sand, the common element here again is the morainial soil.

0:21:28.4 Giammario: I wanna just pick a couple of examples, because I do believe actually, I do believe, I do believe on communicating this part. Behind the fragrance, behind the floral aspect, behind descriptor, behind the primary aromas, the primary aromas are… The aroma is typical of a varietal. Secondary aromas are the one typical the fermentation tertiary of the aging part of the wine. So the primary aromas, the DNA are the grapes, where do the aromas come from? Well, if you detect floral aromas, for example, most likely those vines were planted in extreme [0:22:00.0] ____ fruit deposit, which gives this typical floral note together with a good acidity. Or to give you another example, when we have spice natural in the wine, so not a spice coming from the use of oak, but a spice coming from the wine, then is steeped in fruit deposit with a very high olfactory persistence and a very good sugar level as well.

0:22:25.0 Giammario: So we can see the… And we have a beautiful map, by the way, You can find the English version of the website and find all these cheeky element, maps, geological maps and fruit bearing and so forth. I know your wonderful website of the Napa Valley Wine Academy also is carrying or will carry shortly the same map. You see this mosaic of colors, and each color is of course a soil type that makes this wine region so colorful, but also so diversified. The tradition of blending different crus goes with the idea of using the notes as a musician, as a composer. I like to refer often a wine like an eclectic but yet an intelligent composer that plays these different instruments to compose his melody.

0:23:18.0 Giammario: So the different instruments can be the different grapes. But also the different instrument can be the same grape coming from different soil type. If you know what you want, it’s always the best starting point when you’re a wine maker. Your knowledge, what you’re dealing with, what mother nature gives you, and your knowledge also, what is your goal in terms of production. And that’s probably true for a lot of things in life, by the way. [chuckle] But the idea of blending different crus, typical of a lot of wine makers here, it’s just because they want to collect descriptors and make this wonderful bouquet composed by different flowers, of different instruments for the same melody. We can use different metaphors to explain the same concept.

0:24:00.5 Christian: Yeah, well, I love the metaphors. Before we get into the styles, ’cause I know we wanna spend some time to talk about that, but what are the predominant grape varieties that make up Franciacorta?

0:24:09.8 Giammario: Absolutely. Chardonnay Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco, and the novelty of very recently Erbamat. Chardonnay, I said Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco to stress the made in Italy the Italian concept. Of course Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. And Erbamat is a very small production of a grape that is now been reintroduced in the production of Franciacorta. And 2020 vintage will be the first one, by the way, with Erbamat on it. It’s probably older as Franciacorta, because the first time that Erbamat was mentioned is back in the late 1560s or ’70, I forgot, in 1567 or so, where Erbamat actually was mentioned by a local agronomist called Agustin Ogalo, as a local variety. And today, we are experienced back in the team Erbamat. So we have four grapes, but trust me, Chardonnay and Pinot Nero are the two you wanna keep the focus on.

0:25:10.7 Christian: Excellent. So, the wines are so exciting and the different styles of wine. So some of them mirror or are familiar to listeners who are familiar obviously with champagne and other sparkling wine styles. But there’s one that is particularly of interest that I think most people aren’t aware of. So why don’t you list the styles, describe them a little bit, and then we’ll wanna spend some time talking about the Satèn style as well.

0:25:33.5 Giammario: I’m gonna mention the style, but referring to this: There is a Franciacorta for any occasion. Consortia told me once, yes, aperitivo or celebrating special moments and so forth, but Franciacorta needs to be delivered as a wine that can be applied to all different kind of recipe we have in Italy and around the states, something we can enjoy in different moments. And I like that, because having different style, we can only pick the one that you want to enjoy with your food or without.

0:26:00.8 Giammario: So Franciacorta regular, without any other specification, the front label is a wine made of Chardonnay Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco up to 50%, and Erbamat up to 10%. The minimum aging is 18 months, so that’s a wine who delivers fresh, approachable, and this is important because sometimes you want to leave room to the conversation and to the guest in front of you, okay? So the wine needs to do its job and then you go from there. Franciacorta Saten, I will actually mention last, okay? Franciacorta Rosé, it’s a wine with a minimum 24 months of age from the tirage.

0:26:39.9 Giammario: Pinot Nero here, minimum 35%. Chardonnay maximum 65%, and Pinot Bianco maximum 50%. Erbamat, okay, up to 10%. So the backbone of course must be Pinot Nero. All the style with the exception of Saten, have a baro pressure between five and six atmosphere. And I will tell you why Saten is lower than that. Then we have two more style. Vintage and reserve. 30 months minimum for the vintage, 60 months minimum for reserve. And the grapes are allowed are the same as the regular Franciacorta. So Chardonnay, Pinot Nero, Pinot Bianco and Erbamat.

0:27:19.1 Giammario: Now, Saten. Saten is a story inside the story. I’m gonna start from the end. The end is that Franciacorta is a wine made only from white varietals, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco up to 50% Pinot Bianco, nothing else. Minimum of age, 24 months from the tirage, and a pressure of below five atmosphere. Why? It’s a wine characterized by softness, smoothness, creaminess, it’s the most tactile of all the wines. So, slower bottle fermentation, and lower bottle fermentation, and everything started during the ’80s. We have a new style that few winemaker is there were playing with, and there was a great excitement over this style, so like I said, a few winemakers were experimenting with only Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, lower bottle pressure and slower bottle fermentation, but some point this style became very popular.

0:28:18.4 Giammario: So people start studying this style and then the word saten came out only in the ’90s. And it was literally a birth of a new word, because they were trying to figure out what word can deliver the message of something that is silky, like seta in Italian, also smooth, creamy and something that reminds of satinato, which is the Italian for frosty. So the combination was saten, which is a very musical way of saying it, typical Italian style. And at that point, basically, the fire was started from the early ’90s, I mentioned earlier an extremely important viticultural research and oenologist led eventually to the new OCG in ’95, but around the same time, panel of oenologists and winemakers start testing 184 wines, with the goal of identifying the true expression of saten and drawing the certification for it to include in the OCG.

0:29:22.5 Giammario: So, they define what are the viticultural elements? What is the winemaking process? What is the wine style and identity? This is fundamental. All the saten are slightly different, but they all need to lead to eventually the similar physical, chemical and organically characteristic. And this is a very important term, by the way. The identity of a wine is made of recognizable aspects. In case of the saten, we want to smell toasted fruits like almonds or hazelnut, dried fruits, white flowers. I won’t go too in detail because it’s good to give the category and then its producer is actually delivering a twist, right? The color needs to be an intense straw or golden almost, with greenish hues, because Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Bianco if you want to use it up to 50%, define the color as well.

0:30:19.7 Giammario: And if you want one of the fundamental part here, the perlage, it needs to be creamy at sight. So this word creamy comes back, the cream, the texture comes back. The tactility, the tactile way of drinking. It’s very… I hate to use the word sexy, because I should be fired if I use that applied to wine, but it’s very intriguing and charming, let’s put it this way. Also to wrap up the saten category differently from the other styles that you can produce Franciacorta vintage or reserve, as Dosaggio Zero, brut, extra dry, demi-sec and so-forth, saten can only be brut. And this is opening the doors widely to an eclectic food pairing that can go from bake oven pasta to vegetarian risotto, saffron risotto or lake-fish; don’t forget, we are by Lake Iseo. Or “more simply”, quote unquote, prosciutto crudo or medium made cheese. So, the idea is to embrace a wide category of food pairing.

0:31:22.2 Christian: Lovely. Saten is one of my favorite styles coming from the region, and the word that always comes to mind for me is sensual. It’s a very sensual experience to drink saten style wines. But you just touched on a little bit. Let’s talk a little bit about food pairing, because I know that’s one of your passions. And I know that’s what these wines really excel at as well, right? Most people make the erroneous assumption that sparkling wine is only for the aperitif, for celebration. And those missing out on pairing them with foods are truly missing out. So why don’t you talk to us a little bit about your favorite food pairings for the different styles of Franciacorta.

0:32:00.1 Giammario: I’d like to mention an outsider here, sherry. Because when I rediscover sherry, I rediscovered the way of eating with sherry. So, the same way, if you pass the skepticism or the stereotype of food and wine pairing, and you actually go for the scientific approach of food and wine pairing, you understand why actually there are broader categories for your… Possible for the wine pairings. So speaking of Franciacorta, you can absolutely have a non-vintage, a more of a fresh dynamic product for something as dynamic as aperitif or as appetizer, absolutely. But speaking of, for example, one of my true loves, Dosaggio Zero, I love Pas Dose, I love saten and Dosaggio Zero in particular.

0:32:41.8 Giammario: One, because it’s a soft, smooth hug that embrace you into this creamy world of pleasure. And the other one, you avoid drinking your calorie and you focus on a wine that is sharp like a knife. And speaking of Dosaggio Zero or Pas Dose, the combination can be very wide. Some ideas. So, we’re talking about something with very little sugar, if not zero sugar, with a very high acidity and some sapid finish. I love to go either for pork cheeks grilled or fried seafood, or even a fish ragu, maybe some lasagnette fish ragu, but if you wanna stick with vegetarian or vegan, can you fry some zucchini blossom and it’s still vegan, you can depending on the oil you use. I’m a part-time vegetarian so I do believe in alternating your addiction, right? Or something that actually comes from a member of my family I remember.

0:33:42.5 Giammario: The zucchini filled with meat from my grandmother. She was basically with the tiny cylinder creating this hole inside the zucchini and then filling up with, it could be pork, it could be veal, it could be turkey, by the way, or it could be another medley of vegetables depending on the recipe you wanna follow. Bake those, with or without tomatoes, depending on the combination; for the pairing with Dosaggio Zero, we’ll avoid the tomato. But you have this beautiful decadent dish where the acidity cuts through the middle and in the same time, important element when you drink sparkling wine, by the way, the palate is rinsed and cleaned out ready for another sip or another bite.

0:34:27.3 Giammario: So I do believe in that harmony or balance; in life, in love, at work, harmony is a key point. And harmony is not one element revealing on the other. If you talk to a chef, he will say the last memory in your mouth, in your taste, must be the food. If you talk to a sommelier, oh absolutely it’s the wine. Well, I feel in the middle here, I believe in harmony, so I believe there should be a sort of a harmonious dance between food and wine because I want more, another sip and another bite.

0:35:00.2 Giammario: That’s the idea of the Pas Dose. For satèn, we can go for something like venison, thinking out of the box, okay. I could mention even like Porcini Carpaccio, typical of the [0:35:12.0] ____ lake also here in California. We’re so lucky we live in California, we eat so well. But venison is one of those meat that actually for the tendency, the characteristic of venison, can be very well paired with the softness and the creaminess of Franciacorta, or even white lasagna.

0:35:28.8 Giammario: I’m sorry, my fellow Emilia-Romagna might listen right now, they might say something about, there are purest of lasagna, purest of tagliatelle, but I believe that a crossover of traditions is always a good idea when you wanna explore new pairings. So veal tartare, white lasagnette, Porcini Carpaccio, why not, spicy food. I don’t think you need, I might be unpopular right now, but I don’t think you need too much spice when the ingredients are good, fish or meat, but a twist is always good, and I think satèn, among all the Franciacorta, can be a good pairing for something more on the spicy tendency. In food and wine pairing, spice is a very hard element to pair with.

0:36:12.3 Giammario: Too cold, too hot spice as you know, but a mild perception of spiciness for satèn can be a nice idea. For rose, here we can combine the texture, the colour, with some more additional body, and the bluefish, I’m a big fan of bluefish. Depending on the structure of the wine, I know we’re talking about a Metodo classico or so, we’re not talking about wine with full structure, but we do detect a more important body in some products, okay. In that case, some bluefish ragu tagliatelle, roasted eel. Again, element with fat and extra flavor, because if you have a persistent finish on the wine, then you wanna find a similar persistence on the food. If you have a certain structure on the wine, you want to, in the same time, pair that with a similar structure in food. So the idea is always to find that very feeble and delicate harmony that can last for a second, but when you find it, is fantastic, really.

0:37:13.8 Christian: That’s amazing. So, really excited for your book to come out because I think you speak so eloquently about food and wine pairing, and these wines are just ripe for those great matches that you described. If someone wants to learn more about Franciacorta, its wines, the region, what’s the best way for them to do that?

0:37:31.6 Giammario: I believe the best way is to follow the activities of the Napa Valley Wine Academy, [chuckle] so they can actively listen… No, of course that. I would say, the official website, is the answer to a lot of questions. Actually, there are more answers to the same question, because you can dig in the history, you can download maps, you can find the eclectic food pairing as well as traditional food pairing, so that’s the first way to go.

0:37:56.5 Giammario: The second way to go is to probably talk to your wine supplier, the person you trust the most, the wine store, the wine merchant, that’s a good friend, and ask about it, because Franciacorta is out there, it’s not maybe a common answer right now, but we do have the product.

0:38:14.6 Giammario: We have a lot of wineries represented in California as well as the rest of the United States. So asking, we say in Italian, is half of obtaining something. So you need to ask for your knowledge, you need to ask for your education, you need to ask for your product. So check out the official website, check out my social media. I am, name and last name, Giammario Villa, I like to be behind the scene, a bit under the radar, so I’m not somebody that is always posting, I like privacy, but I always post something I love, and I always post something about when I location, specifically in Franciacorta, which by the way I’m writing a chapter in my book about Franciacorta pairing applied to Fellini, we will deliver a lot of news.

0:38:57.7 Christian: Excellent.

0:38:58.2 Giammario: Again the Napa Valley Wine Academy, I think, is one of the strongest supporter of Franciacorta, and I love that.

0:39:04.6 Christian: It’s been a real pleasure, Giammario, to sit down with you today, and to learn a little bit more about your story and the story of Franciacorta. Hopefully we’ve inspired people to go out and this New Year’s Eve, and in fact any day, to go out and seek a bottle of Franciacorta and enjoy it, and share it with friends. We wish you, Giammario, a very happy holidays, and to all of our listeners, thanks so much for tuning in today, and we hopefully can have you back again soon on another episode.

0:39:34.5 Giammario: I would love that. I feel truly honored to be part of the podcast, because I love that we are keeping the conversation, it’s educational and entertaining and very intimate in the same time. And I would like to leave with a final note, which is actually the sound of a Franciacorta cork popping out, and we will edit maybe some other sounds to that.

0:40:01.0 Christian: Yeah.

0:40:01.6 Giammario: And Christian and I will start tasting the Dosaggio Zero, satèn, a rose and other products, and that needs to be off the records, we might use.


0:40:13.1 Giammario: Thank you again, Christian. Thank you again, a pleasure, I’m here anytime.

0:40:17.2 Christian: Yes, thanks so much, Giammario. Thank you.



Christian Oggenfuss

Christian Oggenfuss

Christian Oggenfuss, the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Napa Valley Wine Academy, is a passionate wine industry spokesman and educator. He holds the dipWSET, the highest certification from the London-based Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and is an Associate Member of the Institute of Wine & Spirits. Christian also holds the French Wine Scholar (FWS), the Italian Wine Professional (IWP), and the American Wine Expert (AWE) certification. He is also one of only 64 Bourgogne Wine Ambassadors in the world.


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