MOVIES & BOOZE: Wines for your weekend

Jean Smullen reviews Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut and 2015 Domane Wachau Smaragd Riesling

This Spring I visited two very interesting , yet very diffent, wine regions in Italy and Austria. Franciacorta a DOCG in Lombardy where they use French grapes to make sparkling wine using the traditional method (second fermentation in bottle).

Before that I travelled to Vienna and on to Dürnstein, a small town on the Danube in Lower Austria to the wine region known as DAC Wachau where grapes are grown on terraced vineyards, with hand built stone walls, in the famous “Cru” vineyards. Today on Movies & Booze we will take a look at two top class wines from both regions currently available here in Ireland.

Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut RRP € 45.99

Stockists: 64 Wine; Donnybrook Fair, Dublin 4; Green Man Wines, Terenure; Jus de Vine, Portmarnock; Terroirs, Donnybrook; The Corkscrew, Dublin 2; Mitchell & Son, IFSC, Glasthule, Dunboyne, Kilmacanogue Co Wicklow; The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; Baggot Street Wines, Dublin 4; Clontarf Wines, Dublin 3 and Searsons Wine Merchants, Monkstown, Co Dublin.

The area known as Franciacorta is in Lombardy about an hour away from Milan near Lake Iseo. The rolling hills are bounded to the west by the Oglio river. The valley where the grapes are grown is a result of retreating glaciers 10,000 years ago forming a natural amphiteature and soil with a rich mineral content which is key to the quality of the wine produced here.

Franciacorta was the first Italian wine produced exclusively using the bottle fermentation to obtain (in 1995) its (DOCG). In the same year, the Franciacorta production method was officially recognized and distinguished from “vino spumante”, or sparkling wine). This is a very different Italian sparkling wine than Prosecco which is made using the ‘tank method’, where secondary fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks.

Franciacorta is made with Chardonnay, Pinot Nero and Pinot Bianco grapes, with the last permitted up to a maximum of 50%. Franciacorta is also produced using the ‘traditional method’ – that same as in Champagne – with a second fermentation takes place in the bottle.

The name Franciacorta harks back to the past, it is literally translated as “tax free zone”. When the monks from Cluny arrived in the region in medieval times the area was declared a tax-free trade zone (curtes francae).
The place name “Franzacurta” appears for the first time in the annals of the city of Brescia of 1277, and refers to the specific region where the monks resided between the Oglio and Mella rivers, south of Lake Iseo, which is now today the region where the grapes are grown.

Bella Vista was established in 1967 by the Moetti family. Today Vittoria Moetti is president of Consorzio Franciacorta the working group responsible for promotion the wines of the region.

This is made from 80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Nero, Mr. Moetti told us that he no longer uses Pinot Bianco (Pinot Blanc) in his wines. This is a world class sparkling wine, on a par with Champagne, it simply says quality. The blending process is the key to this wine and hinges on the quality of the Reserve wines they use. One of the charachteristics I found in sparkling wine from Franciacorta is a lovely lovely floral aroma of white flowers, this has that but on the palate it has a soft subtle finish and a lovely gentle mousse. Bella Vista means “beautiful view” in this case it also means beautiful wine!

2015 Domane Wachau Smaragd Riesling €23.99

Stockists: Donnybrook Fair, Donnybrook, Baggot Street, Greystones , Stillorgan and Malahide; , Joyces Supermarket, Galway. Available in Independent Off licences.

The Wachau is unique in that it has its own localised category to define their wine styles, that are based both on the ripeness and ABV. The three categories are Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd. It was Steinfeder that put the Wachau on the map, with its low alcohol levels (max ABV is 11.5%) this Wachau trademark style introduced in 1984 quickly became very popular. Make no mistake this is their cashcow and the popularity of Steinfeder shows no sign of abating.

Federspiel wines are slightly richer and they have a higher ABV (up to 12.5%); but the daddy of them all and more rare, is the Smaragd, named for the indigenous lizards found living among the stone walls. Smaragd wines have a min ABV of 12.5% and are made from fruit grown in the best vineyard sites. The wines are usually harvested when the fruit is riper and they show the nuances of the regional terroir. A sought after item are the lizard pins worn by the winemakers when promoting their wines, sadly to get one, you have to own or work for a winery!
Domäne Wachau is deeply rooted in the Wachau region. Originally know as the Frei Weingarten Wachau their 440 hectares of vineyards cultivated by the members of this quality-oriented cooperative, produce 30% of the region’s wines.

This is a Riesling Smaragd and it is quite simply the purest expression of this magnificent grape that there is. The vines are grown on a hilly terraced vineyard site, overlooking the Danube which means reflected sunlight from the river give greater ripeness to the grapes. The soil is lean and mean and perfect for Riesling so you are getting this beautiful expression of this wonderful grape. Honey and lemon and minerality and a lovely ripe citrus fruit. Quite simply, it doesn’t get any better than this!

Wine Diary events:
If you like Fizz then get yourself along to the Marker Hotel on July 19th where they will be holding a Champagne Bollinger dinner. The evening will begin at 7pm where guests will enjoy an aperitif and the breath-taking views from the Marker Rooftop. Those attending will be joined on the evening by an expert sommelier who will share some insights with guests about champagne and the Bollinger journey.

Tickets are €85.00 per person and more information can be found on the wine diary website at