1455 Van Ness Avenue
San Fransico, CA 94109
(415) 440-4001

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"Come quickly, I am tasting the stars!" Monk Dom Pierre Pérignon's description of the bubbly concoction he conjured up four centuries ago is still part of wine folklore. But Italians Franco Ziliani and Guido Berlucchi may have felt the same way in 1961 when they used the "champagne method" to produce 3,000 bottles of Italian spumante near Corte Franca northeast of Milan.

Since "champagne" can only be accurately applied to wine from the Champagne region of France, the Italian version is known as "metodo classico" spumante, or "classic method" sparkling wine (which means more than 3.5 bars of pressure in the bottle). As with French Champagne, Italian Metodo Classico is usually produced in a Cuvee, or mix, of several years of production (with no year inscribed on the label).

In second fermentation it stays on the yeast, or lees, for at least 18 but up to 80 months. This can give the wine a slight smell of freshly baked bread. In especially good years, a producer may make a millesimato — or vintage — from a single year, which is then printed on the label.

The key point is that all metodo classico spumante, like champagne, is made with two fermentations: the first in vats, and the second in the bottle. Most cuvees are a mix of chardonnay and pinot noir (and some pinot meunier). Blanc de blancsmeans 100 percent chardonnay while blanc de noirs denotes 100 percent pinot noir and pinot meunier. Rosé (rosato) is made by allowing the wine to ferment briefly on the skins of the pinot noir grapes or by adding a touch of pinot noir red wine to the cuvee. A satèn is a blanc de blancsmade with slightly lower pressure than a spumante.

Try this outstanding Spumante.