“Exploring another category of Prosecco like Nino Franco’s Brut,” writes Huyghe, “means exploring characteristics beyond the thirst-quenching and often sweet-tasting features of most entry-level options. Your first sip, for example, might taste of lively fruit like melon or citrus.”
From the August 2013 issue of Wine & Spirits:
Nino Franco Riva di San Floriano 2012
Savory scents of wheat germ and peppery spice balance this wine’s pineapple richness, all held in a lean frame. It ends firm, with dark earth tones adding a pleasant touch of bitterness. Serve it with prosciutto.—Joshua Green
“This vintage bottling from one of Prosecco’s most respected producers,” writes Food and Wine executive wine editor and frequent “Today Show” guest Ray Isle, “has a creamy complexity and floral aromas that lift it above the usual run by quite a bit.”
Click here for Food & Wine editors’ “pairing of the day” featuring Rustico.
“How could I resist a glass of Primo’s San Floriano?” writes Jeremy Parzen, author of the popular Italian wine blog Do Bianchi. “[It’s] my favorite among his crus. The pairing with tagliatelle and asparagus was rivaled only by the pairing with the view from the Ristorante Enoteca Salis in Santo Stefano.”
Annalisa Franco is as close to being “wine aristocracy” as it gets. She was born into the famous Bolla family of Valpolicella at a time when her grandfather’s winery was one of just a handful of Italian estates that dominated wine production in Italy.
She was born in Friuli where her father worked at a distillery owned by the Bollas at the time. When she was ten years old, they moved to Valdobbiadene where she grew up in the heart of Prosecco country. At the time, no one could have imagined the Prosecco revolution that would later be sparked by her husband Primo. It was just a small town where sparkling wine was made, mostly for local consumption and for the restaurants and taverns of Venice.
When she left for college, she studied English and education. And it was during her year in London, where she had moved to perfect her language skills, that she met her soon-to-be husband Primo, also the heir to one of the Veneto’s leading families in wine.
After fifteen years of working as a middle school instructor, Primo’s success with the family’s wines was so great that he finally convinced her to abandon her job as a teacher and come work with him at the winery.
She attended sommelier school and immersed herself in the language and culture of wine until she felt she was ready to speak with authority on the wines of Nino Franco.
By that time, Nino Franco’s wines were known throughout the world, thanks in great part to Primo’s work as Valdobbiadene’s ambassador.
In 2004, the Franco family purchased the eighteenth-century Villa Barberina, just outside of their hometown, Valdobbiadene. And Annalisa was asked to oversee the restoration of the home — an officially recognized national landmark.
After four years of meticulous renovation — including the grounds, garden, and surrounding vineyards — the villa was finally reopened as a luxurious bed and breakfast.
Today, Annalisa devotes her time to managing the villa and its collection of works of art and period furniture and furnishings.
She represents the fourth generation of the Franco family legacy.
And she is also part of a growing number of women who play increasingly important roles in running high-profile Italian wineries.
Since joining the family business, which was founded by her great-grandfather in 1919, she has worked in every capacity of the winemaking process, from vineyard management and vinification to branding, packaging, and marketing. She developed her command of English in part thanks to her mother Annalisa, an English professor, and in part thanks to summers at camp in England and Scotland. But it was during her first working trip to the U.S. in 2009, she says, that she achieved her mastery of the language.
“I believe that my background in design, my first passion, has helped me a great deal in my work,” says Silvia. “Having a ‘creative’ mind has helped me in every aspect of our work. Creativity plays such an important role in what we do, whether it’s making a decision about graphic design or even tasting the wines with my father.”
Although working full-time for the winery, she has never stopped studying: in 2008 she became a certified sommelier with the Italian Sommelier Association and she continues to study enology, business strategy, and branding.
Today, the U.S. is her focus but she occasionally travels also to Asia and South America where there is an expanding market for her family’s wines.
“We are working to show the world that the Prosecco DOCG represents the highest level of quality in the appellation,” she says. “It’s a niche category that includes only the best wines from our appellation.”
Her favorite pairing for her family’s wines?
“I once paired our San Floriano with oysters on the half-shell in the Pacific northwest. We don’t regularly eat raw oysters in the Veneto [where Prosecco is made] and so it was as surprising as it was delicious.”
His legacy is owed in part to the era in which he came of age. After completing his studies and then spending a few years perfecting his English in the “swinging” London of the early 70s, his father Antonio finally convinced him to join the family business.
At the time, the world’s thirst for high-quality sparkling wine was growing rapidly. Primo, who had lived abroad and spoke English fluently, had experienced firsthand the English passion for bubbles and he was among the first to recognize that the new generation of Prosecco had enormous potential for growth in English-speaking markets.
Valdobbiadene — where he, his father, and his grandfather were all born — was undergoing a radical change. Winemakers were shifting from the rustic style of Prosecco, often cloudy and sometimes bitter in taste, to a new and cleaner, fresh style of sparkling wine. Primo, whose experience outside of Italy had made him familiar with Anglo tastes, recognized that the new generation of Prosecco would be embraced by wine lovers on the other side of Atlantic, where a new generation of Americans was beginning to appreciate fine wine for the first time in the country’s history.
As one of the leading producers of Prosecco, armed with a keen interest in graphic design, Primo Franco and the Nino Franco winery had all the right stuff. His elegant labels, which evoked the rustic origins of his wines, were inspired by the artisanal traditions of Prosecco and the people who grew the grapes and made the wines. With their unprecedented artistic flair, the new look for the Nino Franco winery, conceived and developed by Primo, would ultimately prove to be one of the most enduring icons of the appellation. Little did the Franco family know at the time, but Primo was about to embark on an adventure that would reshape the world’s taste for sparkling wine.
Primo made his first trip to the U.S. in 1979, two years after he married the beautiful Annalisa, also from Valdobbiadene, whom he’d first met some years earlier in London where she was completing her studies in English. In 1982, in the wake of the initial success of the wines, he began to travel with greater frequency to North America, where he crisscrossed the country introducing Americans to Prosecco and forging relationships with hundreds of wine buyers and restaurateurs. It was around this time that he also took over winemaking responsibilities from his father.
By the end of the decade, the Prosecco revolution had officially begun. And with the passage of another ten years, as Primo returned each year to the States as Prosecco’s leading ambassador, Prosecco had become one of the most popular wines in America.
“Every Prosecco producer should give Primo ten cents for each bottle they ship to the U.S.,” said recently a young Prosecco grower and bottler who views Primo as a mentor and an inspiration for his own career as a winemaker.
Today, more Prosecco is sold throughout the world than Champagne. And Primo, perhaps more than any other winemaker, was the man behind this sweeping transformation of the fine wine landscape.
Today, he is an outspoken advocate for traditional farming practices in his beloved Valdobbiadene and although his daughter Silvia has now stepped into the role of the winery’s CEO, Primo continues to travel abroad, tasting and sharing the magic of his family’s wines with wine lovers across the globe.