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From the vineyard to the winery, the only possible step is the heart
The history of Villa, an ancient village in the heart of Franciacorta and the first residential nucleus of Monticelli Brusati, dates to the ancient times
Accredited historical research carried out in the Monticelli Brusati area has brought to light traces of noble families who inhabited this place since the 15th century. Fossils of ancient seeds speak of viticulture even dating back to Roman times; later, tomb remains narrate the presence of the Gauls.
The residential nucleus, named Ela, Villa in the local dialect of the time, takes shape and evolves over the centuries, so much so that in 1850 it appears on the Napoleonic maps, which highlight the very few residential nuclei present at that time, including the ancient Borgo Villa. The destiny of this land and this village, where important red wines have always been produced, changes definitively when Alessandro Bianchi, founder and patron of the historic winery, falls in love with it.
the first bottles
It is 1960 when Alessandro Bianchi, at the age of 26, falls in love with this ancient village. In those years, the landowners sold their land because agriculture did not provide a certain source of income. During an economic boom, it would have been wiser to invest in finance or industry, but Alessandro Bianchi, although he came from the mechanical industry OMFB created with his brothers, where he was the creative genius of all the produced pieces, saw in Villa the place of realization of his lifelong passion: life in contact with Nature and its becoming. Criticized by many, little supported by his family, except for his father who believed that the land would never betray him, he nevertheless pursued his choice with conviction and passion, which time proved to be a far-sighted vision.
At that time, the company's appearance was completely different from how it appears today. Sharecropping was still in force, wine production did not go beyond that of the original 16th-century cellar, and alongside it, maize and wheat cultivations predominated, while milk production was minimal due to the unsanitary conditions in which the now sick cows were housed. Moreover, in those same years, repeated hailstorms had damaged and put the economy of the entire Borgo and its inhabitants in difficulty. It seems like talking about centuries ago, but, this was what appeared to those who ventured into the Villa hamlet "only" sixty years ago: roofs smashed and farmers' houses without the minimum necessary for a dignified life. The only intact part of the Borgo was the master's residence, the summer residence of the city's Lords.
Not Owners, But Guardians
Yet, the love for the land and the passion for nature made Alessandro Bianchi glimpse the enormous potential of this place from a viticultural point of view. He thus decided to bring the hamlet back to its ancient splendor and enhance the potential of the owned lands, with an entrepreneurial approach and at the same time with the same sensitivity of those who do not feel like owners but guardians. Evidence of this was also the fact that he decided not to give his name to the company but to maintain the original name of the place: Villa. He also removed the right to build on the owned lands to ensure and deliver to future generations a pristine and special place.
The story continues, the dream becomes a reality
From that moment on, the history of Villa begins to revive, and with it, the life of the ancient Borgo and its inhabitants.
Alessandro Bianchi, a pioneer in Franciacorta, with the help of competent consultants, has a geopedological study carried out on each individual cadastral plot that makes up the property. The scientific and entrepreneurial approach, aimed at quality and research, prevails over the peasant mentality of maximum yields. All this means that already in the early years of activity, there is talk of selecting the most suitable lands, reducing yields, testing different clones, vinification tests, and even further diversification of rootstocks based on different types of soils.
Hence the idea of zoning the different plots, dictated by the choice of using only grapes from owned vineyards, aware of the uniqueness of the marine origin terroir. A great biodiversity, therefore, aimed at creating a varied vineyard park respectful of the specific characteristics of each soil belonging to the different small micro-terroirs, leading to the availability of base wines with different shades and characteristics, a true treasure that the winemaker can use.
4,000 bottles of Franciacorta - 30,000 still wines
The first bottles of "still wines"
Although great red wines had always been produced in Ela and sold in bulk, it was in 1974 that the first bottle of wine was bottled: Pinot di Franciacorta DOC, white wine, and Franciacorta DOC, red wine, which were then defined as still wines. These wines are a great success, so much so that the following year, in 1975, in Asti, the home of sparkling wine and a reference point for Italian oenology, Villa Franciacorta wins the first Douja d'Or gold medal for the Franciacorta DOC red wine.
Time at Villa Franciacorta has always been the distinctive hallmark of an action that does not accept shortcuts. Thus, only in 1978, after a long period of studies lasting 18 years, the first Villa Franciacorta vintage is born: Pinot di Franciacorta Methode Champenoise. Right from the start, it proves to be a true racehorse and will receive many awards over time. Pinot di Franciacorta Methode Champenoise Villa 1978 is the first vintage produced in Franciacorta by all the houses present on the territory. Today, as then, producing only vintage wines is part of Villa Franciacorta's creed.
“Hidden" cellars and dry stone walls
In the 1970s, the company began to undergo its first transformations. With a focus on sustainable development and respect for the landscape and nature of the Villa village, cellars were created by excavating beneath the hill. The only visual impact perceived from the outside are the entrance doors lying at the foot of the slope. It was during this period that the first cellar was inaugurated, carved out under the adjacent hill of the 16th century, to welcome the first 4000 bottles of Spumante Pinot di Franciacorta Methode Champenoise Villa 1978.
At the same time as the recovery of the ancient village, work was carried out to restore the terraced vineyards on the hill in stages. It was a meticulous and painstaking task that required skill and great expertise. The terroir of this vineyard, unique in the Franciacorta panorama, is highly valued by the company, which places great importance on it, making an incredible effort to reconstruct the dry stone walls of Gallic origin, with a slope that reaches 45%. The existing vines are also studied with the same attention, and clones are created from the old Chardonnay vines of over 40 years and the "Burdunsì mager" vines later classified as Cabernet Franc.
4,000 bottles of Franciacorta - 30,000 still wines
Villa Franciacorta, originally a mixed company, gradually transformed into a winery, focusing all its efforts on quality and excellence.
In 1980, Villa's first Franciacorta sparkling wine in history won a gold medal at the Asti wine competition. However, the long series of recognitions and confirmations for the excellent work done by the company had only just begun. In 1981, three gold medals were won for the Franciacorta red, Franciacorta white, and Pinot di Franciacorta Methode Champenoise. The greatest satisfaction and confirmation for the company, however, was to learn that the Villa Pinot di Franciacorta Methode Champenoise was served at the national congress of oenologists and winemakers as a representative of Italian sparkling wine.
In 1988, the new and larger cellar was inaugurated, representing the true beating heart of the company. Once again carved out under the hill, the new galleries became the ideal place, due to their characteristics of darkness, silence, and perfect isotherm, to jealously preserve around one million bottles, stacked by hand, one by one, to rest on the lees and let time, a fundamental ingredient, make each bottle special.
90,000 bottles of Franciacorta - 30,000 still wines
In 1990, Alessandro Bianchi had the intuition, together with twenty-eight fellow producers, to found the Franciacorta Consortium and sign a Disciplinary with strict rules to guarantee a production of high quality. Therefore, the Franciacorta Consortium was born, and it was precisely Alessandro Bianchi who convinced some colleagues to abandon the production of sparkling wines with the Charmat method (Martinotti) and undertake the path of quality, namely that of the "classic method," with refermentation in the bottle. In 1995, just 5 years after its birth, the Franciacorta Consortium obtained the recognition of the first DOCG in Italy.
After a few years, the slow recovery and restoration works of what were the old houses of the village workers began. Thanks to Roberta Bianchi, who at the time alternated Biological Sciences studies with her presence in the company, Villa Gradoni was completely restored and inaugurated in 1990 as an agritourism. Located at the foot of the homonymous hill, Villa Gradoni represents another concrete example of farsightedness in the company's history, an approach to hospitality in a period when wineries demonstrated total closure to the tourism sector. In fact, it was among the first Italian agritourism present in the early 90s, a precursor of a trend that would spread only many years later.
The air-conditioning room is renovated: an important space, between the roof and the cellars, designed to cool the cellars below thanks to the contribution of cold currents that naturally descend from the hill towards the flatter area in the evening. This place, with its charm of times past, will be a witness from that moment on of beautiful parties, study moments, and extremely interesting vertical tastings of the precious bottles of the private collection.
180,000 bottles of Franciacorta - 50,000 still wines
The new millennium opens by celebrating with precious Jeroboam, vintage 1996, limited edition, decorated with a brass tile, by sculptor Mario Rossello depicting the tree of life. Vita Nova will become an award established by the company to recognize those who have best distinguished themselves in the arts, culture, social and trades. Among the awardees are Ermanno Olmi, for his ability to tell the story of rural life, Prof. Bertelli for discovering the resveratrol molecule in wine, and Father Kizito Sesana, a missionary priest in Zambia, Kenya, and Uganda, for his battles on human rights and peace.
Dedicated entirely to the vinification of Franciacorta using small tanks and steel vats, this new winery allows for the complete separation of aging and vinification, freeing up the large galleries capable of accommodating over a million bottles for long aging periods, which Villa Franciacorta is increasingly pursuing, even up to 15 years on lees.
In 2001, additional apartments of Villa Gradoni Charme & Nature are inaugurated The playground is renovated, a barbecue area is created, and a pool is added for children in addition to the existing one for adults.
In 2001, with the aim of promoting Franciacorta culture throughout the meal, an international competition involving the best starred and non-starred chefs in haute cuisine is launched by Villa Franciacorta: Sparkling Menu is born. The protagonist of the competition is Cuvette, Villa Franciacorta's Cru. A significant, complex wine, with great savoriness and excellent freshness, to be paired with dishes that create the perfect food/wine marriage. Once again, Villa Franciacorta is a pioneer, with an innovative vision that expands the use of sparkling wine, no longer limiting it to just aperitifs or festive moments.
250,000 bottles of Franciacorta - 50,000 still wines
50 years of Villa Franciacorta
A big celebration for the first 50 years of Villa Franciacorta! In the presence of more than 300 guests, Roberta gives her father Alessandro the Franciacorta RNA: Riserva Nobile Alessandro Bianchi as a seal of a highly anticipated and happy achievement, that of having realized a great dream: "to make this semi-abandoned village rise from its ashes like a phoenix and project it towards a future of great success, delivering it renewed and enhanced to future generations for centuries to come."
The photographic exhibition in the ancient barn, a magical open space, tells the story of 50 years of the agricultural company, the rebirth of a village, and the magic of moments that, even through images, come back to relive and excite.
A bubbly for a smile
"What could be better than celebrating a great and ambitious milestone like the first 50 years of Villa Franciacorta and doing it with those who are less fortunate than you!" This is how Roberta Bianchi's idea of dedicating the project "A bubbly for a smile" was born, because through a toast, the entire proceeds could be donated to the creation of street schools in Haiti, providing a certain meal, the opportunity to live during the day away from the slums, and receive education, the true heritage of future men and women who can aim for social redemption. It is the beginning of support operations for the Francesca Rava Foundation, which is still close to Roberta Bianchi's heart, always open to new challenges, such as with the "Ninos que esperan" association in Santo Domingo, these realities guarantee the successful outcome of every single euro paid. "Donating is the best gift you can give to yourself!"
Roberta Bianchi has always focused on hospitality, strongly convinced that "letting people experience and breathe in" their philosophy is the best way to communicate. In the old barn and in the old lodges of the ancient villa, new spaces for tastings and hospitality are created, as well as the gallery of the many awards received. In addition, other new apartments are created for a tourist offer that amplifies the communicative strength of the company.
250,000 bottles of Franciacorta - 50,000 still wines
This unfortunately famous year did not spare Villa Franciacorta. Alessandro Bianchi passed away. “He will continue to live in this enchanted village, in every small corner and nook that he so carefully intended to preserve.”
Through his actions, Alessandro Bianchi, a true Genius Loci, extended his hand to this old village from the age of 26, helping it rise again by sharing his life with it every day until the age of 86.
The second generation
Roberta Bianchi, however, is the one who has breathed the love for this land since she was a child and fully embodies her father's soul with pride, carrying on his great dream. Graduated from the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics in Environmental Science and Sustainable Development in 2004, she brings research, innovation, and environmental sustainability to be the distinctive features of her actions.
New spaces, new ideas, new opportunities
This is how the new cellar is inaugurated, also completely underground with a dedicated wine-making room, a dedicated degorgement room, a laboratory, and functional spaces for storing the finished product so that everything, from grapes to labeled bottles, takes place through a monitored and validated path according to the ISO 14001 protocol, an internationally recognized environmental certification.
But it is the new laboratory that is the real gem, where autochthonous yeasts with the Villa Franciacorta patent are constantly studied and monitored during the harvest and drawing phases. The professors, departmental coordinators of the microbiology department of the University of Florence, oenology course, are personally present in these delicate phases to set and verify the correct protocol to facilitate the correct "journey" of fermentation and refermentation.
"To revive a forgotten village and bring it back to life, to sense the potential of the land by putting it in a position to express itself to give rise to wines of great depth, to preserve nature from illegal building and homogenization. This is what passion and love for the land can do when they are part of you, when they are the genetic heritage that you have received from your parents and that leads you to act as you have seen done for years with humility."