A Year in Need of Sparkling Wine Surprises

Katarina Andersson
7 min readDec 5, 2020


What better way to put a sparkle on the Christmas holidays this particular year than with some excellent sparkling wine? Join the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group this month to learn more about Italian sparkling wines.

December with #ItalianFWT

The theme this month, December 2020, is Sparkling Wines of Italy for the Holidays in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel (#ItalianFWT) group. I will be talking about three sparkling wines from the three regions Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, and Campania.

Photo by Simon John-McHaffie on Unsplash

A Long Year in Need of Sparkles

This year has been so grueling and tough, it has put so much pressure on the world from a point of health and safety but also mentally and economically. This one year seems as long as a decade or a century, at the same time as it seems to have come and gone without us being aware of much else than being restricted to our homes. A year that seems to embody a ‘long durée’ approach all in one year, this paradigm that was coined by Fernand Braudel and the Annales school in the 1950s.

More simplified, Braudel saw historical time more as structural and in levels rather than chronological. One aspect that came out of the Annales school was to look upon crisis as a possibility for fundamental structural change. I think we are in such a period of crisis, that have, or will, put in motion profound structural changes.

We have seen some of these changes affecting also the wine world during the past year, some changes that were long overdue and with Covid have become like a car entering the fast lane and not knowing how to turn into the normal-paced lane again. At the same time as we are all part of a unique time in history, we are also being witnesses to changes that can at times be perceived as painful and overwhelming. Here I am, for example, thinking about changes in the sales and distribution system and the need for digitalization of the marketing processes in the wine world.

As Paul Mabray mentioned in a talk at the virtual Wine2Wine event some weeks ago, the global wine sector, and especially the Italian one, is very much behind compared to other industries in going digital. This makes it chaotic at times when the industry now finds itself in a need of making the transformation in as little time as possible. A bit of tunnel vision is also natural as a result of looking to learn from others within the wine sector that in reality are newbies just like you when instead it is of importance to learn from digital marketing professionals.

As I mentioned in the beginning, it becomes of the essence to give the holiday season this year a bit of sparkle with some nice sparkling wines. We need to cheer ourselves up and start looking at things from the bright side, don’t you think so?

I have chosen three different Italian sparkling wines that have given me comfort in different moments this year and that will make me happy during this Christmas season. They are from three distinct regions: Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, and Campania.

A Classic Sangiovese that Sparkles

Fattoria di Fibbiano is a winery I have written about a lot in the past and they have become good friends by now. I, of course, also love their wines. They are located close to Terricciola on the Pisa hills which is an area that until some years ago was less known when it comes to wine. During the last years, the producers in this area have worked to better put themselves on the Italian as well as the world wine map.

Bottles of sparkling Sangiovese resting on the lees at Fattoria di Fibbiano. Photo credit: Fattoria di Fibbiano
Photo credit: Fattoria di Fibbiano.

Some years ago, they started to produce the Morfeo Metodo Classico Pas Dosé in a limited edition and by now they make around 10 000 bottles a year. It is a 100% Sangiovese wine where the grapes are pressed softly to give it a copper-like hue. It then rests on the lees for 36 months making it into a structured sparkling wine with an elegant perlage and a rich and creamy taste followed by notes of fruit such as raspberry, herby and green notes (hay, for example). A very pleasant sparkling wine that cheered me and Letizia up during one of the gloomy Covid nights this autumn.

Emilia-Romagna Sparkles with its Pignoletto

Pignoletto was probably fairly unknown to many until some years ago, it is a grape that was historically grown in the area around Bologna and generally in the areas where hemp was cultivated. Pignoletto used to be cultivated within the maple or elm tree lines that served as a “wind barrier” to stop the female hemp from spreading and reproducing itself, says Giorgio Melandri, a friend of mine, an expert on food and wine culture in Emilia-Romagna, and the original founder of the Enologica wine event, in his text The Hierophant, Pignoletto.

He, furthermore, says that “Bologna and Emilia-Romagna are emerging regions in the collective consciousness of the world’s inhabitants. […] The town has a great desire for growth, especially with regard to its gastronomic heritage, and is keen to create a future for itself in this sense. And there is a wine, the Pignoletto, that perfectly represents all of this.”

Pignoletto is in reality another name for the Grechetto di Todi grape that has its home in Todi in Umbria. The Grechetto grape is cultivated in several of the central regions of Italy. Often it is referred to as the Grechetto Gentile but Ian D’Agatha writes that, in reality, the Grechetto Gentile corresponds to only one single clone of the Grechetto di Todi. There are mainly two Pignoletto clones that correspond or are twins to two distinct Grechetto di Todi clones. (See Ian D’Agatha, Native Wine Grapes of Italy, pp. 400–401.) Generally, the Pignoletto wines are mineral and with notes of mountain herbs and citrus fruits.

A bottle of Pignoletto sparkling wine from Tomisa winery.
Photo credit: Tomisa winery

I have tasted a Pignoletto, or rather Ciparissa Grechetto Gentile frizzante 2017 IGT from the Tomisa winery that is located close to San Lazzaro di Savena not far from Bologna. Their vineyards are inside the national park “dei Gessi e dei Calanchi dell’Abbadessa”. It is a fizzy wine — frizzante — that is produced with the tank method to a lower pressure of max 2.5 bar and rests on the lees for one month. It has notes of herbs, very ripe fruit, a lot of ripe apples, spicy — a hint of cinnamon, yet fresh, and a smooth and slightly fizzy taste.

Native Grapes Sparkle as Gold in a Campania Spumante

Recently, I have been talking a lot about Milena Pepe and her Tenuta Cavalier Pepe. I wrote the article Milena Pepe: A Dynamic Woman in Wine in Irpinia about her in The Vintner Project last month and then she was a guest when I celebrated 5 years of live streaming the other week. She has a fascinating history and is indeed a very dynamic woman in wine. Belgian-born to an Italian father and a Belgian mother, she decided about 15 years ago to move to Irpinia and set up a winery to start managing her father’s vineyards there.’

Oro Spumante sparkling wine from Tenuta Cavalier Pepe, Campania
Photo credit: Tenuta Cavalier Pepe

I have tasted her Oro Spumante which is a Charmat method sparkling wine made with three native white grapes. The grapes used are Fiano, Coda di Volpe, and Falanghina. It is a sparkling wine produced with the Charmat, or tank, method where it has a second fermentation to gain the sparkles in the “autoclave” for 6 months. It has a fine perlage and a smooth, mineral, citrusy, and savory taste. At the nose you can feel a mix of lovely notes such as citrus, lime, apple, herbs, and flint…you can almost feel an undertone of volcanic soil.

Which sparkling wine have you chosen for the holidays?

Terri of Our Good Life says Beviamo alla nostra! Prosecco Superiore and Happy Christmas!

Marcia of Joy of Wine is Celebrating the Season with Sparkling Freisa.

Cindy of Grape Experiences writes about Pure Trentodoc — Sparkling Wines from the Mountains.

Jill of L’Ocassion encourages us to Be in Italy for the Holidays with This Bubbly Wine Lineup.

Gwendolyn of Wine Predator pushes Beyond Prosecco? Try These Sustainable Sparkling Wines from Italy’s Erbaluce, Franciacorta, Lambrusco, Pignoletto.

Lynn of Savor the Harvest gives us Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco to Make Your Holiday Sparkle — La Tordera Rive Di Guia.

Wendy of A Day in the Life on the Farm says Cheers to 2021…2020 Don’t Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out.

Susannah of Avvinare pours Versatile Lambrusco for the Holidays.

Deanna of Asian Test Kitchen serves Val D’Oca Prosecco Paired with Party Starters.

Payal of Keep the Peas offers A ‘SeeYaNever2020’ Toast with Italian Bubbly.

Linda of My Full Wine Glass says Hello Again, Lambrusco — Everyone Deserves a Second Chance.

Jane of Always Ravenous pairs a Frizzante with Holiday Sweet Treats.

Robin of Crushed Grape Chronicles pours strong Prosecco — Joyful Bubbles to “Wring” Out 2020.

Jen of Vino Travels is ready to Sparkle up the Holidays with Prosecco Superiore.

Martin of ENOFYLZ Wine Blog offers A Taste of 21st Century Lambrusco; Paltrinieri Lambrusco di Sorbara Radice.

Nicole of Somm’s Table shares The Wide Worldof Italian Bubblies.

Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla is Celebrating with Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Amidst the Pandemic.



Katarina Andersson

PhD, Wine Writer, Sommelier, Wine Judge, Content Strategist for Wineries, Translator, founder of #WinesOfItaly #LiveStream- Wine is an Experience-Football fan