Mosnel takes its name from an ancient dialect place-name, of Celtic origin, that means "rock pile," which conjures up very effectively the long, hard efforts required for the clearing and preparation of this land by Cistercian monks, from Cluny in Burgundy. Not very far from our cellar, in the borgo, or medieval hamlet, of Rodengo, they founded a magnificent abbey and were the first, as they ploughed the local earth, to introduce cultivation of the grapevine.
Thus, Camignone ("Cà mignon") too was able to quickly gain a considerable reputation for its production of good quality wines, as attested by the Catastico Bresciano of 1609, during the period of the Venetian Republic: for Camignone, it states that "the fields are good and yield wonderful wines."
It is precisely in the context of those auspicious traditions that the agricultural estate of Il Mosnel had its birth, as the property of the powerful Cacciamatta family and, starting in 1836, of the Barboglio family. The most ancient structure today, the 16th-century wine cellar, dates back to those earliest days.
Right from the active role in the business assumed by Rosina Rosa Cacciamatta, the last descendant of the Cacciamatta family of Camignone and wife of Pietro Barboglio, women have always played a prominent role in the vicissitudes of Mosnel, right up to the 1950s in fact. Emanuela Barboglio, educated and trained by her maternal aunt Nina, had to take over the reins of the family business at the age of eighteen, upon the death of her father. Those were difficult years, with the sharecroppers abandoning the fields for the cities, to find jobs in the factories.
Emanuela Barboglio decided to do exactly the opposite, moving from the city to Camignone. After the estate experimented initially with animal breeding, she contributed to the complete dedication of the enterprise to winemaking, with the first planting of premium vineyards and then, in 1968, with the extension of the recently-established DOC Franciacorta to her own wines.
In recent years Emanuela Barboglio has been joined in the management of Il Mosnel by her children. Giulio Barzanò is responsible for the technical, business, and production areas, working with the oenologists and consultants, while daughter Lucia Barzanò directs administration, marketing, public and press relations. Both participate in the important domestic and international wine and trade shows.
Although evidence has been found of pre-historic vines and of the production of "Rhaetian" wines in the Roman period in the area around the colony of Brixia, true Franciacorta winemaking actually begins only with the Lombard hegemony in the 6th century AD, and in particular in the early 9th century with the agrarian reforms promoted by Charlemagne. The establishment of a viable winemaking culture, however, must be credited, as mentioned earlier, to the monastic foundations, largely of Cluniac inspiration. In addition to erecting splendid abbeys such as that of Rodengo, they devoted their efforts to clearing and creating fertile farmlands, thus contributing to the development of viticulture. They also established the independent status of the towns, or the "Francae Curtes," exempt from payment of commercial duties.
The historian Gabriele Archetti, in his extensive study, Tempus vindemie - per la storia delle vigne e del vino nell'Europa medievale (Brescia 1998), devotes a chapter significantly entitled "Una terra vocata: la Franciacorta" (Franciacorta: an ideal land for vineyards) to the spread of viticulture between the 9th and 11th centuries, and points out that even in those times the vineyards were laid out on well-exposed hillslopes, sometimes terraced, in accordance with a specific belief that "quality" wines, ones with good structure, distinctiveness, and ageability, would result from such siting, compared to vineyards in the plains. Thank to the push provided by the Cluniac monks, vineyard cultivation practices improved, as did those of winemaking: sturdier winepresses were constructed, and various-sized barrels were utilised for vinification and transport to market.
The ampelographic repertoire of Franciacorta grape varieties at that time was quite different from that of today. It underwent even more change in the late 19th century, when the phylloxera plague hit here too. The predominant varieties were Schiava, Groppello, Nostrano, Malvasia, Moscatello, and Vernaccia, but there was as yet no trace of Pinot Noir (white or red) or of Chardonnay. But one practice had begun to take root that centuries later would make Franciacorta famous: the custom of making "biting" (mordaci) wines, that is, re-fermented and fizzy. As the American wine writer Burton Anderson observed in his book Franciacorta: Un territorio, un vino (Milano, 1999), "production methods were somewhat approximate and results unpredictable since reliable stabilisation procedures had not been developed.
Wines with residual sugar and active yeast cells tended to continue fermenting. Even dry wines could begin a second, or malolactic, fermentation, set off by ambient heat. Whether a wine ended up dry or sweet, lightly sparkling or fully effervescent, depended on time, weather conditions, the phases of the moon, and even luck."
The tradition of producing wines with... bubbles continued, however, even though Andrea Bacci, in his celebrated 1596 book, De naturali vinum historia, in which he praises the wines of Franciacorta, stating that the towns of Palazzolo and Erbusco "abound in very full-bodied wines," makes no mention of any mordaci wines. Some decades earlier, an agronomist, Agostino Gallo, wrote about a very special wine called cisiolo, made from the free-run juice of red grapes which was given a brief fermentation then aged in small casks stored in only the coldest cellars or even in wells, so that it would keep its fizziness for at least a year. Gallo was quickly followed, in 1570, by Gerolamo Conforti, a physician, whose Libellus de vino mordaci described the characteristics, production method, and therapeutic values of the youthful sparkling wines, "crisp and prickly (piccante e mordace)," made in the area.
None of this is meant to imply that Franciacorta preceded Champagne and Dom Pérignon, both of which had the opportunity and good fortune of having bottles strong enough to resist the pressure of the wine and grapes varieties suitable for secondary fermentation; it is simply testimony to the fact that fizzy wines were popular and widespread in Europe, and hence in Franciacorta as well, in the 17th century.
This tradition assumed new strength and vigour, as well as a thoroughly modern thrust, in the early 1960s (taking advantage of the introduction in the late 19th century of Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir) with the first Pinot di Franciacorta sparkling wines, and then, in July of 1967, with the launching of the Franciacorta DOC. This denomination initially covered both red and white wines, still and sparkling, but already in 1983 it allowed for a Franciacorta DOC Bianco (of Pinot Blanc and/or Chardonnay) and a Franciacorta DOC Spumante (of Pinot Blanc and/or Chardonnay, with up to 15% Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir). With the approval of the DOCG in September 1995, reserved exclusively to Franciacorta sparkling wine (with Terre di Franciacorta DOC covering the still wines, both white and red), the winemaking history of this area, in which Il Mosnel too played a prominent role, has, for the moment at least, reached its centuries-long goal. And the vini mordaci have fittingly passed the baton to the noble perlage of the Franciacorta DOCG.
Some notes on recent growing years:
2004Daytime temperatures during this growing season were never excessively high, and night figures were fairly low; the resulting daily temperature ranges favoured accumulation and preservation of aromas in the fruit. The season held no big surprises nor problems, so it represented a return to normal season parameters, quantity included: yields reached the maximum allowed by the Production Code, after two years of small crops. The weather brought out the differences inherent in each of the Franciacorta viticultural micro-areas, so that one can expect the various Franciacorta base wines to vary significantly, depending on their source areas, but all with superb delicacy and healthy acidity. All of this augurs cuvées that will be very crisp and clean, with rich aromatics, exhibiting notable distinctiveness, and superb ageing potential.
2003Rain was quite scarce in the first nine months of this year. Early spring saw low temperatures that in some areas caused light bud damage, but temperatures rose to above average, in particular during the summer, bringing on a very early harvest. These overall weather conditions ensured very healthy fruit and above average sugar levels. Yields both in the vineyard and in the cellar were off from previous years because of decreased water availability in the soils and consequent greater juice concentration in the berries. Expectations are for Franciacorta with healthy alcohols and exceptionally complex aromatics.
2002A particularly harsh, dry winter resulted in uneven and rather laboured budbreak, which veered back to normal when favourable spring weather brought about renewed vegetative growth. Cold rainy days characterised the flowering period, thus negatively impacting fruit set and leading to less than average cluster weight. Following the month of June, particularly warm and dry, summer showed low average temperatures and considerable rain, with periods of hail. Overall, the resultant harvest brought in less fruit than recent averages; on the other hand, the compositional parameters of the fruit, in particular an impressive sugar-acid relationship, augur well for lengthy ageing of Franciacorta on the lees and thus for the suitability of this vintage for some striking vintage-dated versions.
2001The growing season saw fairly low average temperatures up to fruit set, with continuous, well-spaced periods of rain, resulting in clusters that were not too tight. Following fruit set, the weather changed markedly, temperatures shot up and rain became quite scarce from veraison onwards, favouring optimal ripening. The fruit was quite healthy, with excellent compositional balance, yielding very clean Franciacorta base wines with good sugar-acid ratios, exhibiting varietal fragrances that are quite rich but elegant as well, portending a great vintage.
2000The growing season saw low temperatures and little humidity preceding veraison, but from veraison to harvest (August 18) the weather was quite warm, dry, and windy. The fruit showed excellent sugar-acid balance. The must yield in sampled vineyards came in at 5,850 l/ha. The must destined for Franciacorta showed excellent alcohols, modest residual sugars, healthy pH and very good acidity, while the base wines were well structured and full bodied, aromas and fragrances that were complex, intense, and very notably delicate.
19991999 was another vintage marked by extremely low yields in our vineyards, which translated into concentrated, complex wines. The ripening of the fruit marked out for Franciacorta base wines was ideal, with diurnal temperature ranges at harvest time ensuring good development of aromatic components. Good year as well for Terre di Franciacorta whites and reds.
1998This year was notable for markedly low yields per hectare, as a result of lack of rain in the period following veraison. But lack of rain during harvest brought optimal ripening in all varieties. Quality was extremely high both for Franciacorta DOCG and for the Terre di Franciacorta whites; all of the reds, Terre di Franciacorta Rosso and IGT Sebino Pinot Noir, were exceptional.
1997The growing season enjoyed perfect weather conditions. Yield was slightly less than the preceding year, although quality was excellent. We would rank it as a five-star vintage, remarkably fine for both the Terre di Franciacorta whites and reds.
The winemaking cellar is largely housed in the ancient 16th-century buildings, whose various areas were gradually restored to preserve their historical appeal and to ensure their distinctiveness; today it is functionally modern and all winemaking and maturation procedures are carried out there. Il Mosnel, whose name appeared for the first time on a wine label in 1976 (before that, Azienda Agricola Barzanò Barboglio was the indicated producer), was one of the very first Franciacorta wineries to utilise stainless steel tanks and refrigeration units. Today, extremely delicate pressing is provided by two latest-generation membrane presses, which send each individual press load to specific steel tanks, designated not only by grape variety but by source vineyard as well.
Alongside the steel tanks, in the quietest areas of the cellar, and where the humidity is constant, stand the medium- and small-sized Slavonian, Hungarian, and French oak casks, from the most prized forests of the Massif Central. They are used for the long, patient maturation of the wines before bottling and release, and, in the case of the riserve and of the most important crus, for fermentations, partial or complete, that will ensure greater complexity and colour stability.
Our winery is impressed by the significant benefits offered by small French oak barrels on full-bodied, fine-quality wines, as long as they are used carefully and with restraint. For that reason, we are very careful in selecting only the best cooperages, and in requiring proper ageing periods and toast levels for the wood, and we match the ageing period and conditions to the specific type of wine. Only three wines, therefore, are aged 100% in barrel, Sulif, Passito, and Pinot Noir, and only a third of the barrels are new. The percentages of barrel maturation vary, from a maximum represented by Terre di Franciacorta Rosso Fontecolo, which is also aged in 3-hl botti, to a minimum represented by Terre di Franciacorta Rosso, 20-30% of which goes to used barrels and the rest to 3- to 6-hl oak casks, some of them of Hungarian toasted oak. The base wines for spumante too, in particular for Satèn, can be aged in casks of varying sizes.
HOW FRANCIACORTA IS PRODUCED
Franciacorta is the classic or traditional method that utilises the Champagne method, used for centuries, of a second fermentation in the bottle. The effervescence, as opposed to the non-fizziness of still wines, is achieved through a natural process that converts sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide (CO2); the latter is held in the bottle until the act of pouring the wine, when it forms the characteristic tiny bubbles.
The process requires a number of rather delicate winemaking procedures carried out with painstaking care and artisanal expertise, as well as lengthy periods of time--some wines can be held for ageing even many years before their release-- and high costs, all of which justify the bottle's final price, much higher than just a common "sparkling wine."
The results, however, in terms of finesse, of character and subtle perfection, show clearly that the price of a Franciacorta and that of Il Mosnel's wines are more than justified by the considerable quality difference that sets them apart from the common "sparkling wines" produced on a industrial scale with less costly and quicker processes.
Our grapes, in perfect condition and as quickly after being picked as possible, are brought to the cellar in shallow boxes and subjected to careful inspection. They are then lightly pressed, and the must is stored, then cultured yeasts are added, and it cool-ferments at a maximum of 18oC, and then rests again.
Only in the following spring are the base wines that are marked out for Franciacorta blended to make up the cuvées, which will re-ferment in the bottle and remain there a minimum of 25 months.
The winery currently has some 40 hectares of estate vineyards (30 to white grapes and 10 to red), subdivided into about 15 blocks that surround the winery complex and make harvest operations easier by ensuring a staggered arrival of grapes to the cellar for pressing and fermentation.
The varieties are:
DOCG grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir
DOC grapes: Cabernet (Franc and Sauvignon), Merlot, Nebbiolo, Barbera.
The vineyard soils, in an area of moraine deposits, are more calcareous than clay, and moderately deep. The vineyards generally face east-southeast and are planted on the Fantecolo hills. In the lower areas are the vineyards which yield fruit marked out for Franciacorta sparkling wine; gradually ascending the slope, one finds the vineyards whose grapes go to the Terre di Franciacorta Riserva.
All of the estate vineyards are located in the area of Passirano. They are cultivated without any fertilisers, herbicides, or insecticides, in deliberate adherence to European Union Law 2078/94 (now called Misura F), which contains strict regulations concerning environmental impacts.
From 1985 on, the vineyards, both those already-established as well as those acquired later, were extensively re-structured, re-trained from the excessively productive Sylvoz system to the spur-pruned cordon-trained system, at a medium-high density between 4,000 and 8,000 vines per hectare, a system Il Mosnel was first to adopt in Franciacorta. Equal attention was paid to holding down the average yield per vine, currently about two kilos, and to more planting of more suitable clones, for example those selected from Burgundy for the Pinot Noir IGT Sebino.
The average age of the vineyards is presently about 20 years for the oldest, to six years for those planted most recently.
A cultural space at Il Mosnel for all "Quelli che il vino..."
An easy drive from the Ospitaletto autostrada exit and just a brief distance from the magnificent Lago d'Iseo, one can discover a spot were wine has become a cultural experience. We call that Quelli che il vino... ("Those to whom wine..."), opened officially in 2003 as a new and unique resource for the devotees of Bacchus. Within the ancient buildings of the historic Il Mosnel winery estate, an entire complex is devoted to the terroir of rolling morainic hills that is Franciacorta, its goal the strengthening of the age-old bonds with this land and the products that spring from it.
The idea came to Lucia and Giulio Barzanò, owners together with their mother Emanuela Barboglio of the House in Camignone, who felt the need to create a central point of reference for all those who understand that winemaking is a cultural expression. That need finds its concrete answer in Quelli che il vino..., which translates into a space where guests of divergent professions, education, customs, and lifestyles meet together, bound by a common passion for this precious nectar: from the simple wine lover to the oenologist, from the winery owner to the customer, from the sommelier to production professional, all can share, learn, compare ideas and notes on all aspects of this wonderfully special product.
Our meetings calendar is brimming with interesting proposals: from the traditional guided tastings to the more intriguing food and wine pairings, from musical programmes to those devoted to wine and food literature-but each with wine as the star, and performing in enchanting surroundings. We are in a two-story-high room, heated and air-conditioned, with open-beamed construction and a mansard ceiling; large windows look out over our most beautiful estate vineyards. Warm and inviting, it is furnished with restrained elegance and is adaptable to a wide variety of uses. The massive wood tables can, in fact, quickly make way for a multimedia hall that will accommodate up to 100 participants! When the weather favours us, we can offer you the opportunity sample our wines in the open air, comfortably ensconced in our covered portico and enjoying the superb vineyard landscape. So, these are the exceptional settings that we can make available should you wish to organize business meetings or small conferences, where grand style and warm hospitality will transform serious business into a very special experience indeed.
For "Those who...read wine," on the other hand, we have available the elegant intimacy of a special corner well-stocked with the most important wine guides and journals. An oasis of leisure with a view! Such are the details that truly make a difference, and enable our building to offer a level of amenities and service in every way equal to its beauty and elegance.
Further opportunities we offer you, with reservation required, are visits to the winemaking cellar, to the medieval borgo, and to the villa's park, with its venerable trees, where you can more comfortably taste our wines paired with some of the local specialities, such as cured meats (salumi) and cheeses. This year, too, we are making available comfortable bicycles and attractive basket lunches, designed for unforgettable rides along two special pathways: the Percorso delle Rose (Pathway of the Roses) (4 km) and the 7-km Pathway of the Yew Tree (Tasso) that branch out to cover the entire 40 hectares of our estate vineyards. Those who fear losing the compass can reserve a personal guide for these jaunts!
So we have created a kind of treasure trove in the magnificent area of Franciacorta, far more ambitious than a simple area in the winery. Made available by Quelli che il vino ... è la loro vita ("Those to whom wine...is their life."), where one may taste wine, celebrate it; where wine is art, science, culture, feelings, play; where wine is always, and everywhere, not just in the glass or on one's lips, but in the vine-rows that march in through the windows, and in the fragrances that waft in from the cellar and fill the room. For the pleasure of Quelli che il vino...
You can browse through our scheduled programmes on our website, www.ilmosnel.com, in the section "Quelli che il vino." Join an event by calling 030.653117 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org
For meetings/conferences/ courses/workshops:
Meeting room for up to 40 people
Hall/Auditorium for up to 70 seats
Grans Hall Auditorium for up to 100 seats
Covered portico with panoramic view over vineyards
Sound system with microphones
Computer videoprojection system
Aur conditioning and heating
Visits to cellar, borgo, and park
Tasting of our Franciacorta DOCG and Terre di Franciacorta wines, with local salumi and cheeses
Work lunches or dinners arranged with the best local caterers
Bicycles for rides in the vineyards, with option of picnic lunches
Themed tasting evenings
Upon request, we offer tasting workshops and classes, cooking classes, and vineyard excursions