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The Brachetto Grape

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About Brachetto

(Synonyms: Birbet, Borgogna)

Background

Brachetto grapes Map showing the Piedmont region of Italy

Brachetto is a red-wine grape originating in, and still almost exclusively grown in, the Piedmont region of Italy. It is used to make not only red wines, but rosés and even sparkling wines. Piemontese red wines labelled "Brachetto" must, by Italian law, be at least 85% Brachetto, and monovarietal bottlings are common. (Brachetto can be, and often is, up to 10% of the Ruché red wines from the appellation "Ruché di Castagnole Monferrato".)

The chief identifying quality of Brachetto-based wines is a clear, distinct strawberry quality, from their aromatic nose through their light-bodied (and usually low-alcohol) flavor. The sparkling wines of Brachetto—denominated "Brachetto d'Acqui"—are normally vinified quite off-dry and seem to be on a par with Lambrusco; the reds are normally quite dry even though fruity.

The dry, table-wine rendition is hard to find (and apparently becoming increasingly so as the sweet bubbly dominates sales ever more), but is well worth seeking out for the occasional offbeat and pleasant light red.

Factoid: Wines made from Brachetto grapes grown outside the limits of the legally defined appellation zone cannot be labelled "Brachetto", so growers in nearby areas often call their Brachetto wines "Birbét", which means "the little rogue". (All the table-wine Brachettos are bottlings that cannot legally be called "Brachetto", though only one is actually called a Birbét—the others have proprietary names: "Anthos" and "Maté".)


Some Descriptions of Brachetto Wines

  • Wikipedia

    "Brachetto tend to produce light-bodied, highly aromatic wines with distinctive notes of strawberries. In the DOCG region of Brachetto d'Acqui, the grape is used to produce a slightly sweet sparkling wine that is similar to Lambrusco and is sometimes called the a light red equivalent of Moscato d'Asti."

  • Wine Searcher

    "Red and black raspberries, wild strawberries and rose petals are terms frequently used to describe the profound scent. . . Interestingly, Brachetto has been known (unofficially) as Birbet in Roero since the region was excluded from the Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG. As Piemont doesn't have an IGT classification, Roero's wines fall into the Vino da Tavola classification, which prevents them from listing Brachetto on the labels. Writing "Birbet" on them has been the growers' way around the legislation."

  • Tar and Roses

    "Brachetto tend to produce light bodied, highly aromatic wines with distinctive notes of strawberries. In the DOCG region of Brachetto d'Acqui, the grape is used to produce a slightly sweet sparkling wine that is similar to Lambrusco and is sometimes called the a light red equivalent of Moscato d'Asti."

  • Italian Wine Geek

    "A grape usually reserved for fruity, sweet, slightly sparkling wines. However, in the hands of masterful grape growers and winemakers, Brachetto becomes something much more. I love this wine. I love its sensuous soft tannins, and is beguiling dried flower aromatics. I love the simple strawberry-tartness that mingles with something headier, something more like tree bark or a damp forest floor. This is a wine to feed your wildest fantasies- a perfect pairing with aged cheeses, braised veal shanks, or a sunset."

  • Palate Press

    "While there are some great sweet brachetto wines worth seeking out, . . the rare still wines are the ones to hunt. . . As with ruché, pelaverga, and grignolino, there is a strong floral component that combines with brisk acidity and buoyant, lovable plush strawberry fruit."


Some Brachettos to Try

(About this list.)

We here, in accordance with the general policies of this site, restrict ourselves to the dry table-wine renditions of the grape. That severely shortens the list: in fact, we could only find four specimens; at retail, one is reasonably common, one unusual, and one essentially rare. We feel this a wine type worth getting, so keep your eyes open in wineshops (making sure always that you are getting a dry wine, assuming that's your preference).

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
  • Matteo Correggia "Anthos" Brachetto, $12 - $30.
    (Reasonably available.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Anthos, a serious, elegant, dry red wine, is made with 100% Brachetto. Seriously. A grape usually reserved for fruity, sweet, slightly sparkling wines. However, in the hands of masterful grape growers and winemakers, Brachetto becomes something much more. I love this wine. I love its sensuous soft tannins, and is beguiling dried flower aromatics. I love the simple strawberry-tartness that mingles with something headier, something more like tree bark or a damp forest floor. This is a wine to feed your wildest fantasies- a perfect pairing with aged cheeses, braised veal shanks, or a sunset.

    He said: Served slightly chilled (20 minutes in the refrigerator). Clear, light ruby color. Floral, cherry, raspberry and ripe strawberry aromas. Fresh fruit taste that goes all the way through the medium-long finish. VERY FULL of berry fruit, VERY SOFT tannins, yet a wonderful fruit tartness. If you like juicy fruit in your wine (like I do) you’ll love this!!! For me this is an OUTSTANDING wine and a GREAT bargain…and I’m glad we have a second bottle. Every taste gets better and better (we will not chill our second bottle).
    She said: One sniff of this wine and you know this is something special. With a highly perfumed bouquet full of fragrances that holds over, this wine offers complex flavor and dryness with light acidity and no noticeable tannins. It was delicious with the dinner as well as after dinner when just sipping. This is a true bargain wine and I strongly recommend it.
    Comments: Barchetto is usually a desert wine but Matteo Correggia has made it into a delicious table wine.


    ♣ Wine Advocate: date unknown (2011 vintage)), 89 points; also date unknown (2009 vintage), 90 points.

    Regular readers of Wine Lines know that I’m a sucker for elusive, lesser-known varietals and funky, unusual chilled reds from small-scale vignerons. The 2010 Anthos, then, is practically made for my palate, with vibrant Rainier cherries, a touch of vanilla and an enveloping nose of strawberries and fresh ceps. Minerality and acidity both run high, making this is a delightful, eccentric opener paired alongside small plates. Rating: 90.

    The color is a rather light garnet with a cherry core. The medium strength nose reveals fresh and sweet floral aromas (as if smelling straight from a blossom), berries, and perfume. In the mouth there is still a bit of the floral quality with black and violet fruit, some black tea, potpourri then a tart finish. The fruit is sweeter rather than dry with a lipstick aspect in the aftertaste. Gorgeous. ***

    This wine shows a pale ruby red color and nuances of deep pink, transparent. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing and elegant aromas in which is clearly recognizable the typical aromatic character of the grape as well as good aromas of strawberry, rose, cherry, raspberry, plum, peach and cyclamen. In the mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a slightly crisp attack and however well balanced by alcohol, non aggressive tannins, good body, intense flavors. The finish is persistent with good flavors of strawberry, cherry and raspberry. 4 stars.

    Brachetto is a grape that is typically used to make somewhat sweet, delightfully light, sparkling red wines in Italy. It's rare to find a dry one—and one that isn't bubbly—but Matteo Correggia "Anthos" 2009 is just such a wine. Its cool, red-berry flavors, slight effervescence, and juicy demeanor are refreshing, even when it's hot outside. It's also a great match for spicy barbecue sauces.

    So, anyways, the Anthos is a still wine, meaning non-bubbly, and a dry wine, meaning not sweet. But, you've got this Brachetto grape that besides making a damn good semi-sweet sparkler also happens to have some of the most description defying aromatics of any grape out there. You say mandarin orange, I say blueberry pie. You say pomegranate and tobacco and I say spice, licorice and cedar. And these are just words that you come up with to try and give yourself an idea of what it is you're experiencing; it's that crazy and unique, you really don't even know what it is you're tasting. But, you like it. It intrigues you. Every sip opens up new flavors, new aromas. On the palate it has the weight of a Beaujolais, but it's like a Beaujolais on acid. A wild, psychedelic Beaujolais fresh out of a Timothy Leary love-in. So yes, this wine is good, and different and interesting.

    The color was ruby red and quite pretty to look at. On the nose, I found masses of floral notes, much like a Lacrima d'Alba with lavender and violets. Further exploration revealed chalk dust and minerals with lemon balm and stems. On the palate, it was at first light in body with young cherry, spice and notes of herbal tea but with time it gained volume and depth as the fruit sweetened and it's presence turned silky. The finish was pleasant with lingering purple florals, spice and medicinal cherry. (90 points)


  • Sottimano "Maté" Brachetto, $15 - $21.
    (Not rare, but not common either.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    Brachetto is the foundation of a pleasingly sweet sparkler, but here was a deep ruby wine fermented to dryness. The wine had a floral aroma with hints of rose and violet, light tannins and a fresh, fruity finish.

    The 2007 Mate (Brachetto) is a quirky wine, but it is drop-dead stunning. An exotic array of strawberry jam, spices, sweet amaro medicinal herbs and pink peppercorns emerge from this medium-bodied yet intense wine. The wine is best served slightly chilled and is an ideal match to fine salumi and prosciutti. It is a gem.

    ♣ Wine Advocate (dates unknown, 2007 & 2011 vintages), 90 points.

    ♣ International Wine Cellar (November/December 2013), 88 points.

    The 2011 Mate (Brachetto) emerges from the glass with sweet rose petals, spices and red berries. Still Brachetto remains a rarity, but this gorgeous, perfumed wine boasts tons of class and pure harmony, all in a vinous, refreshing style perfect for drinking over the next few years.

    Good bright red. Sexy, delicate perfume of rose petal and exotic herbs; reminded me of Philip Togni's sweet wine. Moderately ripe, light and elegant, with lovely inner-mouth perfume and subtle concentration to the spice and medicinal herb flavors. This is all about aromas and would go well with a variety of Asian dishes.

    This wine from Piedmont has an amazing nose of crushed strawberries, red roses, and white pepper.

    However, limited quantities are also produced in a dry, still style. And, its delicious. The wine is light bodied, low in tannin, high in acid with notes of strawberry, raspberry, cherry and rose. Interestingly, often 10% of it is used to produce Ruche. Try the Sottimano Mate

    This is a rare dry Brachetto made in the Langhe. Produced from 30 year old vines, this clone of Brachetto is different than the one in Acqui Terme were the sweet sparkling wine is made. The aromatics are simply amazing, not overly complex but like a big basket of fresh red rose petals, fresh herbs and red cherry fruit. The tannins are softer than Dolcetto, but the weight of the wines are similar. A thoroughly delicious wine for first course salumi, can be served with a light chill.

    Spices, fresh herbs and red berries along with well balanced acidity and tannins match nicely with the best Thanksgiving bite out there.


  • Malabaila Di Canale Vino Rosso Cardunaj, $18 - $19.
    (Quite scarce; also, very little review comment found. Included for completeness.)

    Some quotations and facts:

    [Google-translated from Italian:] Yearbook of the Best Italian Wines 2013: Here's the sweet cherry and raspberry-pure mostoso Birbet supplier of large aromatic.


For a Splurge

There really is no "splurge-level" Brachetto table wine. Just buy several bottles of your favorite.



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