Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cool New Grape vs Global Warming

Erbamatta, the cool new super grape, still under the world's radar, may be the future for Italy's superb Franciacorta sparkling wines and for every other region staring down global warming

    Franciacorta is Italy's reply to Champagne, under the radar itself. It’s tiny, just 2,000 hectares in Brescia, Lombardy, almost in Switzerland. 18 million bottles a year vs 350m in Champagne and 500m in Prosecco!

    Traditionally Franciacorta, a sophisticated yet under-priced sparkler, uses the Champagne grapes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, plus Pinot Blanc, and increasingly Erbamatta.

    The latter's main virtue, says Riccardo Ricci Curbastro, 18th generation owner of his stellar winery, is its super-high acidity. As global temperatures rise, so does grape sugar and therefore alcohol, while natural fruity acidity falls, a huge problem for sparkling wines.

    Straw-colored with a green tinge, Erbamatta is floral, chalky, earthy, lean and low in alcohol. The leading grower is Barone Pizzini with 4,000 vines, and others include Curbastro, Berlucchi, Ca’ del Bosco, Ferghettina, Vezzoli, Castello Bonomi and Ronco Calino have also planted the new variety.

    Granted top-level DOCG status in 1995, Franciacorta is made as painstakingly as Champagne, in the individual bottles. Prosecco, meanwhile, has its simpler second fermentation in steel tanks.

    The Franciacorta categories are: NV, non-vintage, which spends 18 months aging on its lees. Satèn (derived from the word satin) is 50/50 Chardonnay/Pinot Blanc produced at lower pressure for a gentler, crémant-like sparkle, 24 months on its lees. Rosé has 25% Pinot Noir and also spends 24 months on its lees. Millesimato is made from a single vintage, and aged 30 months on its lees. Riserva, top of the quality pyramid, ages 60 months on its lees.


Thought for the day: Charles de Gaulle famously said: How can you govern a country like France with its 365 kinds of (fiercely) local cheeses? Meanwhile, Italy, a long and narrow country, is 70% mountains, making it historically difficult just to travel from village to village, therefore massively local in its agriculture, producing as a result a mind-boggling 400 varieties of beans alone, thousands of wines, cheeses, and delicious cuisines, each fiercely proud and independent. Just sayin'.

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