A journey to discover the precious Brescia vine variety recovered by the Consorzio di Tutela Franciacorta
Castello Bonomi is one of the five companies that, about ten years ago, decided to support the greatest challenge undertaken by the region: recovering and valorizing the ancient native Brescia grape variety, Erbamat. This grape variety was mentioned for the first time in 1564 by Agostino Gallo, an Italian agronomist of the 16th century, who spoke of Erbamat, then known as “albamate.” The Consorzio di Tutela Franciacorta, through the project of recovery and valorization, entrusted the study to Leonardo Valenti, a professor at the University of Milan and one of the foremost experts in Italian grape varieties. The aim was to evaluate the characteristics of this grape variety with two purposes: to compensate for the effects of climate change on wine quality and to enhance the local viticulture, where the heritage of native varieties also plays an important role.
The high acidity and late ripening make this grape variety interesting in relation to the ongoing climate change, which has led, over the past thirty years, to a variation in ripening times, an advancement of phenological stages by up to 10-15 days, and above all, a substantial modification of the qualitative characteristics of the grapes. Introducing a native grape variety allows Franciacorta to combine “varietal viticulture,” where international varieties such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc take center stage, with “territorial viticulture,” where the local variety is integrated with terroir viticulture.
Studies on Erbamat
Since 2012, monitoring of phenological stages has been carried out on Erbamat, studying the grapes to verify their ripening curves, and pruning tests have been conducted to evaluate cluster fertility and vigor. Furthermore, several studies have been conducted on the vinification of Erbamat and its expression as a sparkling wine base within Franciacorta. The results revealed an interesting profile: Erbamat is a grape variety that ripens relatively late, about a month later than Chardonnay, with a good acidic content, particularly malic acid, capable of partially compensating for the risk of acidity reduction in base wines. The acidity in sparkling wine bases is a fundamental element that confers freshness and longevity and should therefore be preserved as much as possible. This grape variety contributes to the freshness of the base wines without altering their profile, as known by the Franciacorta public, thanks to its substantial aromatic neutrality.
Erbamat and Castello Bonomi’s production
Thanks to the grafting of some rows of vines in the five experimental companies, the first production of Erbamat took place as early as 2011. Castello Bonomi was the only one to vinify these grapes separately, and as a result, it is now the only company with a vertical range of vintages starting from 2011. As evidence of the investment in this project, Castello Bonomi has planted a new Erbamat vineyard. Several years after the experimentation, based on the positive results, this grape variety is now included in the Franciacorta regulations, up to a maximum of 10%.
A journey from Erbamat to Cuvée 1564
Castello Bonomi, with its Research & Development team, consisting of Professor Luigi Valenti and winemakers Luigi Bersini and Alessandro Perletti, has enhanced the Erbamat grape by producing Cuvée 1564, available in four vintages. Cuvée 1564 is made from a blend of 40% Erbamat, 30% Pinot Noir, and 30% Chardonnay, a combination that harmonizes the acidity of Erbamat, the structure of Pinot Noir, and the elegance of Chardonnay. The percentage of Erbamat in the blend varies each year between 30% and 40%, depending on the vintage’s characteristics.
The wine appears to the eye as a bright straw yellow with greenish reflections, while the nose is filled with notes of fresh flowers and citrus, with a hint of tropical fruit.
During tasting, the wine exhibits a marked acidic component typical of the Erbamat grape, accompanied by excellent persistence and a pronounced savoriness.
The result is a Cuvée that enhances the quality of this native grape variety.
“Albamate, known for making the gentlest wine among all other whites: but because they take time to ripen, they are not perfect until the hot weather arrives, especially after a year has passed. But I will refrain from discussing other white grapes, as I have already spoken about the best ones.” (Agostino Gallo, “The Twenty Days of Agriculture and Pleasures of the Villa”, 1564)