The Brachetto grape

Today’s article is about the Italian varietal Brachetto (“Brah-ke-toe”). Brachetto is predominately grown in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy. Most of the grapes come from the provinces of Asti and Alessandria between the rivers Bormida and Belbo plus various parts of the province of Cuneo. At Canelli, on the border between the hills of Asti and the Lange proper, the grape is known as Borgogna. This is a native grape used for sweet wines, both still and sparkling.

The most notable wine is the red Brachetto Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) which is made in both still and spumante (sparkling) versions. The Piemonte Brachetto DOCG is made with a minimum 85% Brachetto, for the most part done as a still wine. The grape is also used for up to 10% of the blend for the Ruche-based Ruche di Castagnole Monferrato DOC, a small production red varietal wine.

The red Brachetto d'Aqui, of Piedmont, is most often made as a sparkling wine and usually grouped among the sweet wines. Brachetto, dry or sweet reds, has managed to climb all the way to DOCG status. The wine has a natural affinity with the great chocolate of Piedmont. Rose-scented, with delicate hints of strawberry on the palate, a good sweet brachetto (still or sparkling) is a unique sweet wine experience. These wines are crisp and light, perfect at the end of the meal.

In Temecula Valley, one row in the established Cougar Vineyard & Winery Estate vineyard was grafted over as a nursery to grow more bud wood of Brachetto. These buds were used to propagate more of the Brachetto until an acceptable number of vines are established. The vines will begin producing grapes next year. Look for this wine at Cougar in late 2012. There is a strong possibility that Cougar will produce both a sparkling and still version of the wine. This winery resides on the De Portola Wine Trail of Temecula Wine Country. As far as this author knows there are no other comercial growers of Brachetto in the United States. Cougar Vineyard & Winery is a member of the Temecula Valley Winegrowers Association.

Cougar Vineyard & Winery is planted entirely in Italian varietals. The Brachetto is actually planted in the backyard of the owner's home in Fallbrook and is managed as an estate vineyard. The vineyard is planted with one thousand vines of Brachetto. Cougar's Brachetto is on rootstock 110R. To the best of Cougar's knowledge they are the only commercial wine grower of this grape in the United States. We will be discussing all of these other varietals being grown and managed by Cougar in upcoming articles about the Italian grape varietals planted in Temecula Wine Country of Southern California.