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La Pianelle, Nebbiolo, Bramaterra, Alto Piemonte, Italy 2017

La Pianelle, Nebbiolo, Bramaterra, Alto Piemonte, Italy 2017

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80% Nebbiolo, 10% Croatina, 10% Vespolina

Le Pianelle's flagship wine is the ‘Bramaterra’ (DOC). The grapes are harvested exclusively by hand, with each grape variety and vineyard being processed individually. Macaeration and fermentation is in open Grenier oak vats. The young wine will then be matured for 18 month in a combination of used barrique barrels as well as large Stockinger oak barrels. The Bramaterra is finally kept on bottle for another 24 month before being released to market.

Lovers of Barolo/Barbaresco will have noticed that Bramaterra is typically blended with Vespolina and Croatina, whereas Barolo and Barbaresco are always 100% Nebbiolo. Croatina gives deeply colored, fairly tannic wines with tea-leaf and red berry notes; Vespolina is medium to dark red in color, and shows very distinctive bright berry and herbal notes.

Bramaterra shows some of the wiry structure typical of the appellation, but also a broad range of generous flavors (tobacco-leaf, sandalwood, red fruits); it is ripe but also very fresh in acidity, a hallmark of this region, age-worthy but drinkable when young too. If you love Nebbiolo you should try it. This Bramaterra is a bottling of only the best barrels from their vineyard. 

The small estate of Le Pianelle in northern Piedmont is a partnership between Dieter Heuskel and Peter Dipoli, the owners of the estate, Cristiano Garella, an outstanding young local winemaker, and Andrea Zanetta, one of the best viticulturalists in the area.

Northern Piedmont used to be famous for its Nebbiolo-based wines, but in the last century, many of the vineyards fell into disuse. Heuskel and Dipoli started buying land in the Bramaterra appellation in 2004; after assembling more than fifty small parcels from more than forty owners they were finally able to realize their dream and plant vines, mostly Nebbiolo, in 2007-2008.

The hill where their vineyards are planted was famous a century ago for the quality of the wine grown there, and it will be famous again soon. The soils here, marine and volcanic sands ranging in color from yellow-orange to brown, are entirely different from those of the Barolo and Barbaresco areas; they are also acidic, whereas those of the Langhe (and most wine regions) are basic. Cristiano tells me that acidic soils change the uptake of minerals into the plants, and although the common thread of the Nebbiolo variety is clear, the wines are very different from Barolo and Barbaresco (less tannic, lower in alcohol, higher in acidity).

They are also generally more drinkable when young, too — not a bad thing. If you love Nebbiolo you should explore northern Piedmont.

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