Mattia Antoniotti has joined his father Odilio at this historical 19th century cantina, back to 1860, that is tucked away in the northern Alto Piedmont village of Sostegno, in the 28-hectare region of Bramaterra among the pre-Alps. They now farm 6 hectares of Nebbiolo, Croatina, Vespolina and Uva Rara vines, the fruit of which Odilio first bottled in 1970 (prior to which Odilio was selling grissini and pharmaceuticals!). The Bramaterra DOC rules that there must be a maximum of 80% Nebbiolo in Bramaterra, and Mattia believes that the addition of the other grape varieties gives a more balanced wine, and a truer expression of origin. The Bramaterra soils are essentially volcanic porphyry, along with veins of rose quartz and limestone, and they are more acidic and arguably richer in minerals but less fertile than the soils of the Langhe, thus producing extremely pure and concentrated wines. The wines are traditionally made in cement, stainless-steel and large Slavonian oak botte, along with tonneau for the Nebbiolo wine.
In the early 19th Century Alto Piemonte was a prestigious wine region, responsible for producing the majority of Piedmont’s wine, including some of the highest quality Nebbiolo in Italy. In the late 19th Century however, the vineyard area decreased dramatically due to the devastation of Phylloxera. Replanting was limited, as the younger generations were caught up in the industrial boom, thus leaving the land to work in factories. The Second World War brought further reduction in production, and vineyards began to become overgrown by forestry.
Today however, things are changing. As Mattia described, there is a new injection of energy and enthusiasm from the next generation of young winemakers. Giacomo Conterno purchasing in Gattinara has also shone spotlight once more on this exciting and (re) emerging region. The focus at the moment seems to be on the key vineyards, but Mattia feels there is great potential for growth, and Alto Piemonte may well be on the path to regaining its former glory. Mattia and his farther Odilio have a new project on the horizon, for a single vineyard Bramaterra…
In the meantime, 2020 will see the completion of a new bottle store extension of the cantina, plus the release of their debut Bramaterra Riserva, all 700 bottles of it…
> Organic, uncertified.
‘Pramartel’ Vino Rosso
Nebbiolo Costa della Sesia
NV (2019) ‘Pramartel’ Vino Rosso, Sostegno – as tasted by DBG & Chloe on Monday 13th January 2020, from stainless-steel, to be bottled in Sept’20, 4k bts. Wow! What a wine! A blend of Nebbiolo, Croatina, & Vespolina. There’s more presence & richer substance to the 2019 version. Perhaps it’s the vintage. Certainly, the wine’s been helped by the additional fruit from their new, 60/70 yo, 0.6ha Bramaterra vineyard adjoining their property, that’s grown on grey gneiss, rather than pink porphyry. The result is a distinctly old vine, dark blueberry/mirtille feel to the wine! So pretty, with a gorgeous perfume of blueberry, alpine herbs & (white?) pepper. There’s a lovely sense of flesh, crunchy too, with a presence of thick skins. Mattia likens 2019 to 2016, but with thicker, riper skins! Mattia pumped over the skins for two weeks, versus one week in 2018. No oak.
NV (2018) ‘Pramartel’ Vino Rosso, Sostegno – tasted May 2019 from tank, to be bottled mid June 2019. A blend of 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina and 10 % Vespolina. A baby Bramaterra in all but name; indeed the name is Piedmontese for the young vineyard from which this early drinking Vino Rosso is made: ‘Prato Martel’. ‘Martel’ comes from ‘Martello’ (hammer), referring to the strength of the volcanic rock that makes up the soil, and needs a hammer to break it! Stainless steel only. Ruby red in colour from the Croatina. Carino, fresco, perfumed. Raspberries and little red berry fruit, the Vespolina adding a touch of violets and white pepper. Very juicy and succulent fruit on the palate, with lovely lift and structure (1 week maceration, fine tannins), poised yet generous and open at the same time, so drinkable and delicious . Just 11.5% alc.
2016 ‘Pramartel’ Vino Rosso, Sostegno – tasted Sept’17, April’18, and Sept’ 18 (only 2k bottled March’18), 12.5%abv. 2016 wasn’t a straightforward vintage like 2015 & 2017, with increased disease pressure from regular showers giving lower yields & more concentration. The 2016 is a blend of 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina and 10 % Vespolina (the Uva Rara suffered). Brief 1 week cement ferment & maceration (spontaneous MLF in stainless steel), aged in 300 & 500 French tonneaux. Classic vibrant purple/blueberry colour, pretty, focused, with pure kirsch/glacier cherry fruit, notable fragrance, lift of white pepper, energetic redcurrants, and gentle spice. Fine tannins on the palate – less structured than the Nebbiolo Costa della Sesia, but with some complexity.
2017 Nebbiolo, Costa della Sesia, Sostegno – as tasted by DBG & Chloe on Monday 13th January 2020. 100% Nebbiolo, 6k bts to be bottled in Feb’20, & produced from 16yo vines, from a notably dry/secco but clean annata 2017. One’s struck by the particularly bright, clean aromatics – very tight & bright! Mattia is especially proud of this wine, that is clear! And rightly so, it’s his best Nebbiolo yet! Was it the attention to deal, with more racking, so keeping the wine crystal clear, or perhaps it’s the change of oak ageing, from (oxidative) tonneaux to (reductive) botte grande, for 6 months? The nose of the 2017 Nebbiolo is sooo pretty & pert! It soothes the senses with delicate little sunny red berry & ripe cassis; a mark also of the vintage. It’s such a ‘fine wine’, brilliantly aromatic, so tight & pacy, with great, exciting detail, but ‘gioioso’ too! Bravo Mattia, davvero!
2015 Nebbiolo Costa della Sesia, Sostegno – tasted Sept’17, April’18, and Sept’ 18 (c. 3k bts produced, bottled Oct’ 17), 13% abv. 100% Nebbiolo from 10 year old vines. Longer 2 week cement maceration, then aged in 17HL botti grandi (& one 500 litre tonneaux). 2015 was a great vintage for the Antoniotti family in Bramaterra, an easy, clean one with plenty of sun, but also a rain shower every now & then. Glistening rose/red, fragrant frutta bella, gorgeous perfume, seductive but pepper fresh, accessible yet complex, water-pure, strawberry ice-cream, racy, wild strawberry, firm but fine tannins, well integrated, energetic. 2015 was the first year they made a Bramaterra Riserva!
2017 Bramaterra, Sostegno – as tasted by DBG & Chloe on Monday 13th January 2020. Remains the classic, vineyard, co-fermented (as per Cantina Bartolo Mascarello) picked at the same time, blend of Nebbiolo 70%, Croatina, 20%, Vespolina 7% & Uva Rara 3%, fermented in (unlined) cement for 3 wks on the skins, with pumping over, before 36 mths ageing in up to 40yo Garbellotto botte grande di 12.5HL. To be bottled, 6k, in Sept’20. Mattia recalls the particularly fresh Sept (nights?) in 2017, that helped produce clean fruit & the ‘bella buccia’ of the 2017 Bramaterra harvest. He also thinks the tiny percentage of Uva Rara made a positive impact on the final wine in this vintage. To taste: it’s got the same lift & precision of the Nebbiolo Costa della Sesia 2017, with real tension, sensational presence & a really beautiful weave of fruit throughout. Magical…their best Bramaterra yet?!
2016 Bramaterra, Sostegno – tasted May 2019 from barrel. 2016 was a balanced vintage, with enough rain and plenty of sunshine, especially during the warm and dry Summer months. The warm days continued into September, balanced by cool nights, which allowed the grapes and tannins to reach optimum ripeness. Harvest took place 1st/2nd week of October. The nose is fragrant and lifted, with a lovely kirsch cherry perfume, little red fruits, alpine herbs and a gentle spice. The usual cement fermentation, with 3 weeks maceration, followed by 3 years in Slavonian botte grandi (the minimum for Bramaterra is 18months in wood). Very elegant and fine, with silky tannins, a core of red berry and dark cherry fruit. Poised and vertical, delicious even now, but with immense ageing potential too. Stunning.
2015 Bramaterra, Sostegno – tasted Sept’ 18, bottled early August 2018. 14% abv, a blend of 70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 7% Vespolina, 3% Uva Rara. Mattia recalls his excitement at the time of bottling, as the wine’s perfume was so intense, 2015 being a warm vintage that gave perfectly ripe fruit. Vinification involved 3weeks maceration on the (thick) skins, followed by the usual cement fermentation (undergound), and then 3 years in Slavonian botti grandi, lending gentle framing. The nose reveals notes of rose, wild raspberry, gentle spice and cedar, leading to beautifully silky tannins on the palate, and plenty of charm and ‘gioia’, so drinkable now, and yet also with great ageing potential.
2015 Bramaterra Riserva – as tasted by DBG in May 2019 14.5%. This is Odilio & Mattia’s first ever Riserva, & it looks like it won’t be repeated until vintage 2019! For this wine, father & son selected the fruit of 40+yo vines in their Martinazzi vineyard, lying on the scree-like pink porphyry rock. The blend remains the same at Nebbiolo 70%, Croatina, 20%, Vespolina 7% & Uva Rara 3%; maceration was four weeks long, with ageing of only 6 mths in one 500litre French tonneau (to avoid over-oaking the wine), with bottling in June 2019. Tasted from tonneau: very composed, together, with super ripe strawberry fruit, good tension & a fine Bramaterra structure. Very sleek, the oak gives a seductive creamy, strawb ripple dimension.
2014 Bramaterra, Sostegno – tasted in Sept’17 & April’18, 4.6k bottled in Oct’17; 13% abv; a tricky vintage that naturally reduced the yield by 50%! Indeed much damage was incurred in 2013, as a result of hail, that then influenced the vine’s performance in 2014. Yet the fruit there was, was ‘buono’, of sufficient ripeness &skin/phenol maturity to warrant 3 wks maceration in cement, followed by 24 mths ageing in botte grande. Antoniotti’s Bramaterra 2014 recalls Cote Rotie, in its coolness & fragrance perhaps. Fragile, vulnerable even, smoky kirsch cherry perfume, sotto spirit certainly, delicate fruit tannins, not the longest of Bramaterra but fabulous.
2013 Bramaterra, Sostegno – normal summer, broken only by grapefruit sized hailstones (!) that landed on 3rd Aug, causing 51% damage to the vineyards (& blasted 270 roof tiles!), otherwise harvest started on 10 October; blend of Nebbiolo (85%), 15% Croatina, Vespolina, Uva Rara, s/s ferment then botte grande (8/10 yo). very fine, focused, knife like, vertical, apline herbal/Ricola (!) fruit, tight red fruit, in bocca: fragrant, electric spearmint, ovely tea leaf lift. Complimenti!
2009 Bramaterra, Sostegno – tasted Sept’ 18. Same blend as the 2015 (70% Nebbiolo, 20% Croatina, 7% Vespolina, 3% Uva Rara). Earthy, concentrated, with notes of tea leaf, kirsch, crushed/dried rose petals. Darker and more brooding than the 2015 Bramaterra, yet very elegant, with subtle notes of cedar and clove, and layers of complexity that unravel slowly in the glass. Tannins are prominent but very fine (the grapes undergo 2 weeks maceration on skins, before fermentation in cement). 2009 was a balance vintage, with a cold winter giving respite to the vines, and then a relatively mild Spring and Summer, before a warm September.
2001 Bramaterra, Sostegno – tasted Sept’ 18. Mattia describes 2001 as a great vintage, and likens it more to 2009 than to 2015, with its mild winter, warm Summer, and cool September, allowing for slower and longer ripening before the October harvest. Pale garnet with orange highlights. Delicate perfume of dried fruit, mulberries and cherries sotto spirito, a hint of concentrated Christmas cake and spice, then opening to reveal more herbal notes as it relaxes in the glass. Tannins are silky and extremely well integrated. Expansive on the palate, with length that goes on and on, compelling.
1985 Bramaterra, Sostego. Tasted Sept’ 18. This was the wine served at the marriage of Odilio and Piera Antoniotti! Very enticing scent, somewhere there is the essence of a spirited Summer pudding once bright with fruit, but that has been left to rest, to absorb all its flavour, becoming spicier and more concentrated with time, and layered with complex tertiary notes of dried berry fruit, cinnamon, a hint of liquorice and tea leaf, interwoven with elegant tannins, and upheld by a remarkable freshness that persists even now. Perfectly balanced, sensational…. especially with Taleggio!