VIA Community Guest Blog: Franciacorta and Erbamat by Tiziana Forni

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VIA Community Guest Blog: Franciacorta and Erbamat by Tiziana Forni

However, you cannot think that Erbamat can replace Chardonnay in the future. The elegance of Franciacorta is related to Chardonnay and partly to Pinot Nero. Erbamat can contribute acidity to Chardonnay in warmer-year harvests and where the Chardonnay ripens too quickly.

Professor Attilio Scienza

Patti Robinson, of Los Angeles, asked Stevie Kim and Professor Attilio Scienza a serious question regarding climate change, Franciacorta, Erbamat, and blending in Episode 313 of the Italian Wine Podcast. The Professor provided a thorough answer that got into the Franciacorta Disciplinare (production protocol) and what it actually means to document a "new" variety of grape. Listen to the segment we're calling Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza in the original Italian recording of Italian Wine Podcast Episode 313.

Thanks again to Italian Wine Ambassador extraordinaire, Tiziana Forni, for helping us translate the professor's answers so the English-speaking world can enjoy his knowledge. Tiziana is based in New York and she's always up for these types of projects (and for giving us great tips on which wine producers to contact in Le Marche Region)!

Translation by Tiziana Forni

Stevie: Welcome to Everybody needs a Bit of Scienza.

Scienza: (Kind of sneezing…)

Stevie: Are you sick?

Scienza: No, no. It’s allergies.

Stevie: Who are you allergic to? To Jacob?

Scienza: No, no. I am allergic to pollen!!!

Stevie: Today we are going to take a question from Patty Robinson from Los Angeles. So, the question is: “With the climate getting warmer and Erbamat becoming more prevalent in the Lombardy Region, do you see this grape becoming a major varietal in Franciacorta?”

Scienza: As usual a special thanks to Monty… I fear he shall be offended. 😉 😎

Stevie: LOL!!!

Scienza: Erbamat is an old variety, which was rediscovered, by the University of Milan around the mid '90s, on the western bank of Garda Lake. Actually, it was a variety from Garda. It is a very old variety, because it can be traced back to 1550, when Agostino Gallo, an Italian agronomist (😉 keeping it easy), described this variety with a different name: Albamatta.

Stevie: What does it mean?

Scienza: There is no precise meaning… It is a very late ripening grapevine and, for this reason, it was not cultivated in the past. Due to climate change, things are different now and this grapevine has become very important, because it maintains its acidity very well. Therefore, it works well to blend with aromatic grapes, such as Chardonnay, because it gives structure and acidity.

However, you cannot think that Erbamat can replace Chardonnay in the future. The elegance of Franciacorta is related to Chardonnay and partly to Pinot Nero. Erbamat can contribute acidity to Chardonnay in warmer-year harvests and where the Chardonnay ripens too quickly.

Stevie: This is a specific question. Who knows about Erbamat?

Scienza: Erbamat is now in the Franciacorta Disciplinare (production protocol).

Stevie: Yes, but how many years?

Scienza: A couple of years.

Stevie: But how do you discover a grapevine? What does it mean?

Scienza: It means to go to the old vineyards and see the varietal composition of these vineyards. There were no single varietal vineyards in the past. In these old vineyards, sometimes you can find unknown (or apparently unknown) vines.

Then you study this variety in terms of production, quality of grape, and the wine. You create a root cutting (barbatella) from the stalk and you enter this root cutting in a collection. You proceed to evaluate the grape and wine in a more defined approach - making wine, tasting it, and so on.

These grapevines are usually entered in the Registry of Authorized Varieties in Italy. We have around 580 (documented) grapevines in Italy, but over a thousand grapevines are not entered in this registry - they’re only in the collections.

Stevie: So that means 1,000 plus 600?

Scienza: Yes.

These grapevines are a sort of residual material - they are grape varieties whose name is occasionally known, but often it is unknown. We know some production features and we may have the DNA to understand if that grape is actually another, documented grapevine going by a different name.

Erbamat was picked up by the University of Milan and entered in a collection in Brescia. There is a great collection of varieties in Brescia.

Stevie: This is a kind of Brescia Flag.

Scienza: Oh, yes!

However, Erbamat was not suitable for making high quality wines, because it ripened too late with the risk of botrytis.

Now, climate change has reversed the situation. Early ripening grapes are no longer good and late ripening grape vines are preferred, because they hold their acidity and can provide structure.

For a few years the Disciplinare of Franciacorta officially allowed the use of Erbamat up to 15 %. Anyway, Erbamat could never become the main grape in the production protocol.

Stevie: So this was the question and we thank you Patti.

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