Le Pianelle Bramaterra


This small estate 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 2007-8.

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 Langa (and most wine regions) are basic. The 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.


Lovers of Barolo/Barbaresco will have noticed that Bramaterra is typically blended with Vespolina and Croatina, whereas Barolo/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. Wine critic Ian d’Agata describes Vespolina as ‘one of Italy’s best grape varieties,’ high praise from this expert.

Vespolina has great promise as a varietal wine in its own right. Cristiano says that he does blending trials of these wines with and without the Vespolina and Croatina, and always prefers the traditional blend. This 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.