January 31, 2023

A Wine for Lovers

When the calendar roles around to February each year, one thing comes to most men’s minds: what in the world am I going to have to do this year to make her happy for Valentine’s?

While you’re busy with flowers, dinner reservations, buying a gift that doesn’t get you exiled to the couch, and every other hoop you have to jump through, I’m here to help you make that beverage choice that scores you some points at the end of the evening. It’s called Brachetto d’Acqui, and it’s my topic for the month of February.

Connoisseur Ramblings

Brachetto d’Acqui, or just Brachetto as it’s usually referred to, is a slightly sweet, most often slightly fizzy, aromatic light red wine from the northern landscapes of Italy. It’s produced in the Piedmont region around the Monferrato Hills southeast of Asti, including the valleys along the Bormida and Belbo rivers as they flow toward Tanaro. The city of Acqui Terme in the province of Alessandria lies in the heart of the region and gives the wine its territorial name. There’s some overlap of vineyard area into the province of Asti, as well.

Brachetto is the variety of grape used to produce the wine. It’s known for having a light body with a crisp finish and the pleasant flavors of strawberry, cherry, raspberry, and rose petals. The wine was classified under the DOC appellation control in 1969. In 1996 Brachetto was elevated to the DOCG classification. Under the DOC, a few blending grapes were allowed to be used in small percentages, but since being elevated to DOCG status the wine is 100% Brachetto grape. It makes a pleasant digestif and goes great with chocolates for dessert (hint, hint if you’re looking to get some cuddle action with a couple glasses and a little Ghirardelli).

Harvests are restricted to 8 tons per hectare. The grapes must have a potential alcohol of 11.5% for frizzante and 12% for spumante, which corresponds to a Brix level of 21-22° at harvest. However, Brachetto wines are often produced in a low alcohol style. Wines produced as frizzante must have a final minimum of 5% alcohol, while those that are full spumante must have at least 6%. The grapes are allowed to macerate for a day or two so the wine develops its rich ruby color, while only acquiring a slight hint of tannin. The wine is produced in the Charmat process where carbonation is achieved in pressurized tanks rather than bottle fermentation derived from méthod champenoise.

Brachetto is meant to be drunk young to appreciate its light fruitiness and delicate flavors. The origins of Brachetto are uncertain. There was some thought it came from France, but most viticulturalists now believe it’s native to the Piedmont region. What is known is that it has a long and storied past, including being known as a wine for lovers.

Love Potion Notions

In the Italian theatre tradition of Commedia dell’arte (a form of masked improv stage performances known for their typical characters) the character known as Giovanni of the Jug (representing Turin and Piedmont) is known to prefer this wine. It was a favorite of several Ancient Roman writers who refer to it as vinum acquense. It’s rumored that both Julius Caesar and Marc Antony would present Cleopatra with gourds full of vinum acquense as she believed the wine had the power to unleash the passion of her lovers. You’ve got the chance to test that theory by presenting a bottle full of Brachetto to your lover this year. There are a few brands available on the market. The most common by far is Banfi’s Rosa Regale. You may also find Cinzano and Stella Rosa easily.

My recommendation for enjoying this little red love potion is as follows. Chill the bottle ahead of time as it’s best served cold. If you really want to score some points this Valentine’s, find a nice dark chocolate, melt it over simmering water in a bowl that you’ve placed in a saucepan on your stove, and get busy dipping some strawberries. Lay them out on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Once you’ve got them all dipped, place them in the refrigerator until the chocolate sets firm. Of course, you could be lazy and just buy some chocolate dipped berries, but imagine how crazy she’ll get if you made your own. Serve the strawberries with a nice assortment of fine chocolates and your Brachetto of course, then sit back and enjoy.

Drink responsibly.

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