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Filippo Barni’s Bramaterra: elegance and longevity in a Nebbiolo from Northern Piedmont

by Claudio Celio

Giuseppe Filippo Barni cultivates around 3 hectares under vine at Brusnego, a little village in the Biella province, focusing on the area’s typical varieties: Nebbiolo (which is called Spanna hereabouts), Croatina and Erbaluce.

His vineyards lie within the Bramaterra appellation, one of the main DOCs in Northern Piedmont, and – through meticulous work and the utmost respect for the environment – yield less than 10,000 bottles a year.

Let’s be clear from the outset: this is a boutique winery that rarely manages to cross regional borders and get its wines into the major tastings; which is a shame because, at least judging from the Bramaterra, Filippo Barni’s wines are excellently crafted and fully consistent with their territory.

I’ve recently had the opportunity to taste Barni’s 2006 Bramaterra and it’s proven to be a northern Piedmontese Nebbiolo through and through: austere and reserved yet showing depth on the palate, drawing its hallmark verve from minerality.

“We take great care in the vineyard, and vineyard management is organic, without the use of insecticides or herbicides; likewise natural is winery management, with no chemicals,” he said.

The rest is in the quality of grapes and terrain, and the lengthy élevage the wines require to express their potential to the full. The 2006 Bramaterra makes the most of its ten years’ aging, partly in large wooden barrels and partly in bottle.

Tannins, which I imagine were much more aggressive earlier on, are now perfectly integrated: they’ve lost their ‘roar’ and now almost caress the palate, endowing the wine with flavor and quaffability. As for the vintage, it’s one of the promising years – suitable for wines of great longevity that show their true colors to the full only with time.

In the glass, 2006 Bramaterra still shows a brilliant ruby hue and the bouquet, too, maintains a few lingering nuances of youth, like red rose and carnation. The actual core of this varietal, though, is in its echoes of dried flowers, in the rather full-blown, mellow notes that endow the wine with great finesse. On the palate, flavors are intense, tannins complementing the mineral texture of a Bramaterra that is delightful today yet still has a long life ahead of it, and the potential to evolve to unexplored depths.

Yearly production is around 4,000 bottles on average. The regular Bramaterra has an elder brother, a single-vineyard from select grapes: Bramaterra Vigna Doss del Pilun – very few bottles per annum that quietly circulate among connoisseurs and aficionados of northern Piedmontese Nebbiolo.