brachetto d'acqui: a cheery italian sparkling wine for summer festivities

Sparkling wines are one of Italy’s greatest contributions to the American wine scene. Prosecco, Moscato d’Asti and Franciacorta are probably the most well known Italian sparkling wines in the U.S. and their popularity has been steadily increasing in recent years.

Another charming and refreshing but lesser known option in the Italian sparkling wine lineup is Brachetto d’Acqui. Like most other Italian sparkling wines, Brachetto d’Acqui (bra ket’ tah dahk’ qui) is produced in the cooler regions of northern Italy, in this case the Piedmont region in northwestern Italy. This seductive red sparkler is just waiting to be discovered by the American wine public.

Brachetto d’Acqui is a lightly sparkling wine made from the light, red Brachetto grape. It is one of the few sweet Italian wines to achieve DOCG status. Only wines produced entirely from Brachetto grapes grown in a very limited area around the town of Acqui Terme in the southern Piedmont can qualify as Brachetto d’Acqui wines. Brachetto is the grape name and Acqui Terme is the town, hence the name Brachetto d’Acqui.

The grapes are harvested in late August and early September. After crushing, the juice or “must” soaks with the skins for two to three days to permit the grape skins to impart the desired light ruby red color to the juice. After fermentation in stainless steel vats, the wine typically is aged in bottles for approximately three months prior to release for sale.

This delicately sparkling, light ruby-colored wine is characterized by pronounced red fruit aromas of strawberries and raspberries and perhaps some notes of rose petals. The wine is lightly sweet and there is a lively, spritzy taste of bubbles. The wine is lightly sparkling, what the Italians call frizzante, and the effervescence is softer and less pronounced than that of Champagne.

Most good Brachetto d’Acqui wines will have pronounced fruit flavors with a preponderance of strawberry, raspberry and other red fruit flavors that glissade across the tongue. They also have a soft, delicate, complex and refreshing mouthfeel and the soft effervescence should produce a pleasant frothy pink ring around the edge of the glass. It’s an easy wine to like.

Because of its cheery red color and intense fruity aromas and soft, natural sweetness, Brachetto d’Acqui makes an appealing aperitif as well as dessert wine. While it’s a engaging drink any time of year, it makes an especially refreshing aperitivo during the hot summer months. You can also splash some Brachetto d’Acqui over fresh strawberries for a different, light summer aperitif or over vanilla ice cream for a delightful dessert. It also pairs well with fruit tarts, fruit salads, panna cotta and amaretto cookies.

Brachetto d’Acqui is a great choice for those special occasions when something light and sparkling is in order. And because it is naturally low in alcohol (usually 5.5 to 6.5 percent alcohol bcastello banfi brachetto rosa regaley volume) you won’t have to worry about your maiden aunt getting tipsy at the reception when she requests a second glass. It is also relatively inexpensive with most bottles retailing in the $14 to $24 range. What’s not to like about it?

I recently tried several different Brachetto d’Acqui wines from recent vintages, all purchased at local wine shops. I did not taste a bad bottle. All were quite enjoyable and a few were better than just enjoyable – they were excellent. They include, in alphabetical order:

Braida di Bologna, Brachetto d’Acqui, 2010 (about $20)
Sweet, lush, smooth and delicate taste with a long aromatic finish.
Castello Banfi, Brachetto d’Acqui, “Rosa Regale” 2010 (about $15)
Strawberry fruit flavors dominate with a hint of rose petals.
Coppo, Brachetto d’Acqui “Passione” 2007 (about $22)
Very aromatic with intense and complex fruit flavors.        

Other Brachetto d’Acqui wines available at local wine shops include:
San Orsolo, Brachetto d’Acqui, 2008 (about $17)
Bricco Rioglio, Brachetto d’Acqui, 2008 (about $22)


©Richard Marcis

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