Curtefranca Red DOC Project

Enhancing a red wine in a land known for its Franciacorta.
Carmenère, the grape variety that has always been among us.

Carmenère comes from the “Vits biturica”, which arrived in the north Italy and in the Bordeaux region in the Roman era, originating from the port of Durres-Albania (Columella). From the Vitis biturica, in the Bordeaux region, the Carmenère, Cabemet Franc, Merlot, Cabemet Sauvignon, Malbec, and so on, were selected. In Italy, the Carmenère would occupy about 4,200 hectares, in Chile 2,306 hectares, and in France just over 100 hectares.
In the Italian DOC wines, it is confused with the Cabemet franc, and it is mainly grown in the north-east, from Brescia to Friuli, an area registered in the registry of vineyards for about 240 hectares in purity and 109 other hectares mixed with Cabemet Sauvignon. The Carmenère is very different from the Cabemet Franc, firstly because it has a different DNA, but also due to different isozymes, and also for its smaller leaves. The Carmenère has imperfect flowers (reflexed stamens with spiral filaments), its grapes are very rich in pyrazines (vegetal aroma of green pepper), its wines are well-structured, very colorful (anthocyanins), rich in tannins, round and soft, with a very herbaceous, complex flavor (Fregoni). Since 1990, when we decided to increase the area cultivated with red grape varieties, Cabemet Franc cuttings were also purchased from a French nursery, and our first doubts arose because it became clear to us that this “French” Cabemet had little to do with the variety traditionally grown in Franciacorta under the same name and locally known as “bordò magher”, due to its characteristic scanty bunches and small grapes (ed. “magher” meaning also meager in dialect).

Not only on an ampelographic level, but also physiologically, the two grape varieties were significantly different: the “French” Cabemet was more fertile and had a more regular productivity, it was less vigorous, on average more precocious, and ripened about a week before. We noticed that the bunches of the “French” Cabemet were smaller, but more compact and, to the taste, the grapes did not have the typically distinct herbaceous note of the “old” “Italian” Cabemet. It was, at that point, almost certain that it was not the same variety.
During the same period, the same doubts had arisen in other wine producing areas cultivated with Bordeaux varieties and, through genetic research, it was determined that the variety grown in northern Italy under the name of Cabemet Franc, and in Chile as Merlot, was actually Carmenère, even if only in the year 2000, this important discovery was made public in a scientific conference organized by Ca ‘del Bosco in Erbusco.
In 2008, the Carmenère was officially recognized in the Disciplinary regulating the Curtefranca Red DOC.

Meanwhile, since 1999, our company had provided in realizing new high density plants created with scions taken from a pre-phylloxera plant (not grafted) present in the company in Capriolo and from a 50 year vineyard in Erbusco. New plants with Cabernet Franc/Italian Carmenère clones were created from 2001 to 2003.
The Carmenère produces very complex structured wines that are very rich in anthocyanins and rich in tannins, which can be easily polymerized. The wine may have a vegetal character (herbaceous), which is often dominant, but that, however, decreases when reaching perfect maturation, with a low production per plant and low nitrogen fertilization.
To limit the vegetal notes (pepper), deriving from the content of pyrazine in the skins, the vinification should be conducted by carrying out the destemming procedure of the grapes directly above the vat, so that the crushed, destemmed grapes fall into it by means of gravity.
The Carmenère, along with a richer aroma and a more intense color, differs primarily due to the predominance of the primary aromas that can be attributed to the flavor of the grape: hints of red fruit (blackberries) stand out, and the herbaceous nuances are just perceivable and clearly reduced with respect to the past.
The overall vineyard management techniques, coupled with a completely new vinification technique, now give us a very rich Curtefranca Red DOC, yet, at the same time, one with a strong characterization of the territory considering that, historically, our vineyards had a percentage of Cabernet Franc/Carmenère greater than 45% (data taken from the company archives regarding the composition of Franciacorta Red DOC in 1967, year in which the vineyards were registration in the newly constituted Register of Vineyards).
In recent years, the Franciacorta region has become world famous for its sparkling wines, which remain the highest point of quality that the territory can express. The Franciacorta DOCG is still the main product (75% of vineyards are planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Noir), however, our project should demonstrate the ability to diversify production without, following trends, the introduction of extraneous international grape varieties to our environment.