A favorite wine shop in Bordeaux is O-Sud. As one might guess by the name, you’ll only find wines from the South of France, and a handful from Spain and Italy. They hold periodic tastings including a recent one that featured Italian wines. I happily made the acquaintance of Freisa, a grape native to Northern Italy with its own DOC: Freisa d’Asti.
All About Freisa
Freisa is a red grape made into still, sweet, and sparkling (frizzante and spumante) wine. It’s found in the Piemonte area and is a probable relative of Nebbiolo.
How could I (and I suspect many people) not know about this grape?!? One that was once Piedmonte and Northern Italy’s most important, and that’s been around a very, very long time.
Historically Freisa produces a rich but lighter style, tannic wine with an acidic structure.
These days, the style of wine made from Freisa is changing, as described by WineSearcher:
“Since 2000, Freisa d’Asti producers have begun moving towards a more full-bodied style of wine, more in tune with modern consumer preferences. Ironically, this is being facilitated by a long-neglected traditional winemaking technique involving a second fermentation of lightly withered grapes. This technique maintains the all-important balance of acid and sugars, and increases the power of the wine without increasing the impact of the strong tannins characteristic of the Freisa variety.”
What We Tasted
Cento Filari Lo Spaventapasserie, Freisa d’Asti DOC, Superiore 2012
- Color: clean, pale garnet with ruby rim
- Aromas: minimal raspberry, blueberry, vegetal notes, green stems, hints of tar
- Palate: bright raspberry, wet forest floor, tobacco/tar, pepper
- Conclusion: Medium acid and body; medium+ finely rustic and balanced tannins. Intrigued with the first few ‘fresh’ sips, it opened showing many aspects. Round yet linear on the palate with a medium to lengthy finish. Interesting to note, the wine’s more acidic side was tamed by the sweet sugar syrup dipped cherry tomato, the most “right on” pairing of the evening!
Lo Spaventapasserie is an organic winery / farm in Piedmont who produces a variety of products.
During the evening, we also tasted Prosecco, Barbera, Valpolicello, and Moscato d’Asti, but Freisa stole the show.
- hardy, resistant to mildew and other vine diseases
- dark colored (blue-black grape)
- general aromas of raspberries, strawberries, violets, sometimes tobacco or tar notes
- tends toward the tannic side with a fair amount of acid
- two different varieties- Freisa Piccolo (small berried) and Freisa Grossa (larger berried)
- indigenous grape that likely originated in/around Turin and Asti in Piedmont
Freisa Nebbiolata – A Wine On My Radar
Specific to the Piedmont region, Freisa grapes are fermented ripasso style, meaning on the previously used Nebbiolo skins from the production of Barolo and Barbaresco.
How It Works- After the Barolo/Barbaresco are pressed off their skins, the left over skins are added to the Freisa juice that is then fermented. The result? A highly tannic wine with a potential for complex flavors. This wine is called Freisa Nebbiolata.
The Freisa d’Asti DOC was established in 1972 (100% Freisa). A second DOC not far from Turin is Freisa di Chieri (90-95% Freisa) and was established in 1973.
- Vitigini d’Italia (Grape Varieties of Italy) Bologna, Calderini, 2006
- The Oxford Companion to Wine – Jancis Robinson