Discovering a New Italian Grape: Freisa

      2 Comments on Discovering a New Italian Grape: Freisa

Fresia d'AstiA favorite wine shop here in Bordeaux is O-Sud. It has a theme, that’s common here – a wine bar, with light bites that pair well with wine, and a small but great selection of libations. As one might guess, you’ll only find wines from the South of France, and a handful from Spain and Italy.

O-Sud holds periodic tastings, last week was Italian wines and I happily made the acquaintance of Freisa from the Freisa d’Asti DOC located in Piedmonte.

Freisa is a red grape made into still, sweet, and sparkling (frizzante and spumante) wine. It’s found in the Piemonte area of Northern Italy, 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 it 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.”

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+ tannins are finely rustic and balanced. Intrigued with the first few ‘fresh’ sips, it opened showing many aspects. Round yet linear on the palate, a medium lengthy finish. So interesting to note, the wine’s more acidic side was tamed by the sweet sugar syrup dipped cherry tomato, the 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 tasted Prosecco, Barbera, Valpolicello, and Moscato d’Asti; but the Freisa stole the show.

Freisa Characteristics:

  • 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, the 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 is pressed off their skins, those left over skins are added to the Freisa juice, which is then fermented. The result? A highly tannic wine with a potential for complex flavors.

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), in 1973.

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Sources:

  • Vitigini d’Italia (Grape Varieties of Italy) Bologna, Calderini, 2006
  • The Oxford Companion to Wine – Jancis Robinson
  • WineSearcher

2 thoughts on “Discovering a New Italian Grape: Freisa

  1. Lauren Walsh

    Don’t you just love discovering these Italian varieties? I think you could try a new one every day for a year! The Freisa you sampled sounds interesting – especially how it’s made – and I love the unexpected pairing. Sounds like O Sud was a great discovery, too!

    Reply
    1. Lynn Post author

      Seems there are so many ‘other’ grapes in Italy to discover as you say Lauren.The Freisa was intriguing- tarted very stemy-like then opened up to this amazing wine. Thanks for your comment 😉

      Reply

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