WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

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WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Robin Garr » Mon May 21, 2007 1:54 pm

Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Up in Northwestern Italy's hilly Piemonte region, where the Nebbiolo-based Barolo and Barbaresco rank among the world's finest and most ageworthy wines, the lighter wines made from Barbera and Dolcetto are said to be the reds that the locals drink while they're waiting for the big boys to come around. Or if they can't <i>afford</i> the big boys.

Indeed, Barbera and Dolcetto are both fine options in my book, food-friendly and earthy and generally still relatively affordable in an age of wine-price inflation.

Worth noting also, particularly for those of us who enjoy blazing new trails and who always will hold out our glasses for a taste of something rare and offbeat, is a <i>third</i> modest Piemontese red made for early drinking.

Freisa ("Fray-zah") is a long-established but relatively rarely grown Northwestern Italian variety whose name comes from a dialect word for "strawberry" that's actually closer to the French "fraise" than the standard Italian "fragola."

However you pronounce it, though, it's an interesting variety, usually showing a distinct wild-raspberry scent, if not as redolent of ripe strawberries as some Beaujolais, but adding interest with earthy notes and an astringent, tart flavor profile that reminds me of Dolcetto. In Italy, some of it is made in an alternative style that's lighter, softly sweet and slightly fizzy, a very refreshing wine that should be popular for summer sipping ... if they made enough of it to export.

Frankly, even the dry, tart Freisa is rare enough to be hard to find outside Italy, so I was pleased to run across today's tasty example, the 2004 <b>La Casaccia Vigna Monfiorenza</b> from Monferrato, at Chambers Street Wines in New York City.

If you keep a "life list" of unusual varieties and regions, Freisa is well worth seeking out.

<table border="0" align="right" width="170"><tr><td><img src="http://www.wineloverspage.com/graphics1/casa0520.jpg" border="1" align="right"></td></tr></table>La Casaccia 2004 Vigna Monfiorenza Monferrato Freisa ($11.49)

This clear, dark garnet wine's aromas offer an intriguing blend of fruit, fresh herbs and earth. Delicate wild strawberries add a faint licorice note of fresh tarragon, with distinct red-clay minerality in the background. It's crisp and bright on the palate, subtle red-berry fruit and a distinct waft of white pepper against a light backdrop of earthy tannins, with crisp acidity lingering in the finish. U.S. importer: Selected Estates of Europe Ltd., Mamaroneck, N.Y. (May 20, 2007)

<B>FOOD MATCH:</b> Red meat, grilled poultry or even game would be ideal, but I paired it, with surprising success, with a cool salad of fresh asparagus brought up to meet a red wine with Asian accents, a soy-ginger-garlic dressing with a basil aioli and a dab of Chinese fermented black beans.

<B>VALUE:</B> Assuming you like wines in the earthy, tannic style, with minerality at least at parity with fruit, this price is more than fair, particularly if you enjoy adding offbeat varieties to your "life list" of varieties and regions tasted.

<B>WHEN TO DRINK:</B> Despite the substantial tannins, which normally suggest aging potential, this wine - like the similarly tannic Dolcetto - is best drunk up young; cellar time will likely diminish the fruit without softening the tannins.

<B>PRONUNCIATION</B>
<B>Cassacia</b> = "<i>Cah-sah-cha</i>"
<B>Freisa</B> = "<i>Fray-zah</i>"

<B>WEB LINK:</B>
La Cassacia's Website has photos and basic information about the winery and its wines in Italian and English. This link will take you to the bilingual start page, where you can click "Inglese" at the lower left for the English pages.
http://www.lacasaccia.biz
Here's a link to the U.S. importer's Website:
http://www.selectedestates.com

<B>FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:</B>
Wine-Searcher.com lists only limited vendors for La Casaccia wines.
[url=http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Casaccia/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP]http://www.wine-searcher.com/
find/Casaccia/-/-/USD/A?referring_site=WLP[/url]
For more retail sources, click "Where to Buy" on the importer's Website. I got it from my No. 1 source for unusual wines, Chambers Street Wines in NYC:
http://www.chambersstwines.com/

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Oliver McCrum » Mon May 21, 2007 3:12 pm

Robin,

Thanks for giving the wine an airing; I import it for CA, if anyone would like to try it they can email me for retailers.

I don't find it that tannic, I wonder if your bottle was recently shipped?

Great with salumi, although the same winery's Grignolino is even better in that regard.

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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Marc D » Mon May 21, 2007 4:21 pm

Robin,

Interesting coincindence on the wines from La Cassacia. Not too long ago a mutual Italian friend sent me an email about this producer. He mentioned that the winery was run by a husband and wife team, and that it is certified organic. The vines are 50-80 years old. The email contained some beautiful pictures of the old Grignolino and Freisa vines. I would like to post a link to the pics but will have to ask permission first.

I like the Freisa wines (all 2 of them) that I have tried. Brovia makes a delightful fresh lively version, and Vajra makes one that is bigger bodied and vinified in a style similar to Barolo, with some barrique aging.


Oliver,
I would be interested in a West coast source to try the wines.

Thanks,
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Oliver McCrum » Mon May 21, 2007 4:53 pm

Marc,

Paul Marcus Wines has it in stock (in Oakland), Hi Time in S. Cal has bought the wine, or Weimax in Burlingame CA. K and L is always a good source, too; their Italian wine buyer up here is Mike Parres, mikeparres@klwines.com

Robin, I hope this kind of post is not excessively commercial, let me know if so.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby John Treder » Mon May 21, 2007 10:51 pm

When I was in Amador County last month, I bought a bottle of '03 Freisa at Montevina, for $12 at the tasting room. The young lady (a primary school teacher ekeing out her income) said Montevina isn't planning to bottle any more.

I'm a sucker for wines that I don't know. :-)
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Bob Ross » Mon May 21, 2007 11:00 pm

Oliver, how about New Jersey? Thanks, Bob
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Oliver McCrum » Tue May 22, 2007 1:03 pm

Bob,

I would email Selected Estates, they'll know.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Robin Garr » Tue May 22, 2007 2:49 pm

Bob Ross wrote:Oliver, how about New Jersey? Thanks, Bob


Bob, the easy course for you, if you want this wine, would most likely be to grab it from Chambers Street. There's not much made, so I doubt it's finding its way into wide distribution.
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Re: WTN /WineAdvisor: Offbeat grapes and wines - Freisa

Postby Robin Garr » Tue May 22, 2007 2:52 pm

Oliver McCrum wrote:I don't find it that tannic, I wonder if your bottle was recently shipped?


Oliver, no, when I'm writing about wine for publication I generally try to let it rest for at least one month before tasting. In fact, frankly, it had lingered in my tasting queue longer than I would have liked: It shipped on Feb. 7.

I wouldn't say it was tannic in the brutal fashion of a young Latour or immature Barolo, but there was definitely a note of rough, "muddy" tannins that reminded me very much of a similar character that I often find in Dolcetto.
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