Even when duly distracted by some of the finest wines on earth one must make time for local treasures. Take Piedmont for example, I spent 2 weeks there tasting through some of the finest wines on earth, exceptional Barolo and Barbaresco, but man does not live on grand wines alone, particularly when they are big, powerful, structured, and not inexpensive. Sometimes an alternative is called for!
In this case allow me to propose little known Freisa. Closely related to Nebbiolo, and in fact sharing some 85% of DNA with that noble varietal, Freisa is very likely one of Nebbiolo's parents, and produces a wine that in some ways is similar to that produced with Nebbiolo. Both wines share formidable structural elements, with Freisa's tannins being more assertive and bitter than even Nebbiolo's. Historically Freisa was produced in a slightly off-dry style, to help buffer those tannins, and was even slightly sparking: no doubt an accidental result of leaving a little sugar in wine back before we knew what that might lead to!
Today winemakers are decidedly more aware of what is going on at every stage of the game, which has allowed them to produce Freisa with softer, more supple tannins but the classic style, called Nebbiolata, since the Freisa spends time on the Nebbiolo lees to extract that little bit of sweetness, continues to live on. Freisa is a classic example of old meeting young. It's an indigenous variety with long historical ties to the region, and a style of winemaking but that hasn't frozen it in time. Producers have experimented with the variety and learned from each other yielding a truly fascinating range of wines today.
While I'm sure there is some Freisa out there somewhere, like Nebbiolo it just is too well adapted to its home. It's tough enough to deal with in Piedmont, I can only imagine what it might be like when produced elsewhere, and truth be told I don't imagine that to often. Freisa is a wine that represents a region so clearly and precisely I am not really interested in learning about how it performs elsewhere. I'm happy to return to the source of fine Freisa every year to keep tabs on the state of the grape. Today you can find it dry and chewy, fresh and fruity, or Nebbiolata, what more could you ask for?
Nice rusty, slightly astringent red berry fruit greets the nose along with with lovely floral notes. This is fresh and fruity in the mouth, just a touch round texturally but with classic woodsy, rusty slight spicy flavors supported by nice rustic tannins. There's a core of delicious red raspberry fruit here and hints of both spritz and creaminess on the palate with a decent finish that shows off some grapey character. This is very good in an easy going and joyfully pure kind of way. Bright, juicy and guzzlelicious. 88pts
Very balsamic on the nose with ivy and fennel aromas topped with minty, medicinal aromas. This has the classic big acids and tannins of Freisa in a rustic, chewy style that is weighty if not fat on the palate with lots of earthy dark fruit leading to a chewy, important finish. This powerful and big but not overweight in any way, turning a little tight and drying on the finish. 89pts
A Nebbiolata style wine passed on the Nebbiolo gross lees, which gives this a little more tannin and a little more sugar for the second fermentation.
A little stinky and earthy on the nose which shows notes of thistle, wild berry fruit, and a little mushroom. there's a nice little bit of fizz here even if this had been opened earlier, with lovely clean mineral edged fruit, that shows a smear of strawberry and tart cherry fruit. Very long and perfumed in the mouth with a red floral note, just a hint of pepperiness on the modest finish. Just a lot of fun, chill this a bit and drink it with salami this summer for an irritable Piedmontese experience. 90pts
Tons of raspberry fruit greets the nose here along with intense aromas of slightly smoky, meaty herb notes, almost like rose stems along with hints of chocolate and orange oil. There's a nice richness on entry here with early powdery tannins adding a bit of texture to the palate which shows fine clarity with black raspberry flavors and a touch of bramble that lingers on the long, orange and raspberry toned finish. 90pts
Dark and earthy on the nose, with lots of rose petal notes, savory dark coffee and dried leather aromas framing small lack woodland fruits. This starts out with lovely richness and earthy flavors that quickly yield to slightly rustic, angular tannins on the palate. Complex flavors of earth, medicinal herbs and exotic spices appear on the mid-palate which leads to a long, dirt filled richly fruited very slightly hot and medicinal finish. This is a singular wine of impressive character and has a track record of aging very well indeed. 92pts