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Freisa

Freisa is not something I hear about often. On the contrary, I very rarely hear about people drinking Freisa. I don’t really see it in my social media feeds either. But why? What happened to the formerly well-established grape variety? And is it perhaps making a comeback?

Freisa dates back to the 1800s, and it was a fairly popular grape variety back in the day. But we don’t see it a lot these days. I won’t dive deep into the potential reasons for this, but it might have something to do with the increased popularity of Nebbiolo. Many other grape varieties suffered the same fate there, including many white piemontese varieties. Fortunately, like with these white grape varieties, Freisa is slowly but surely making a comeback.

Four different Freisa

Freisa – Nebbiolo’s brother from another mother?

I’m just kidding. Kind of. Freisa is related to Nebbiolo, but they are not siblings. It is believed they share a parent-offspring relationship, and Nebbiolo is most likely one of the parents of Freisa. The other parent is still unknown. Nevertheless, this means that they share very similar DNA. Which again explains why they share so many similarities. They have a similar color. They both have tannins and acidity, which gives them the ability to age.

They are similar, but they have their differences. And their differences might explain why one gained popularity and the other one didn’t. While Nebbiolo is fairly elegant and quite complex, Freisa might be considered more rustic and a bit less complex. In an online discussion I had with Nadia Curto she described Freisa as “a country wine, because the smell is not only roses, it’s also leather and herbal notes.” She goes on to say that “we love very much this wine. We open with a smile. It’s a wine of our tradition and probably also the grandparents when they drink Freisa they are reminded of the past and it’s very nice.”

Freisa – still or sparkling?

There are a few different ways to make Freisa. Outside Langhe it’s not uncommon to make it sparkling or sweet. While in Langhe, the only sparkling one I know of is the one made by Maria Teresa. I also recently learned that it was common to “pass” Freisa over Nebbiolo, to give it a stronger character.  Today, wines are generally made “pure”, i.e Langhe Nebbiolo is 100% Nebbiolo and Barbera d’Alba is 100% Barbera. Besides, the Freisa we know today doesn’t need any help from Nebbiolo to get a strong character. This has a lot to do with climate change and warmer seasons, but I won’t get into that right now.

Freisa Tasting Notes

I recently tasted four different Freisa, from four different producers and four different vintages.

Rinaldi 2013

This wine has aged beautifully! I was impressed with the level of tannins and acidity. There were some hints of tertiary aromas on the nose, but still fresh and fruity. Truly a beautiful example of Freisa.

Bartolo Mascarello 2015

As usual, the onefrom Maria Teresa was sparkling. Personally, I prefer my Freisa “still”, but this is nevertheless a very good wine. It’s also more on the rustic side, especially compared to Rinaldi and Cavallotto.

Cavallotto 2019

The one from Cavallotto was quite concentrated with aromas of dark fruits. There was also quite some grip in the tannins. Some leather aromas in this one. Good acidity with a long finish.

La Vedetta 2021

Very fresh and crisp. Fruity, with aromas fresh red fruit. Easy to drink, with elegant tannins.

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