Freisa (red)

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[Grape Variety]

One of the oldest varieties in Italy's Piemonte region, Freisa is a relative of Nebbiolo.

There's a definite family likeness - notable acidity and tannins and an inviting fragrance - but the wines they produce are rather different. Freisa is capable of many different styles, from light, sweetish, fun and frothy to dry, firmly tannic and ageworthy.

Italy's 2010 agricultural census recorded just 1,041 hectares, mostly in Piemonte but also in the Veneto, down from 1,453ha in 2000. Apart from limited plantings in California, it's a bit of a stay-at-home, perhaps because it gives wines with a distinctive, slightly wild character, typically aromatic, red fruited (cherries in particular) and sometimes with a slight yet refreshing bitterness on the finish.

It may play a minor part alongside Nebbiolo or Barbera but varietal bottlings are made in the Freisa d'Asti, Freisa di Chieri, Colli Tortonesi and Langhe DOCs. Claudio Mariotti's Braghé is a good example of the lighter, dry style; GD Vajra's Kyè is scented, deep and long; while Borgogno and Comm GB Burlotto's wines are more powerful but still show the variety's hallmark aroma and freshness.

Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson MW, Julia Harding MW and José Vouillamoz; www.winegrapes.org

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