A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso - Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy
To get back to the study question, the answer, as you may have guessed, was Refosco. I flipped to the section on Italy to see what I could find out about this grape I'd never heard of, but the information there was essentially limited to the fact that Refosco is indeed grown in Friuli. I'd been in my fair share of wine shops at that point and marveled that I'd never seen a bottle of wine made from that grape and wondered why that might be. Over time, I realized that several of my usual haunts did actually have wines made from Refosco, but unless you're on a specific mission for something like that, it's very easy to miss, as most shops, if they carry it at all, rarely have more than one bottle on the shelves. In the course of taking that class and finding out about the wide variety of grapes that are actually out there, the germ of an idea started to sprout and its realization is on these pages (if you're wondering, I ended up passing the class with distinction).
Well, that's certainly enough navel-gazing for now. There will be much more of that kind of stuff on Fringe Wine's first birthday in September. For today, though, we're considering Refosco, a red grape with a very long history in northeastern Italy. There's a theory that Refosco formed the base of the legendary Roman wine, Puccinum, which was the favorite wine of Augustus' wife Livia. Other scholars, though, believe that Puccinum was actually made from Prosecco, though some of the reasoning seems a little sexist (according to Wikipedia, which is not always the most reliable source, one scholar believes that since Refosco is bitter, Livia, being a woman, could not possibly like and must have liked a sweeter wine made from Prosecco). Not being a scholar of the era, I'll withhold judgement on the matter. Whatever the case happens to be, the first explicit written reference to Refosco dates to 1390 when it is mentioned that the wine is given as a gift by Roman Ambassadors.
The grape is thought to be native to the Friuli region, though it is grown to some extent in a few other regions of northern Italy and in Slovenia and Croatia. For many years, it was thought that Refosco was the same grape as Mondeuse Noire, grown in southeastern France, but recent DNA testing has shown that the two grapes are actually not related at all. The grape is related to Marzemino, but it's a little unclear to me precisely what the relationship is. The Oxford Companion to Wine states that there is a parent-offspring relationship between the two grapes without specifying which grape is parent and which offspring. The Wikipedia page for Refosco says Marzemino is the parent, while the page for Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso states that Marzemino is the offspring. Both pages cite the same OCW entry to back their claim and I can't seem to find the original article, so in the meantime, I'll just leave the uncertainty hanging and say that they have a parent-offspring relationship but I don't know which is which.
It turns out that Marzemino is the parent to Refosco. Check out my Marzemino post for more info.
I should take a moment here to note that as is the case for many Italian grape varieties, there is not just one Refosco. The name Refosco is used to denote a family of grapes which are all very closely related genetically and which share many ampelographical characteristics. I'll be honest, I'm not totally sure whether the different Refoscos are related by virtue of the fact that they all represent clonal mutations (like the way that the different Pinot Noirs are related) or whether they're distinct grape varieties that are closely related by virtue of having the same kind of parentage (like how all the different Muscats are related). The terminology gets kind of tricky and people aren't always consistent in the way that they talk about these things. Sub-variety and clone are both thrown about with equal frequency and some writers claim there's a difference while others use the terms interchangeably.