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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Casetta (Foja Tonda) - Terra dei Forti, Veneto, Italy

Today's grape, like the Roscetto grape I wrote about several months back, is one of those ultra-rarities that has been brought back from the brink of extinction through the efforts of a single producer who essentially has the current market on wines made from the grape cornered.  Unfortunately, that means that they also have the market cornered on information available about the grape, so for the most part, what information there is either comes from the winery directly or from other bloggers whose information seems to come directly from the winery.  So I'll issue the same caveat I did with my Roscetto post which is that since all of our information is coming from essentially the same place, our ability to cross-check any information is seriously limited and we're pretty much forced to take the winery's word for all of the information we have.

Albino Armani is the name of the winery and they've been doing business in northeastern Italy for over 400 years.  They have vineyard holdings in Trentino, Friuli and the Veneto and they make a wide variety of wines within those regions.  The story goes that in the 1980's, Albino Armani was starting to worry about the loss of many of the grapes native to some of these regions, so he set out to try and preserve what was left of them.  It looks like he made quite a few discoveries, but like the Pugnitello we took a look at a few weeks back, one in particular was more exciting than the others.  That grape was called Casetta, which is known as Foja Tonda in the local dialect, which means something like "round leaf."  The "Foja Tonda" is a bit of marketing gimmickry, as Albino Armani has the phrase trademarked and so is the only producer permitted to use it.  Not that there's a lot of competition.  It's estimated that there are only about 14 acres of Casetta in Italy (and therefore in the world since the grape is not thought to be grown anywhere else) and Armani owns and cultivates 12 of them.  The winery believes that the grape's history in the region can be traced back, vaguely,  to "antiquity," and that it ultimately fell out of favor with growers who were interested in more productively yielding vines.

For better or for worse there are "powers that be" in the world of Italian wine which have something of a say about what grapes can be cultivated and vinified in certain geographical regions.  Casetta was not approved for use anywhere, and so Albino Armani had to go through all of the processes of getting it approved.  At Albino's urging, the grape was officially reinstated for cultivation in 2002 (which basically means that it's on the governmental list of approved cultivars), and was approved for use in the Terra dei Forti DOC, where it must comprise at least 85% of the blend, as of the 2007 vintage (it is not permitted for use in any other DOC).  The Terra dei Forti DOC covers the Adige Valley between Trentino and the Veneto, is home to about 20 wineries, and has over 1300 hectares of vines divided up between over 1000 different growers.  I'm not totally sure, but I believe that 2005 was the first commercially available vintage of this wine, as there doesn't seem to be any online reviews for any prior vintages.

I was able to find a bottle of the 2006 Foja Tonda (100% Casetta), which is labeled as Vallagarina IGT since it was made the year before the DOC regulations came into effect, for about $20 from my friends at Curtis Liquors.  In the glass, the wine had a medium purple ruby color.  The nose was moderately aromatic with bright and juicy aromas of red cherry, black raspberry and waxy red fruit.  On the palate the wine was medium bodied with high acid and low tannins.  There were flavors of sour cherry, black raspberry and wild raspberry fruit with some wild and dried blueberry flavors and a hint of chocolate.  The overall character was of tart, wild, brambly berryish fruits.  It's not deeply complex or intense, but it is bright and very fruity with just a hint of chocolate and leather to round out the bottom end.  If you're not a fan of high-acid red wines, this probably won't do much for you.  This would be a very nice wine for someone looking to jazz up spaghetti and meatballs or for someone looking for something a little different on pizza night.

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