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Freisa wine grape

Italian Grapes 101: Freisa

Piedmont may be known for Nebbiolo, the grape behind the world-renowned Barolo and Barbaresco wines. But, this Italian region is home to many other incredible grape varietals, one, in particular, being Freisa.

So, what is Freisa? And, why should you be drinking it? Well, Freisa is a grape far from boring. It produces fresh, friendly, and refined wines. These wines can swoon even those who swear by white wines.

To learn more about why this is the wine to drink, continue reading to discover all the fun facts about Freisa!

Freisa is grown almost entirely in Italy

If you haven’t heard of Freisa, do not feel embarrassed. This grape is grown primarily in Italy, particularly in the Piedmont region. It is found in vineyards in most of Piedmont’s wine-growing zones, as it is a pretty adaptable and vigorous varietal. It is resistant to a thing called downy mildew, a pain for grape growers and winemakers. Nevertheless, Freisa’s original home is in Asti, a wine zone known more famously for Barbera d’Asti and Moscato d’Asti wines.

Freisa was – until recently – confined to Piedmont due to knowledge and demand. It long lurked in the shadows of Nebbiolo. This doesn’t make Freisa a lesser grape. It produces fantastic wines, gaining more popularity worldwide today.

Recently, Freisa has made its way to vineyards outside of Italy. You can find it grown in California. Domenico Winery produces an elegant Freisa wine with a character expressing the grape’s innate finesse and the terroir of Mount Oso, the vineyard where this particular Freisa is grown.

Aerial view of a wine region in Piedmont

It used to be the hottest wine in Piedmont

Records of Freisa wine date back pretty far – we are talking around the 16th century. It most likely produced the highly regarded wines of Fresearum, as noted in trading documents around 1517.

Freisa continued to reign in Piedmont until the 19th century. After, it slowly fell into the shadows as other wines emerged. Why? While Freisa can produce elegant wines, it is also easy to plant. This combination is a blessing for a winemaker. However, back then, the wine industry was different. Most wine consumed was vino sfuso (bulk wine) produced by farmers, who used the most common, available, and abundant variety. That was Freisa.

Today, Freisa is receiving more attention. It has two DOCs to know in Italy: Freisa d’Asti and Freisa di Chieri. Both protect specific, historic winemaking zones for the wine for the past 50 years. 

Freisa might be the parent of…

Many Italian grape varieties are related because of natural processes and the country’s long trading history. You may not be shocked to learn who Freisa might be the parent of. Hint: it’s a much more famous neighbor. Yes, Nebbiolo!

There is still some uncertainty around whether Freisa is Nebbiolo’s parent or if it’s vice versa. Regardless, we do know these two are related. 

Its name means strawberry!

Freisa is the Latin word for ‘strawberry’, if that gives you a hint to what this grape may taste like!

Freisa wine grape

Freisa makes a friendly wine

Not only is Freisa adaptable in the vineyards, but it also produces wines that are easy to love. Freisa wines are fresh. As mentioned above, the grape received its name from its flavor and scent of strawberries (among other red berry flavors). Freisa also has a freshness reminiscent of spring and summer berries.

When it comes to the body, this wine is quite balanced. Freisa wines are often dry, medium-bodied wines with lots of juicy acidity. They have pronounced tannins (that are delicate when compared to Nebbiolo), lending Freisa wines to long-term aging. Certain examples can age from 10 to even beyond 20 years, but this all depends on the producer and winemaking style.

What does Freisa wine taste like?

On the palate, Freisa is a juicy, berry-forward wine. It has lots of acidity and tannin, but it is still not a big overpowering wine. It also has gorgeous earthy undertones, complimenting its predominant red berry flavors.

Overall, Freisa is a refreshing dry red wine with structure but approachability. It pairs super well with dishes with rich or caramelized sauces. Freisa’s acidity is an excellent complement to ravioli or any filled pasta in meat ragu or even the classic Piemontese vitello tonnato (thinly sliced veal with velvety tuna sauce.)

Have you tried Freisa yet? No matter if you love red wine or not, this wine is worth a try. It reflects a unique Italian winemaking history. More importantly, it is delicious to drink. We suggest grabbing a bottle from Piedmont and one from California to see how Freisa tastes grown across the world.

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