This resilient red grape is found throughout the hills of Monferrato and Langhe, and is also cultivated in the northern areas surrounding Turin and Biella. It gained recognition as a feisty little grape that is resistant to a range of problematic mould and fungal vine diseases. It can also thrive in less-than-ideal conditions, and as a result, became one of Piedmonte’s most cultivated grapes in the nineteenth century. It also shares a genetic link to the king of grapes, Nebbiolo.
Red wines from Freisa are light, medium-bodied and dry, with fruity flavours that are often contrasted with bitter finishes. The inherent divergences in Freisa’s palatal and aromatic characteristics have puzzled connoisseurs for years. Never before has a wine generated so many polarizing opinions. Some people have raved at the wine’s inconsistencies, citing is as “refreshing” and “a fun challenge to drink.” Others have used rather strong terms to express their disdain at the wine, and have been puzzled by its contrasts of jarring tannins, racy levels of acidity and sweetness.
Despite this, Freisa wine has garnered enough fans to ensure a loyal consumer base for years to come. There are three DOC appellations that produce the wine – Freisa d’Asti, Langhe Freisa and Freisa di Chieri. All of these wines vary from dry, still varieties, to sweeter, sparkling versions.
Freisa d’Asti achieved DOC status in 1972. It made its debut in the 16th century, and was so loved by local consumers that it was subsequently produced on a large scale. Freisa d’Asti is a dry red that comes in rosso and superiore forms. More complex, fuller-bodied Freisas are made in an long-standing method that involves a second fermentation with slightly withered Nebbiolo grapes. This increases the power of the wine without increasing the sharpness of the tannins.
It boasts a deep garnet colour that turns rusty with age. Aromas are slightly floral with hints of coffee. The palate is fruity, with flavours of raspberry that are undercut with a dry and tart finish. Freisa d’Asti complements salty, fatty foods, like thin slivers of salami or Parmagiano Reggiano cheese. It also works well with braised beef, soups and white meats. The still dry reds of Langhe Freisa are similarly complex and complement the same food pairings.
Freisa Chieri comes in four main forms – amabile (sweet), secco (dry), frizzante and spumante. Sweet Freisa Chieris can accompany desserts like chocolate cake, pastries and dried or candied fruits. The dry wine, however, prefers cured meats and creamy, seasoned cheeses.
Sparkling Freisas develop their effervescence in a double-fermentation process. Often, residual sugars are added to the frizzante and spumante wines, in order to tone down their natural bitterness. These wines aren’t as sweet and comely as those of the Brachetto variety. Instead, they are zesty and sour, with a refreshing liveliness that is particularly evident in the vigorous fizz of the spumante.
The Chieri DOC appellation exists in the fields between Turin and Asti. It is possible to learn more about the Freisa grape by taking a wine tour of the region, some of which depart from the city of Turin itself. Enhance your experience of the wine by enjoying it this famous and historical city. The Duomo di San Giovanni (which houses the Turin Shroud) and the sumptuous Palazzo Madama are noteworthy sights.