2019 Brovia, Langhe Freisa DOC “La Villerina Secca” Piedmonte, Italy.
In recent years Freisa, a local rarity, has made a comeback from obscurity to be a darling of the Piedmonte region as top producers like G.D. Vajra, Vietti and Brovia put their talents to it. Freisa, a close but little-known relative of Nebbiolo has some similar characteristics, got popular in the 1800s and was used for sparkling, still and sweet wines and there are two major clonal varieties of Freisa-a small berried clone known as Freisa Piccolo which is more widely planted, and used here, and a larger berry Freisa Grossa or Freisa di Nizza, which is not known to produce any wines of merit. This perfumed, vibrant and delicious organic Brovia Freisa comes from the Barolo region and their estate vines in the Castiglione Falletto area, set on the historic clay and limestone soils. This 2019 La Villerina Secca Langhe Freisa DOC is mineral intense and chalky with a weighted rose petal bouquet and with a fresh medium bodied palate of strawberry, crushed spicy raspberry and Italian cherry fruits along with dried herbs, candied orange peel and white licorice. The Brovia wines are vinified in the classic style, especially the higher end Barolo wines, with all the grapes being fully de-stemmed and then lightly crushed before going into the cement fermentation tanks, all with native yeasts. The length of the fermentation period depends on the grape variety but the Nebbiolo for various Barolo cuvées can extend as long as a month or more, while the Freisa is a shorter period to retain fresh fruit detail and aromatics. The Baroli are aged for at least two years in mainly large format casks of Slavonian and French oak, while the Freisa sees just the stainless steel, which is usually an elevage of 6 to 12 months, with the wine staying on the lees through malo-lactic fermentation with the Freisa getting a racking to another tank to clarify before bottling. The Brovia wines are all bottled unfined and without filtration, then released only after the wine is matured in bottle for an extended time, for the Freisa it is typically again 6 months to a year, with the Barolo coming to the market after an additional 18 to 24 months of bottle-aging.
The famous Brovia estate, now run by Elena Brovia, was originally established in 1863 by Giacinto Brovia, who founded the winery in the village of Castiglione Falletto, in the heart of the Barolo district. The family has been continually engaged in the growing of grapes and the production of wine since that time, through many up and downs and have emerged as one of the top properties with a focus on traditional Barolo and native varietals, like Nebbiolo, Barbera and this rare Freisa, as well as notable efforts with Dolcetto and Arneis. The Brovias have concentrating their efforts in their home village of Castiglione Falletto and the neighboring Serralunga d’Alba. Brovia has an elite collection of parcels in a variety of the best crus in this part of Piedmont, including awesome plots in Rocche, Villero and Garblét Sue, which, as the winery notes, are all in their home district of Castiglione Falletto, as well as Brea, located just down the road in Serralunga. These different vineyard plots, Brovia adds, represent a range of soil types, from heavier clay to friable limestone, which goes from heavier fruit density to a more structured and tannic wine. The family is extremely conscientious of nature and the environment and as winegrowers they farm organically, though without being formally certified they are passionate about being sustainable and holistic in their methods, both in the vineyard and in the cellar. With some digging around I found that plantings of Freisa in the Piedmont region date back to at least the 11700s, but it is believed to have been there much longer, and ampelographers believe that the grape likely originated in Piedmonte, in the hills between Asti and Turin. It was only recently that DNA profiling by the UC Davis revealed that Freisa has a parent-offspring relationship with Nebbiolo, as mentioned above. I’ve been a fan of Brovia for a decade or so now, especially their Nebbiolo and Barbera based offerings, but now that I’ve had this Freisa for the first time, it moves right up to the top of my list, this was an unexpected pleasure not unlike when I had the Kye Freisa from Giuseppe Vajra for the first time, this was a lovely experience and it is a wine that can be enjoyed with a wide range of foods, I highly recommend it.
($35 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive