2017 G.D. Vajra, Langhe Freisa DOC “Kye” Piedmonte, Italy.
I first tried Vajra’s Kye Langhe Freisa DOC in 2013 with their 2009 version being shown at a trade show and I was blown away, and every time I’ve had it since it continues to entrance and intrigue me, with the 2017 being remarkably similar to the 2009 with a deep perfume and wonderfully exotic fruit layer, all wrapped up in a silky, but structured wine, this is as good as this rare Piedmonte grape gets! Coming from estate vineyards, the oldest located in San Ponzio, on the lower west border of Bricco delle Viole (a top Barolo cru on classic Marl, sand and limestone), and as the winery notes, this is the closest vineyard to the winery, and a selezione massale planted by Aldo Vajra back in 1980. The Freisa, which has loads of strawberry, plum, vine picked berry and tangy cherry fruits, presented with spicy accents and a bit of Nebbiolo like character, but slightly more floral (roses and geraniums) on the nose, making for beautifully detailed, structured and lengthy wine that adds hints of earth, cedar and mineral with air. There is a lot going on here and you can see why this grape is making such an impressive comeback and winemaker Giuseppe Vajra has done a masterful job in a tough vintage with searing heat and where the vines struggled to produce worthwhile yields, especially considering how fabulously balanced this wine is and how utterly delicious it is on the palate. This wine is highly rewarding already and delivers seamless pleasures in a medium full red wine that goes stylishly well with a variety of dishes and authentic Northern Italian cuisine, being a gracious companion with meat and or mushroom dishes as well as hard cheeses. I tasted this terroir driven Freisa at the Slow Wine tour stop in San Francisco along with Vajra’s signature 2017 Bricco delle Viole Barolo and the sublime Ravera cru Barolo from the epic 2016 vintage, which was easily the best wine at the show.
In 2004, Freisa was discovered to be the closest relative to Nebbiolo, Vajra explains, thus explaining the deep bond this variety has with Piemonte and its people. With a noble profile and similar characteristics to the Nebbiolo, we have been bottling a dry Langhe DOC Freisa ever since 1989. Kyé means ‘who is?’ and represents the surprise for this indigenous and forgotten grape that has seen a glorious resurrection in modern times, especially good is this one, as well as Vietti’s, which has also become a fan favorite. In 1971, Aldo Vajra was one of the earliest adopters of organic farming in Piemonte and his vineyards have been nurtured holistically and soil preserved by grassing and cover crop for almost 50 years now. Vajra gained full organic certification in 2019 and the new generation here, led by Giuseppe Vajra, continues the family traditions here, but have also opened a new and world class cellar facility and the wines get better and better here. The winemaking for this wine is pretty close to how Vajra makes their Barolo with the Langhe Freisa DOC Kyé being aged for 26 months, mostly in large oak casks with incredible attention to details from vine to bottle. This Kye bottling is a rare and rewarding treat, and while not easy to get it certainly is well worth the chase, it drinks lovely on release, so no extra waiting is needed, though it will be fun to see it get some years on it too. Freisa is one of the latest varietals to be picked by the Vajra family, due to its late ripening pattern and the grapes are sorted manually three times, including directly on the vine, as whole clusters on the sorting tables, and lastly as single berries after a gentle de-stemming. Fermentation, according to the winery, lasts around 15 to 25 days in vertical vats, and is followed by spontaneous malolactic fermentation before going into the big boti (wood). As you might have noticed in my reviews, this winery is making some of my favorite Piedmonte wines from Dolcetto to Riesling, as well as this Freisa and their exceptional Barolo offerings and I highly recommend all of them!
($50 Est.) 94 Points, grapelive