This Wednesday Wine Blogging is hosted by Brenda at The Culinary Fool. Since it's the festive season she's presented us with a sparkling wine challenge, and it can't be champagne!
I have three favourite sparkling wines: they're all dessert wines and they're all Italian. Mostcato d'Asti (which I'm sure most people know about already), Brachetto d'Acqui (which I've bored you all about on numerous occasions) and Fragolino (a much maligned wine due to its New World ancestry).
I first tried Fragolino at the age of 19 in a cute little bar and creperia in Piazza di Sant'Eustachio in Rome. The creperis is no longer there, but I still fond memories of my first sweet sip and the cute bartender who slipped me his number when he wrote down the name of the wine.
Fragolino is a gorgeous Italian chilled, red dessert wine made from the Fragola grape (a hybrid commonly known as Uva Americana, Isabella Seksarda, Pierce and Raisin de Cassis). The interesting characteristic of the Fragola grape (Italian for strawberry) is that is has a distinctive strawberry aroma and this is imparted deeply into the wine. In fact Fragolino smells so entirely strawberry that I was convinced for some time that the wine was made out of strawberries rather than grapes.
Pisani Fragolino Rosso Vivo (Veneto, Italy) was a rich, ruby red, softly frizzante and certainly carried the distinctive perfume of strawberry. I also detected aromas of red fruits, cherries and even a little rose. The initial flavour was intensely strawberry with a mellow sweetness that ended in a slightly cloying cerise. In fact the aftertaste was quite syrupy and even borderline artificial. I became concerned that the wine had been modified to include artificial strawberry perfumes. However the texture of the wine was very nice: light with bubbles gently caressing the mouth and the elegant chill taking the edge off the sweetness.
I'd give Fragolino a 7-8 out of 10 whereas it's more sophisticated cousin, Brachetto d'Acqui, I'd give 9-10 out of 10.
Pisani Fragolino Rosso Vivo rates a little lower than your average Fragolino. It was good (I'd still recommend people to try it) but I've had better (dare I admit I love the very cheap Duchessa Lia).
For Brenda's rating scale, I wouldn't go as far as to say Pisani Fragolino is a dud, but it's neither a special sparkler nor a cheap and cheerful party sparkler (not at A$20 a bottle).
Please do give Fragolino a try. There's nothing better than a cold, red, dessert wine with the perfume of strawberries and the faint kiss of bubbles!
I thought I'd give you a bit of background on Fragolino, just in case people are interested in how the grape came into being.
In the late 1800s phylloxera infestations had destroyed many European vineyards and it was discovered that importing disease resistant North American vines and grafting them with European varieties led to a phylloxera resistant grape. In Italy and Austria the Vitis vinifera was crossed with the American Vitis labrusca, a grape which contained heady strawberry aromas. Thus the Uva Americana or Fragola was born.
Fragola's origins have caused quite a controversy. Given the European Union's tough protection of traditionally produced wines and grapes, Fragolino causes an issue because of its American origins. In order to protect the production of European grapes, wine produced from Fragola grapes was banned from sale right up until the mid 1990s. Most of the consumption was private and localised to Italy and Austria (where Fragolino is known as Uhudler).
This attitude towards such a delicious creation surprises me. It seems like preservation of heritage taken to the utmost extreme. This is particularly so if you consider that even though the grape came from the Americas, the semi-sparkling wine is most certainly a European invention. And surely Europe can continue inventing and developing? Surely it should be about continual evolution not just maintaining the status quo?
So with that potentially controversial opening of a can of wine worms, please check out Brenda's two part recap here and here to see what other sparklers tickled peoples' fancy.
Tags: morsels and musings food blog food and drink australia recipes wednesday wine blogging wwb wine dessert wine red wine italian wine fragolino fragolino rosso vivo pisani