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The Refosco Grape


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About Refosco

(Synonyms: Refoschin, Refošk, Rifòsc, Rifosco, Terrano, Teran)

Background

Map showing the Triveneto region of Italy

“Refosco” is not actually a particular wine grape: rather, it refers to a family of closely related but distinct red-wine grapes, often referred to as “the Refoschi”. Jancis Robinson, in her monumental book Wine Grapes, citing a 2005 study by Costacurta et al., lists six distinct grapes as members of the Refoschi:

The Refoschi originated in northeastern Italy, in the so-called “Triveneto” (or “Tre Venezie”) region of Italy, centered on Venice. It is a grape family, and wine, of great antiquity, being listed as having been served at a great banquet given in 1409, and there are yet earlier references.

Like many Italian red wines, Refoscos tend toward high acidity. They also tend to be “big” wines: full-bodied, strongly flavored, quite tannic, and with a touch of the bitterness that Italians are said to like in their foods and wines. The flavor quality is dark fruit, with the terms “plum”, “currant”, and “berry” showing up frequently. Better examples will age tolerably well.

It is important to realize that the Refoschi, while referred to by us and many as a “family”, include some grapes closely related one to another, but also some grapes not at all closely related to the others. Like, say, Malvasia or Muscat, the term is not even generic but better described as familial (as in species→genus→family). And even granted all that, the confusions about just exactly what those inter-relations may be is very far from settled; even with the advent of DNA profiling, many disagreements and just plain mysteries remain. All we can do is give you a quick sketch of the situation. (But note that according to DNA analysis, they are not any of them related to Mondeuse, old theories notwithstanding.)

Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso

This has long been acclaimed the best of the Refoschi, and is the most widely planted, mainly in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region around Venice. Its priority, however, may be under challenge from some of the other Refoschi, now that some attention is being paid to their capabilities and the best ways of exploiting those capabilities.

Refosco d’Istria

This grape, especially under its more common names Terrano (Italian) and Teran (Croatian) has surged in popularity in recent years. It is, as Jancis Robinson puts it, a “significant” wine. Grown on its home ground, it makes fruity wines of freshness and elegance that improve with barrel aging. It is good enough to compete with Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso for critical ratings within the Refoschi family.

Worth noting, though, is that Istrian Teran is distinctively flavored by the high iron content in the soil in that region (in particular, the Karst Plateau), soil known as terra rossa; that’s good in some ways, but there is a possible catch—as Wikipedia puts it, “does not age well—notably, chemical analyses have confirmed that the content of bivalent iron starts to diminish radically two years after fermentation—and should be consumed within its first year; after that, the wine quickly loses its attractive vitality and can even become bitter and flat.” We say “possible” catch because it is unclear what the authority is for the assertions made there (even following out the links to sources).
Refosco di Faedis

This type, now more commonly known as Refosco Nostrano, had faded greatly in popularity, but a dedicated group of growers in Faedis are trying to make it yet another of the “re-discovered” grapes Italy is coming up with in recent times. Their bottlings are called Refosco Nostrano. Ian D’Agata, a reknowned expert on Italian wines, considers it a high-quality grape making correspondingly high-quality wines. If you ever see a bottle, try it!

Whether Refoscone is a synonym of Refosco Nostrano is yet another item of ongoing confusion among the experts. Robinson asserts definitely that it is, whereas D’Agata holds it to be a distinct type (both basing their statements on some sort of DNA evidence). It is inherently quite productive, but the skins are very thin, making it susceptible to diseases, hence its relative unpopularity with growers. There do not seem at present to be any monovarietal bottlings of Refoscone to be had anywhere.

Refosco del Botton

Whether this type is the same thing as Tezzelenghe seems unclear. Robinson says it is, and so did D’Agata in his earlier book; but now D’Agata, citing more recent DNA analyses, asserts that Tezzelenghe is a separate, distinct Refoschi type. Tezzelenghe is a good-quality grape that was severely reduced in popularity during the Parkerized decades when wines that did not boom explosively were disfavored. In any event, it seems well worth a try if you ever run across a bottle of Colli Orientali del Friuli Tazzelenghe, the only D.O.C. Tazzelenghe now made. D’Agata says the wines are not huge but rather are graceful and refined.

Refosco Gentile

Refosco Gentile is a low-producing grape, and so has fallen into commercial disfavor. There are indications, however, that it can produce high-quality wine, and it is another candidate for a revival effort (the University of Udine is studying the type).



For those mysterious reasons that drive the eccentricities of international wine marketing, the Refoschi at present remain varieties little known to or appreciated by the U.S. market, despite general critical plaudits for the wines. (That accounts for the paucity of the lists farther below.)

Factoid: The Parenzana railway from Trieste to Poreč was often called the wine railroad (or the vineyard railroad) because, it was said, the Habsburgs who controlled the Austro-Hungarian Empire were especially fond of wines from the Triveneto, notably including Refosco.

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Some Descriptions of Refosco Wines

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Some Refoscos to Try

(About this list.)

While Refosco wines, especially if we expand beyond the Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso type, are not exactly rare in the marketplace, there are remarkably few of the better-rated ones that have even modestly wide availability. That is why this list is a little shorter (four wines) than our usual five suggestions.

Kozlović Teran

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Tenuta Luisa Refosco
(This is not the “I Ferritti” bottling.)

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Rojac Refošk

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks



Bastianich “Vini Orsone” Refosco

• This wine’s Wine Searcher “Tasting Notes” page.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
• This wine’s CellarTracker review pages.
  (CellarTracker has two separate listings for this wine.)
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks

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For a Splurge

There seem to be no generally available Refosco wines better enough than those listed above (based on critical reviews) to justify any sort of “splurge” price.

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This page was last modified on Monday, 23 March 2020, at 3:52 pm Pacific Time.