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The Refosco Grape

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About Refosco

(Synonyms [for "Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso"]: Peteljcice, Refosc dal Pecol Rosso, Refosco, Refosco Nostrano, Refosco Penduncolo Rosso, Rifosc, Rifosco, Teran Crvene, Teran Crvene Peteljcice.)


Map showing the Triveneto region of Italy

Refosco is a red-wine grape originating in the so-called "Triveneto" (or "Tre Venezie") region of Italy, located in the northeast and centered on Venice. It is a grape, and wine, of great antiquity, being yet another that Pliny the Elder praised in his writing.

"Refosco" is actually not one grape but a small family of closely related grapes, comprising from six to eight varieties (there is some dispute over which are truly distinct types). The variety known as "Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso"—"Refosco of the Red Stems"—is by consensus held to make the best wines, and it is the grape from which the great majority of Refosco wines available in the U.S. are made. The Refosco wines from Italy's Colli Orientali D.O.C. are often held to be the premier specimens.

Refosco grapes have as one parent the excellent but still little-appreciated Marzemino grape (but, according to DNA analysis, they are not related to Mondeuse, old theories notwithstanding).

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.

For those mysterious reasons that drive the eccentricities of international wine marketing, Refosco at present remains a variety little known to or appreciated by the U.S. market, despite general critical plaudits for the wines. (That accounts for the paucity of Refosco reviews in 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 Habsburg who controlled the Austro-Hungarian Empire were especially fond of wines from the Triveneto, notably including Refosco.

Some Descriptions of Refosco Wines

Some Refoscos to Try

(About this list.)

Refosco is more available than some sources suggest, but it scarcely floods the market: we found fewer than two dozen clearly of the "Peduncolo Rosso" type that were available at under $20 retail. What were even harder to find were any comparative reviews of Refoscos—or, indeed, credible reviews, period (you will find that many reviews cited below are translated from non-English-speaking sources). Then, when one does find a reviewed Refosco, even Wine Searcher Pro shows all of perhaps two or at most three smaller local retailers carrying that particular wine.

After much beating about, we settled on the wines listed below, all either reasonably widely carried or are carried by at least one big national retailer, and each with some favorable notices.

The quotations below are excerpts; we strenuously urge you to click on the green diamond symbol by each quoted review to see the full article.
Rojac Refosk
(Slovenska Istra, Slovenia.)

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

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

A delightful wine that will have you adjusting your wine compass to Slovenia. Inky purple color, unfiltered and a little cloudy, but full of goodness. Aromas and flavors recall blackberry, currant, leather, violets and vanilla, with a full texture. There is a touch of sweetness to this wine, with numerous layers and surprises.

The soil of the region, where the Rojac grow their vines, provides this wine with a deep and mineral structure. In case of bad Refošk from Istria, you will taste some almost sparkling wine, not unlike a cheap Lambrusco. But this red is rather slightly ‘metallic’ like the terra rossa (red clay soil, contraining iron) Teran. It is a pleasant and very surprising taste, followed in this particular wine by black and red pepper notes, and some other mysteries which I wasn’t able to name but passionately enjoyed. The wine is not filtrated, so that it is not deprived of its natural character, as Sergio Esposito would put it. Used to undistinguishable wines, where the bunch of aromas is always the same: berries, cherries, plums, dark chocolate and similar, one can get excited by this original expression of Istria’s climate, soil and culture. Still, I don’t think it is an overcomplicated red which one cannot enjoy without years of educating his palate. Its beauty and elegance is very classical, and that means: simple.

Color: Very deep ruby with violet shades, almost black Aroma: Fresh persistent fruity aroma, reminiscent of raspeberries, cherries, sour cherries, juniper berries, undergrowth. Taste: Dry, intensively fresh, full body, mineral, fruity, elegant and subsistent.

We taste a 2014 Refosk and even though there was a great deal of rain at the wrong time (September) Uros has still managed to make a great wine, a very puristic wine.

This has become a staff favorite with its origins in Slovenia and bright, spicy berry fruit. It would pair well with pork dishes.

…an excellent Slovenian red with hints of berry and old boot…

Bastianich "Vigne Orsone" Refosco
(Colli Orientali del Friuli, Italy.)

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

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

♣ Sorry: for whatever reason, there are few online reviews of this wine (excluding, as always, those by folk who would sell you the wine). It's curious, because Joe Bastianich is famed in the gastronomical world. (And that scarcity of reviews seems to extend to most or all of the wines Bastianich makes.)

[This wine] offers excellent value because it’s individual and unpretentious. Long associated with Friuli, the wine – or this one anyway – was characterised by solid dark, sour cherry and earthy tones, chunky but unintimidating tannins which gave it an unpretentious, easy drinking profile.

Tenuta Luisa Refosco
(Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy.)

• Retail offers of this wine listed by 1000 Corks
• Retail offers of this wine listed by Wine Searcher
• This wine apparently has two CellarTracker review pages:
     » first page &
     » second page
• This wine's Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

[Google-translated from Italian]: Fifteen days of maceration, fermentation and twelve 8 months of maturation on lees in stainless steel. The result is a Refosco dal color lively, intense ruby with clear purple reflections. The nose has an impact of good intensity with fragrant mantle that goes first on the floral violet, magnolia and cyclamen, then give way to a dense fruity luggage where industry sour cherry, black cherry and blackberry; despite the youth does not hide already deeper perceptions of spices and graphite. The palate says his youth in tannin and untamed in excellent freshness, with a taste that brings us faithfully to the sensations perceived by the nose. Product of absolute interest, also for the excellent quality/price ratio.

Spicy and savory, it offers aromas of white and black pepper along with raspberry, dark cherry and hints of bell pepper that carry over to the palate along with aggressive tannins. 87 points.

♣ Wine Advocate (2007 vintage), 87 points.

♣ Wine Spectator: 2008 vintage, 91 points; 2010 vintage, 87 points.

♣ International Wine Cellar (March/April 2012), 89 points: "Ruby-red. Sexy, spicy raspberry and blackberry aromas are accented by mocha and minerals. Dark berry flavors are lush but also juicy and impressively bright, with tangy minerality and mouthwatering acidity providing lift. This medium-bodied wine is easygoing and uncomplicated, but has good finishing thrust, not to mention lingering sweetness. Excellent refosco for everyday drinking."

[Google-translated from Italian]: The first impression on the nose, the first sip: emotion. The Refosco 2010 Tenuta Luisa I was blown away, surprised, excited. The ancient grape of Friuli in purity is proof that the best way to enhance a territory and the work of those who work the land is pure native grapes make wine, which, when companies know their business, resulting in a wine authentic and unmistakable…Refosco of Luisa is vinified alone and, after fermentation, remains in part 10 months in barrels acciaia and partly also in wooden barrels, and then do another aging in bottle for at least 4 months. Ruby, the nose offers an intense, rich, fruity especially with berries and blackberry; in the mouth is very strong, vibrant, complex and refined, pleasantly dry and velvety tannins.

There’s some serious flavor and color intensity going on in this bottle. At first, the specific flavors and aromas were hard to put a finger on. They were familiar, but yet so foreign. After awhile the flavors started to show themselves with a little smoke, meat and plum on the nose. In the mouth were wild bramble berry flavors like raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and plum. As the wine opened up more, you got loads of violets; very cool. The tannins were pretty fine grained and clean and the wine was pretty darn firm. I don’t believe they used any oak in the vinification of this wine. I found out that refosco is an ancient varietal indigenous to the Northern regions of Italy. I love trying wines like these. Overall, a very complex wine full of intense flavors and a unique personality.

[Google-translated from Italian]: Intense, vinous, with notes of blackberry and wild berries. Flavor, lively, typically tannic and pleasantly bitter.

Marco Felluga "Ronco dei Moreri" Refosco
(Venezia Giulia, Italy.)

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

Some quotations and facts about this wine:

The color is a rich dark ruby hue; the bouquet carries aromatic density of spice and earth and leather, a meaty fleshy aura of macerated plums, mulberries and blueberries and wild notes of violets and graphite. Dense, too, on the palate, the wine delivers prominent dry grainy tannins, as well as the grape’s fabled lively acidity, both aspects supporting flavors of fresh and dried red and black fruit permeated by touches of rosemary, lavender and granitic minerality. The finish is long and slightly austere. 13.5 percent alcohol. About as dignified as a rustic wine gets.

[Google-translated from Italian]: visual examination is limpid, with an intense ruby ​​red color with garnet, consistent. The nose is intense and complex, with fruity notes of berries, raspberry, blackberry, black currant and dried fruits such as hazelnut; spicy clove and tobacco; notes of musk, undergrowth and slightly ethereal. The mouth is dry, warm and soft, with good acidity and tannins, quite tasty. Bodied, intense and persistent, with an almond finish. Overall balanced.

♣ Wine Advocate: 2009 vintage, 90 points; 2006 vintage, 88 points:
"The 2006 Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Ronco dei Moreri reveals greater depth and richness than the Merlot in its plump, dark red fruit. There isn't a ton of varietal character here, but that is a relatively small critique for a wine at this price point."

♣ Wine Spectator: 1995 vintage, 81 points; 1999 vintage, 85 points; 2001 vintage, 86 points; 2002 vintage, 86 points; 2008 vintage, 84 points.

Really ripe, with a powerful berry and marmalade character on the nose. Full-bodied, with silky tannins and a long finish. Very fresh and fine. Almost classic.

The 2008 Refosco is the perfect wine for lovers of Rhone and Spanish style wines. In the nose the wine offers aromas of ripe raspberries and blackberries. In the mouth, the fruit flavors are intense and complex, and even though you think it’s going to be a big juice bomb, the tannins keep the fruit in check, and the wine finishes with ample acidity to make it a great wine to pair with a variety of foods. A little bit of aging will soften the youthful edges of this 2008, but the delicious, vibrant fruit is what makes this wine so inviting.

[Google-translated from Italian]: a wonderful Refosco Ronco dei Moreri with a great structure.

[Google-translated from German]: fresh ruby red, clean and fairly deep in the fragrance, with some cassis and smoke, juicy on the palate, lively, beautiful aromatic length

For a Splurge

About the only reasonably available "splurge" Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso seems to be the La Roncaia Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso (Colli Orientali del Friuli). Whether its rather slight reviewer-points advantage over the wines listed baove is worth its price premium is a judgement call for you to make.

• That wine at 1000 Corks
• That wine at Wine Searcher
• Its Wine Searcher "Tasting Notes" page.
• Its CellarTracker pages.





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