A few days ago, Cult of the Vine, the popular Australian wine shop in Brunswick (Melbourne, Victoria) posted the above photo on its Instagram with the following note: “Nebbiolo might be the crown jewel of Piemonte, but Freisa is its buried treasure.”
The post brought to mind an op-ed published by Carlo Petrini, founder of the Slow Food movement, on the Slow Wine blog: “Fermiamo il re Barolo ruba terra agli altri vini” (“We must stop King Barolo before it steals too much land from other wines”).
In his essay, he contends that the growing popularity of Barolo and Barbaresco has prompted many growers in Langa and Monferrato to grub up their other traditional grape varieties in order to plant increasingly lucrative Nebbiolo in its place.
As a result, Piedmont is losing much of its viticultural legacy — quite literally — to erosion.
From the earliest years of Mario Pesce’s tenure as the winery’s director in the post-war era, Scarpa has diligently grown a wide variety of native Piedmontese varieties, including Ruché, Brachetto, Dolcetto, and, of course, Barbera and Freisa. Instead of following market trends as other growers and producers have, Scarpa has remained faithful to its primary mission of preserving Piedmont’s viticultural heritage.
This strategy has actually proved to be economically sustainable as well: With the current wave of interest in relatively unknown grape varieties and the fact that Barolo and Barbaresco are inaccessible to many young wine lovers because of the price, Scarpa has never lost its appeal among the progressive wine crowd.
Today, we’re seeing more and more Piedmont producers who are growing and making Freisa and many of the wines are excellent. But they’re just discovering something we’ve known all along: Freisa is Piedmont’s “buried treasure”!
Cult of the Vine, we couldn’t agree more! Thank you for the great post.