As for the name, unsurprisingly, the red grape variety Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso has a red stem. In addition to its color, this part of the plant has a specific relationship: perhaps unnecessarily peduncle means peduncle, which is a stem that ends in a flower or fruit, the lifeline of this grape variety also giving it the cultivar’s red name. The variety has been around what is now the Italian region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia since the Romans, and the wines have made long representations of it in great acidity and tannins, meaty flavor, spice, notes green, pink, cedar and deep but also shimmering color. It is one of six indigenous red grape varieties which, along with at least two traditional reds, stand alongside the many white grape varieties that make up 77% of FVG’s wines – “one of the highest proportions of any Italian region”, notes the Wine-Researcher Wine Educational Database.
“For thousands of years in the West, red was the only color worthy of this era, the only true color,” writes color historian Michel Pastoureau in Red: the story of a color. “At the time of Pliny, the Romans already distinguished about fifteen shades of red in their porphyry columns. . . . Good Latin authors knew how to use the lexicon and did not substitute one adjective for another. . . . They knew how to choose the right term to describe the vermilion cheeks of a pretty woman (roseus), . . . the ruddy complexion of a peasant (rubidus), and the hideous ruddy face of a German barbarian (ruddy).” King of Friuli reds, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso today represents 2% of the region’s vineyards, where it maintains local ties with these Latin authors, who called it Racimulus Fuscus, a reflection then also of the fierce and solid color clusters of the vine. Child of Marzemino, grandson of Teroldego, parent and grandparent of Corvina and Rondinella de Valpolicella, respectively (all red vines originated in areas adjacent to FVG and as it was once part of the Venetian Republic), Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso has winged racemes, tall, pyramidal, and, alone among the family of Refosco– named wine grapes (D’Agata, 2014), associated with leaves with a whitish-grey-fluffy reverse. (“An anonymous late 15th-century author, proposing styles of livery and attributing to them symbolic meaning, argued that ‘red with gray is a sign of great expectation,’ notes Pastoureau.)
Plant this Refosco here, it helps to think of the vineyard first. The Massale selection is the best here, advised wine writer Ian D’Agata at an FVG red wine seminar in 2017: because wine has been produced in these regions for so long that there are many variations and so much confusion that nurseries can pass on unknowingly, “the best thing to do is grow what has always been there.” Once cultivated, it is intended to be produced in an aging version, proclaims a 1999 publication that is part of the wine list and manual of the Enoteca Italiana di Siena. “There must be better things to wait for than Refosco”, wrote Victor Hazan in 1982 in Italian wine.
But a few people have expected at least one: Miani “Calvari” Refosco Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC made by Enzo Pontoni from grapes from this vineyard has an average price of $669 as of May 3, 2020, making it the 12th Italy’s largest expensive wine and, in line with Hazan’s thinking although there were only a few hundred bottles made each time, Italy’s 6,124th most popular according to Wine-Searcher’s compiled ranking “based on average prices excluding taxes, updated daily”. Pontoni also waited, only making this Refosco in years when he found the fruits of this top site to be worth it, the last of which was 2006, after which he lost access to these grapes. As of this week, ‘Calvari’ remains the region’s second most expensive wine – with two red-stemmed Miani Refosco productions running in eighth and tenth place, $161 (23,213th most popular) and $155 (19,396th most popular). ), respectively.
“Roman historians, poets and orators carefully distinguished all shades of red,” writes Pastoureau. “They paid less attention to yellow, little to green and almost none to blue. They were also attentive to the history of the words and knew that there was an etymological link between the adjective scrub (red) and name steal (the word for the king of trees, the oak, but also for solidity, vigour, strength). This variety is vigorous and sensitive to the site. Although its fruits do not fully ripen in fertile soils, they need a green crop in all soils to ripen at least fairly well. It does not accumulate sugars (giving alcohol), does not like water stress, likes warm soil and drainage. It buds early, matures late, can sometimes be sharp and tinted purple. Here, when grown well, it will tell you with a lovely deep forest green note, no matter how late or how long ago it was harvested.
It has now been four years since I tasted them, but one day at the end of 2017, the thorough, tasty, umani fruit of the aged Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso was presented by producer Ronchi di Cialla over two generations, from 2012 released a few months later; through juicy and dense red fruits 2007; 2004 cooler cedar note; the ever more intense earth of 1998; slightly dry fruit and lively acidity from the representative of the winery 1990; elegant and peppery 1985; concentrated but not without the signature dark green note of the 1979 variety; the first that the founders Dina and Paolo Rapuzzi made, iron-mineral, spice and freshness from 1977. All were grown in the locality of Prepotto Cialla, in the province of Udine and right next to Slovenia: Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso from the Roncjs vineyard where on the terrace the hills, cooler, not too sunny, passed by the Rio Chiar and the Rio di Cialla. During these 35 years, the alcohol level fluctuated greatly between 12.5% and 13%.
As Refosco ages, it seems to me, the fruit becomes dense and calmer and more focused, perhaps drier like fruit leather, but still with a colored luminosity that makes the tertiary less obvious. Recently, at just six years old, a sample of 2015 Marco Felluga “Ronco dei Moreri” Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso, Giulia IGT, came my way, easier to drink from these hills like the first two largely made from the local ponca, in crumbly layers of marl and sandstone, alkaline soils with little organic matter — for fuller tannins. It was first oaky, then peppery, with dried black fruit like olives, savory, deep and bright to give consistency: complex and seemingly heavy even at 13% vol., its identity was also acidity.
The taste of the wines made here from Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is affected by another of the characteristics of these grapes: they tend to fall off these red stems. Such behavior varies by area in timing and intensity and guides production and harvesting decisions, giving these depictions the finishing touch of where they grew. Today, “traces of red remain”, writes Pastoureau of the marks made on the interiors of prehistoric caves, the stones, the rocks and – through the painted bones, the teeth, the shells pierced for the adornment of jewels – the body, “as if red had been the color of the sign or mark even before being the color of art.