We were out in California visiting in January. One of the things that we often do is attend a wine festival in Paso Robles, the central wine making area of California, between San Francisco and the Los Angeles region. Here in Paso, we have a distant cousin through my husband's mother's family. His name is Lance Silver and he is a third cousin to my husband. He loved wines from even his teen age years and learned how to know a good wine, bought cases of red wines especially and resold the 1 or 2 bottles that were excellent in the case, making money in the process. As a young adult he fulfilled a dream of his and became half owner of a winery in Paso Robles, called Tobin James Winery. We have visited this winery's tasting room before and learned that Lance and his partner have a very exciting view of making excellent wines. His wines have become so popular that they never make it to retail outlets. Almost all are purchased in the winery or through the wine club, The James Gang, through mail order. In the past we have brought home one wine we love made at Tobin James, a late harvest zinfandel which is magnificent. This wine is not insipidly sweet as some dessert wines, but instead is intense and mildly sweet, but full of intense flavors. Lance and Tobin have named this port like wine, Liquid Love, and they pour it at the tasting room with a few pieces of semi sweet chocolate. We love it and always bring some home with us.
Well this time when visiting Tobin James Winery we decided to subscribe to the wine club, the James Gang. This means that twice a year we receive a case of 8 bottles of wine chosen each time by the winery for $155 which includes shipping. We received the spring shipping of these wines about a week ago. I immediately decided to make a good dinner -- a small steak, a twice baked potato, and a Caesar salad and some strawberries. Now which of these wines we received should we pour with this nice dinner? We had 7 reds and 1 white to choose from. Several of the reds were reserve cabs, or specific vineyard selections. But among these reds was one called Refosco. I had no idea what this was and I regarded myself as somewhat knowledgeable about wines. The shipment insert said Refosco was the name of an obscure Italian varietal:
We loved this wine. It was full bodied and yet very drinkable with bursts of fruit. It went wonderfully with our steak and potatoes, so my husband was crazy about it.
Well, I had to go to the Internet and find out more. We also ordered some more bottles of this one from Tobin James and will watch for future releases. Apparently there are only two growers of this grape in the Paso Robels area. The other grower is Bianchi Select Growers Refosco, .
There are several varieties of the refosco family of grapes:
The most internationally recognized member of this family of grapes is Refosco dal pedunculo ross. The name comes from the red stalk or peduncle that holds the grapes to the vine. The wine is now being made with cold fermentation and it is aged in new oak. The best known of this grape come from Colli Orientali region of Friuli.
The Refosco d'Istria or Refosko Istriano or Refosco dal pepedunculo verde is grown in Slovenia and Croatia in an area that was formerly known as Istria, and around Trieste in Italy. This wine does not age well.
Teran or Terrano is a Refosco variety grows in the Carso DOC and Slovenian Karst region, under the name Teranno Carso or Kraski teran respectively. This variety is also grown in Coratian Istria under the name Istarski Teran.
Refosco di Faedis ia a variety cultivated in Faedis region, Torreano di Cividale, Povoletto, Attimis, Mimis in the northesast region of Province of Udine in Friuli, Italy.
Refosco di Rauscedo
Refoscone, may be the same as the Refosco of Fadeis.
DNA analysis of the Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso grape, the first on the above list of varieties has revealed Marzemino, another ancient variety of Italy as a parent to this grape. Similarly, DNA analysis has disproved that the Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso grape is the same as a grape called Mondeuse Noire which grows in the Savoy region of France.
Some oenologists think that refosco family grapes are the same as the old Roman puccinum grape. Indeed, the Roman writer, writing in the first century AD, Pliny the Elder praised the puccinum grape. In his book, Naturalis Historia, he talks of the puccinum grape growing in th enorth Adriatic near the spring of Timavo, a typical Karst river. He wrote: "This is the REgion of the Cami, joining that of Japides: the River Timavus, and the Castle Puccinum, famous for good Wine.... " Pliny, Natural History, Chapter XVIII. Venetia, the tenth Region..
Puccinum was known for its medical properties and it is believed that it was the favorite of Augustus's wife, Livia, who may demonstrate its medicinal qualities, as she lived to be 82 years old.
Some think the puccinum grape could have been a sweet white prosecco. The Italian professor Gianni Dalmasso claimed that Livia could not like the bitter taste of refosco wine and that she could only like the prosecco grape from Trieste. There is a medieval map which contains the comment: Prosecho ol: Pucinum hinc vina a Plinio.....From here comes wine highly praised by Plinius, from Gregorio Amaseo."
Another famous personage, Giacomo Casanova liked the refosco wine, writing in his book of memories:
"...His refosco, which was even better than my devout hostess's had been made me forget my troubles..."
From Giacomo Casanova, History of my life. Volume 1, Chapter 8, Page 207. Translated by Wilard R. Trask. JHU Press. 1966.
Finally it is believed that one of the reasons the Habsburgs built the Parenzana railway from Trieste to Porec was because they liked the wines from the region (refosco, malvasia and teran). That is also why the railway was often referred to as a wine railroad or vineyard.
I did a search on Google for the Refosco grape and came up with several producers. There are 31 Refosco wines listed, here is a list including 25 of them. My Tobin James wine is not on the list possibly because it is sold out to the wine club and has never been available to retail. My intention is to find a couple of these other wines and give them a try to see if I like any of these as well, as Caesar Augustus' wife Livia liked back in the first century AD.