A Fresh Take on Frascati

July 25, 2011 3:52 pm - Posted by Tracy in Drink

Mauro Merz, winemaker for Fontana Candida

Long the ambassador for Italian wines, Frascati adopted a low profile as a light-bodied quaffer – easy to drink, but just as easily dismissed. However, when the focus shifts to providing a product that is, above and beyond, authentic and of the highest quality, this is a wine that can also offer a refreshing surprise.

Named for the town of Frascati within Lazio and proximate to Rome, the Frascati DOC was the first one established back in 1966. This traditional wine is a white blend comprised primarily of Malvasia de Lazio and/or Malvasia di Candia, along with Trebbiano Toscano, Trebbiano Gialla, Greco, Bombino (and somewhat more controversial, up to 10% of aromatic, international varieties, ie. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc).

The leader in this region, Fontana Candida, believes that wine must bring joy; be made naturally; and be an expression of its place. With this philosophy in mind, the company continues to work on improving brand Frascati for both itself and the region at large. To that end, they hired an agronomist and offered his services free of charge to the local growers – small, family farms.

While the motive was admittedly selfish — they wanted to source better fruit — growers who bought into these changes have reaped the rewards of Fontana Candida’s largesse. Not only did they receive the free consultation, but now also earn significantly more for their grapes when selling to Fontana Candida. Moreover, at a time when the delimited area is shrinking due to Rome’s urbanization projects and an overall decline in grape prices, Fontana Candida has committed to maintaining its higher prices, paying up to 40% over the base in incentives.

The resulting wines show off the quality of vineyard work coupled with the true expression of tradition and terroir. The flagship Fontana Candida Frascati Superiore DOC (SRP $10.00) is fresh and fruity, but with the weight to stand up to food. And, of particular interest, they are capable of aging.

No really. A mini-vertical of their Vigneto Santa Teresa Frascati Superiore 1997, 2001 and 2004 wines proved the point in spades. Winemaker Mauro Merz stresses that the wines will not necessarily improve with time, they will evolve and last. With a certain gravitas, these wines displayed both elegance and depth. Whereas the young wine displayed fresher notes of green apple and a slightly savory aspect, the older wines showed honey, bruised fruit (pear and apple) and dried herbs. The most mature (1997) showed signs of age with a slightly oxidative character on the nose, but was still enjoyable with its palate cleaner than its nose.

With its motto “Quality above all,” it is clear that Fontana Candida is producing wines of depth, elegance and richness that can be enjoyed in their youth as well as their more golden years. Either way, the wines offered a fresh look at old faithful Frascati.

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