Freisa is a red wine grape varietal grown in the Piedmont wine region of north-west Italy, primarily planted in the Monferrato and Langhe areas, but can also be found in the provinces of Biella and Turin. Freisa is a high cropping grape varietal with blue-black berries and with bunches growing in an elongated shape. There are references in official documents as early as the 16th century, but it was in the 1880's when it became one of the prime grapes in Piedmont, as its increased plantings was inspired by the vine’s resistance to downy mildew.
Ampelographers believe that the Freisa grape likely originated in the hills between Asti and Turin. Recent DNA profiling has reviled Freisa as being a parent to the renowned Nebbiolo grape - the undisputed King of Piedmont.

 

There are two major clones of Freisa - a small berried clone known as Freisa Piccolo which is more widely planted and a larger berry Freisa Grossa or Freisa di Nizza that tends to be planted on flat, fertile terrain and produces less distinguished wine. Freisa di Chieri is potentially its own sub-varietal of Freisa Piccolo grown in the Chieri region and distinguished by its own DOP. Freisa grows best in well exposed, sunny hillside sites and creates an aromatic, deeply coloured tannic wine.
Similar to Nebbiolo, Freisa produces wines with considerable tannins and acidity - while it can be used in blends, it is most often experienced as a varietal. Freisa brings colour and structure to blends made of varietals such as Grignolino or Barbera. Traditionally Freisa was produced as a slightly sparkling wine with some subtle sweetness. Still and fully sparkling versions are still produced, as with dry and more decidedly sweeter styles. A rosé wine can also be made primarily from Freisa according to DOP wine regulations.
Modern winemaking has introduced techniques to minimise some of the bitter tannins and ferment the wine fully dry. These include temperature control fermentation tanks and aging in oak barrels. Freisa Nebbiolata is a specialty wine of the Piedmont region made in the ‘Ripasso’ style. With the Freisa wine being fermented on left-over Nebbiolo skins used from the production of Barolo - creating a wine with high tannins and complex flavours.

DOP wines made with Freisa - 100% Freisa: in the province of Asti:  Freisa d'Asti - Freisa d'Asti Superior - Langhe Freisa - Langhe Freisa Vigna - Freisa di Chieri Amabile - Freisa di Chieri Frizzante - Freisa di Chieri Secco - Freisa di Chieri Spumante - Freisa di Chieri Superior.
85% - 100% Freisa: in the provinces of Asti and Alessandria: Monferrato Freisa - Monferrato Freisa Novella - Monferrato Rosso & Pineronese Freisa.

Freisa is growing in recognition in Piedmont and across Italy. With better understanding, more approachable, balanced wines are being produced. Plus a great deal of attention is required in the vineyard, so as to pick the grapes at the right phenolic ripeness, otherwise the tannins will be green and the wine becomes hard to enjoy.
Although the high amount of tannins and the high acidity level suggest suppressed qualities for aging, in Piedmont Freisa is usually enjoyedat a young age and slightly sparkling - and sometimes even a little sweet. But as more winemakers realise the potential of Freisa - wines are now being crafted capable to mature and further develop Freisa's vibrant and intense flavours of raspberry, black cherries and violet aromas.