This Thirsty Thursday takes us to Italy. Just above Venice is Valdobbiadene: cradle of Prosecco.
But today’s wine is weird. It looks neither pale green, sweet, nor made from Glera (Prosecco’s only grape). It is pink:
But not just any pink. This glinting, copper flame lives up to its name: Faìve (FieEEve): poetically Italian for those sparks and tongues whipping about at the top of a fire.
So what goes in it?
Around 2000, Primo Franco got bored with perfecting fantastic, dry, single-vineyard Prosecco that was changing the world. So he went to buddy Brandino Brandolini, who grows red grapes. But they broke with Champagne’s (and the world’s) Pinot-hegemony. Heck, they also left red Italian varietals behind. Instead, they used Merlot and Cabernet: grapes that rarely see the light of bubbly. But this ain’t a red Bordeaux.
Primo also ignored Champagne’s rosé method, which blends red wine back in for color. Instead, he cold-soaked the red skins with the clear juice. This gives Faìve its wild hue and something else…let’s see:
Saline solution, vanilla powder, and honey also catch the nose.
PALATE: This feels like a Brut: clean cut and dry. Poppy acids liven it. Fine, sandy bubbles gently exfoliate the palate. Heck even a touch of tannic bitterness puckers the cheeks (thank you grape-skin contact). Yet there is a soft fistful of fruit and a medium body. These disparate elements manage to taste balanced. Primo’s craft is clear.
FLAVORS: Fresh fruits taste bright yet mellow. It reminds me of Italian soda lightly flavored with black cherry syrup.
80% merlot makes for an oddly brooding, dark fruited character. It tastes nothing like Pinot-based Champagne or other bubblies, which tend toward tart strawberry pith and clove. Cabernet’s thick skins add a lovely bitterness.
What makes Franco’s Faìve very good (4 of 5), beyond the balancing act of tannins, acid, and fruit, is the long length. Flavors last a good while. Our mouths keep watering. We want more of it.
Enough is going on here to ask (but not demand) for salty, seafood, risotto. Keep away from deserts or strawberries with this. 2011 has the structure to drink a few more years, but it’s brilliant, wild, and edgy now, especially at under $25.
Skip other Italian pink bubblies and splurge on Nino Franco, Faìve, Spumante Brut Rosé 2011.