Friday, August 25, 2006

TGI Fragolino – Free the wine!

Fragolino, or better known as the American Grape, was first introduced into Italy in 1825. Several hybrid variations have been created from the original Labrusca. The vine, although rather susceptible to various parasites and fungus, was extremely resistant to cold and provided an abundant harvest. Quickly Fragolino spread throughout Alto Adige and Friuli because of its characteristics, so much so that the indigenous vines were being replaced by the now numerous hybrids. Fewer and fewer bottles of the great wines of Collio were available as farmers attempted to stabilize their harvest with the new American grape with the “Foxy” taste.

It was outcast by law in 1931 and successive legislative acts. Although prohibited the commercialization of Fragolino farmers were permitted to grow and produce wines for personal consumption. The original vines were protected and continued to flourish in limited areas of Friuli and Alto Adige creating a bubbly concoction with a very low alcoholic content, between 8-9 % per volume. Thus the fatal attraction began for all those who ventured into Friuli and tasted this mysterious wine available only when dining with a local farmer.

Fragolino is widely used in Northern and Eastern Europe. Due to the high Pectin content in the pulp, giving the wine its peculiar “Foxy” taste, the EU has banned the production and sale as wine. Lodes to Fragolino have been sung, attributing healing and aphrodisiac properties to this prohibited nectar. Numerous restaurants in Northern Italy will keep a clandestine supply, in unmarked bottles, for their most cherished clients. Fan groups have sprung up with festivals and extended treks into the Friulano province to celebrate each year’s harvest.

Should you vacation in Friuli, do not be shy, ask and you may receive the local nectar. Take care to visit the smaller vineyards, make friends with the owners and let them know that you would like to participate in the tradition. Only in Friuli and only with friends, how could something be more exclusive.


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