July 19, 2016


Rossetto (occasionally encountered as Roscetto) from central Italy is one of those rare varietals a great majority of wine drinkers has never heard of. You might find it as a small constituent of an Italian blended white, but practically never as a varietal wine.

This obscure variety is known for its rather thick, yellow skins and low yields – the latter being the very reason for its lack of popularity. It gets its name from the fact that once the variety reaches a certain point of ripeness, the grapes' skins turn slightly pink. Traditionally the farmers wanted to avoid the skins turning red, possibly giving the wine a red hue, which is why the Rossetto grapes were picked unripe, before the grapes turned pink. This usually resulted in thin, slightly green-flavored wine, further contributing to the decline in the variety's popularity.

Rossetto has been historically cultivated mainly in the central Italian wine regions of Umbria* and Lazio*, but with time the variety's popularity dwindled, and now you can find it occasionally in minute amounts in the often so uninteresting blended whites of Montefiascone, called Est! Est!! Est!!!.

* Umbria is the rather small region between Tuscany, Lazio and Marche, probably best known for its tremendous Sagrantino wines; it is the only region in Italy which has no coastline or border with a neighboring country.

* Lazio is the region south from Tuscany where Rome is situated and it is fairly unknown for its wines.

One of the biggest proponents – or perhaps THE biggest proponent – of this overlooked variety is the Falesco winery, founded in 1979 by the Cotarella brothers Renzo and Riccardo in Lazio. After several years of experimentation, they started using Rossetto in their commercial wines, starting with Poggio dei Gelsi Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone in 1989. In 1998 Falesco released Ferentano, probably the world's first and perhaps still the world's only varietal Rossetto (or Roscetto, as they like to put it).

source: weinhandel-italien
Falesco Ferentano 2011
  • Falesco
  • White wine, IGT Lazio
  • Country: Italy
  • Region: Lazio, Viterbo, Montefiascone
  • Grape(s): Rossetto (100%)
  • Price: 9,90€ / 0,75 l
  • Tasted: March 28th, 2014.

Now, I've never been a fan of Falesco. My biggest problem with them is that the guys at the winery really do love their oak. They tend to age most of their wines in new, small barrels resulting in oaky, soft and easy wines that lack personality and varietal characteristics. This is why I was originally hesitant in getting the wine; I had also confirmed that, yes, they age this wine as well in small barriques, it usually being a big no-no for me. But in the end I just had to get one a bottle – there was just no other way of tasting a varietal Rossetto wine. And after all, at 10€, it wasn't that big of an investment.

The grapes for this wine are sourced from a 6 hectare vineyard located in the Montefiascone region. To extract as much varietal character as possible to the wine, the grapes are cooled quickly below the freezing point, after which the grapes are crushed and the grape skins are cold-soaked in the must for 10 hours before the fermentation. After partial fermentation in stainless steel tanks, the wines are transferred to 225-liter barriques, in which the wines finish their fermentation, malolactic fermentation and age for 4 months before bottling.

The wine has a rather deep, lime green color.

Initially the nose is very ripe, succulent and fruit-forward with notes of pineapple, peach and a positive hint of vegetal greenness; underneath lingers a hint of spicy oak. After some 15 minutes, the oak is playing the main part with obfuscating aromas of vanilla, whisky fudge and some smoke. It takes more than an hour for the nose to reach good balance, where the oak presence lingers in the background and the fruit is back on the fore; at this point, the bouquet is actually pretty lovely and attractive.

Initially the wine is dry with moderately high acidity, yet not without quite full body and round mouthfeel. The fresh palate offers flavors of ripe apple, peach, some honeydew melon and a hint of herbal green notes. The oak influence is surprisingly modest, giving the palate a nice, spicy undertone. However, after some aeration, the oak influence grows bigger, transforming the fruity nuances to more homogenous pineapple notes drenched in sweet, caramel spice and vanilla while giving the wine a lot more richness and weight. The more the wine gets air, the more it starts to feel more concentrated and ponderous, lacking the personality and freshness the wine originally exhibited upon opening.

The finish is quite long with more pronounced green, herbal notes and some bitterness, but also with fresh green apple fruit, some ripe peach and a modest touch of nutty oak.

As an obscure grape variety, Roscetto seems to have good potential to it, combining good acidity with both slightly vegetal greenness and lush, ripe fruit, resulting in lovely, complex wine with some nice depth to it. Unfortunately, this wine seems to suffer more than a bit from the excessive use of oak: the wine is perfectly enjoyable for the first glass, but after that, the oak influence grows too big, drenching most of the personality of the variety under it. A pity, really, because this wine could have been a lot more interesting with less oak. I wish some producer would start making Roscetto in similar style, but only in older, preferably completely neutral barrels, which would let the variety's own characteristics shine better.

Luckily, however, the wine is not a completely lost cause; it is not an overripe, overoaked fruit bomb, but instead it has a good structure and the varietal characteristics still manage to cut through the oak – at least, to some extent. Most likely the oak will never integrate completely, but with some age the wine might developinto something more Burgundian in style. All in all, this is a decent everyday table wine that can be paired easily with lighter dishes that have creamy mushroom sauce and is definitely a good buy for ten euros. However, if you are looking for a pure varietal Rossetto, you might be in for a disappointment.

Summary: Ferentano is a decent white wine from an interesting, close-to-extinct variety, showing good potential but in the end failing to reach the level of something actually interesting due to the obfuscating new oak influence.