I thought I had a handle on all of the red grape varieties of northeastern Italy. There are the Valpolicella grapes in Veneto: Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, as well as Croatina, Oseleta, and Corvinone.† And the neighboring regions are full of indigenous grapes: Lagrein and Schiava in Alto Adige,‡ Teroldego in Trentino, as well as Refosco, Schioppettino and even Tazzelenghe from Friuli!
Yes. Raboso: yet another red grape from Veneto.
The name sounds to me like a mix of arrabbiata and Refosco. “Arrabbiata sauce” might sound familiar to you. Translated from Italian, sugo all’arrabbiata means “angry sauce,” taking its name from the hot red chili peppers from which it is made. Similarly, the Italian word, rabbioso, means “rabid, furious, or enraged.” Needless to say, the grape Raboso takes its name from the word, rabbioso, because of its heavy tannins and high acidity, and the rough feeling on your tongue if you drink the wine when it is too young.
Likewise, the grape called Tazzelenghe from Friuli derives its name from the same meaning. Tazzelenghe translates directly to “cut tongue” because of its high level of aggressive tannins.
Now I really don’t know if Raboso is indeed related to either of these Friulian varieties, Refosco or Tazzelenghe. I’m no grape geneticist. But I do find it interesting that Raboso also goes by the name Friularo. If that doesn’t sound like “Friuli,” I don’t know what does. What I do know is that Raboso (there are two types: Piave and Veronese) in Veneto dates back several centuries and is linked to the oenological production of the Piave River Valley, which runs out of the Alps and into the Adriatic Sea near Venice. Either way, these grapes have been growing in close proximity to one another for hundreds of years and it’s no wonder they share some name similarities and flavor profiles. The cause is only speculation on my part, for right now anyway.
Nevertheless, wine made from the Raboso grape—and admittedly I speak only of the single one I’ve ever tried!— is spectacular. Fortunately the one I tasted had over seven years of age on it.
The wine is the Ca’ di Rajo Notti di Luna Piena 2007, Raboso del Piave DOC, made from 100% Raboso. (Notti di Luna Piena means “night of the full moon.”) It has a deep ruby color that coats the glass when swirled. On the nose it gives black plum, tobacco, and autumn spices. Brooding and dark, scents of smoke and herbs come forward, alternating over time. The acidity and tannins border on intense; it shows great length in the finish. At first this Raboso is tart and reminiscent of sour, candied cherries and herbs but after nearly a day open, the wine shows a riper mid-palate and a seamless integration. This wine could clearly evolve beautifully over the next five++ years. Excellent. ★★☆
Three brothers own Cà di Rajo, which is based at San Polo di Piave, in the province of Treviso, in the Veneto region of northern Italy. They focus on autochthonous varieties of the Piave River area and specialize in both still and sparkling wines. One unique thing about Ca’ di Rajo is the use of a historical trellising system called the Bellussera. It is a method of vine training based on a fan-like system. The vines reach about 2.5 meters high and spread out in rays on posts, which are about 4 meters above the ground. This system, named after the men who invented it, Antonio and Girolamo Bellussi, is used as a way to combat downy mildew in the Veneto region. Ca’ di Rajo uses this method for trellising the Raboso vines.
Ca’ di Rajo maintains an impressive portfolio of wines, which you can explore on the Ca’ di Rajo website. I was also able to sample two Ca’ di Rajo sparkling wines: a Prosecco and Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene.
The Prosecco Brut Treviso DOC has a bouquet of toasted coconut, grass, mint, and banana. It is light and airy with a marzipan quality, a touch of sweetness, and a remarkable texture, reminding me of soft, squeaky snow. ☆
The Valdobbiadene Millesimato Extra Dry Prosecco Superiore DOCG shows a fine mousse and gives off scents of white peach and white flowers. It is soft throughout, showing a hint of sweetness with white peach, Granny Smith apple, and green tea. ★
I look forward to visiting their estate one day, checking out the Bellussera trellises, and trying their other offerings, especially the Sangue del Diavolo (“Devil’s blood”), their other Raboso wine.
To get a hold of their wines in the States, contact their importer in your area:
Gregory Condes in California.
Robert Walter Selections in North Carolina.
Good Earth Wines in Illinois.
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† There are even more than the ones I list! Jamie Goode from wineanorak explores some of the native varieties of the Valpolicella area in his article called ‘New’ Varieties for Valpolicella.
‡ Super rare are the reds Gamaret and Garanoir, also in Alto Adige.
Note: the wines reviewed here were samples sent to me by the winery.