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How Giusti has rescued a native Venetian grape

Italian producer Giusti has rescued a near-forgotten Venetian grape with surprising results for the production of fine red wines from Prosecco country.

The variety, which is called Recantina, has origins in the Treviso area, with records of its existence going back to the 17th century, but was virtually non-existent until Giusti began embracing it in a major way.

Indeed, this producer, best-known for its fine Proseccos from the Asolo DOCG, now lays claim to having more than half the area of plantings in Italy, with around 7ha of the 12ha total.

Taking root successfully in the Montello-Colli Asolani DOC – a sunny and hilly area that yields good red wines based mainly on Bordeaux grapes Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carmenère – Recantina is reclaiming its historic home: it was once more widely planted in this part of north-eastern Italy before it became ruled by Napoleon, who brought French grapes to the region.

Not only is Recantina well-adapted to the climate of this area, but also to the clay and iron-rich soils of the region, while also being disease-resistant, and yielding wines with fresh acidity, and moderate alcohol levels of around 13% abv – an advantage in an era of warming weather conditions.

Importantly, Giusti has refined its winemaking approach to Recantina, producing increasingly fine, spicy and lively wines from the grape, helped by its star consultant winemaker, Graziana Grassini, who has been working with the producer since 2020.

Its 2020 vintage, made as a varitetal wine under the Augosto label, employs Recantina from Giusti’s Emily and Aria Valentina estates to yield a red with Syrah-like characters, from a deep ruby appearance to flavours of cracked pepper, blackcurrants and plums.

Aged in in large format Slavonia oak barrels for a period of 12-14 months, there’s a subtle overlay of wood-source flavours too, from dark chocolate to cigar box, in this finely-structured, age-worthy red.

My tasting note from a blind tasting in July 2023 can be seen below.

Augusto Recantina DOC Montello e Colli Asolani 2020

A deep ruby red wine with youthful and intense aromatics ranging from dark chocolate to cedar, along with blackcurrant and baked cherries. The palate is lovely, with layers of appealing characters, including cracked black pepper, cassis, and fresh plums, as well as a touch of cherry stone on the finish, which mingles with a lingering note of cigar box. The wine has ripe fruit, but a very dry, taut structure, with firm tannins, moderate alcohol, and a bright-tasting acidity. (Patrick Schmitt MW, July 2023)

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