As the $10-ish project rolls on, we stick around Italy for a value white. Unlike the Barbera, this one definitely tastes like it costs <$10. If you're a lover of very light white wines, however, this may be for you.
Better known for villas and science labs than for wine, Frascati is a commune nestled in the Alban Hills about 12 miles south of Rome. It has ruins dating back to the 1st century and we have evidence of winegrowing dating to the 5th century.
Referred to as the "golden wine" by Romans, for its rich color and great value, the wine is one of few made in Lazio, the province that houses both Frascati and Rome. Although it has the benefit of good soil and elevation, the winegrowers don't seem to capitalize on that: I've found the stuff is unimpressive at best.
Frascati can made sweet, sparkling (spumante), or dry, but what you get outside of Italy is always dry white. The main grapes are Malvasia (it is required to be at least 50% of the blend), Trebbiano, Greco, and other local varieties. Malvasia is floral, Trebbiano more acidic and sometimes bitter, and the others range in flavor. The wine a hodgepodge: it's a hard one to typify.
Because I don't like to mince words, I'll be blunt: Frascati, in general, are middling to low quality, light sipping wines. They're a floral alternative to the more citrusy Pinot Grigio, but I'm sorry to say that at the $10 range they've got about just as much going on: and that's not saying a lot.
A great alternative to watery beer on a hot day in the middle of summer? Maybe. But a great wine to keep as a staple in your house, I'd pass.
Now to the most popular Frascati imported to the US...
The Wine: Fontana Candida Frascati Superiore Secco, DOC
Grapes: Not listed on the bottle or on their site, but I'd guess it's mostly Malvasia and Trebbiano from the smells and flavors.
Color: I can see why they called this the "golden wine" from a color perspective. It was a rich gold color. It was a little spritzy, with small bubbles integrated into the wine.
Smell: The Malvasia component was very strong in the wine, making it great to smell. It was a lot like flowers and had the freshness of being outside on a spring day. I loved the nutty smells and you could really sense the volcanic soil in which the grapes grew -- it had a very distinct ash smell.
Taste: When the wine was right out of the fridge, it was just like it smelled -- like flowers and a little ash-like. It had high acidity and was nice, albeit just one step away from being a flavored, alcoholic water. The issue, however, was that when it warmed up ever-so-slightly (like 5 or 7 minutes out of the fridge) it became extremely bitter, and reminded me of eating an unripe grapefruit. Even I, the huge proponent of acidic wine, was put off by the acidity. It was out of balance and just bitter.
Pairing: To add to the issue, this wine was horrible with risotto with zucchini and peas -- something that seemed a shoe-in for a pairing. It may be better with ceviche or a food with a strong citrus component that benefits from the acid on acid combo.
Drink or Sink?: For me, this was a SINK. This reminded me of how unimpressed I was by the insipid wines of Rome (especially after spending time in Tuscany) the times I've been there and this reminded me of why. For $10 I have many more fabulous whites to tell you about. Skip this and save your money for those.
Have you had this wine? Drop a comment below or on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what you thought!