Armani Foja Tonda DOC Terradeiforti 2011

If you find yourself offered a glass of casetta, take it. For one thing, this wine is made from a rare grape. For another, it’s full of surprises.

From the producer’s website:

The “Casetta”, called “ Foja Tonda” (round leaf) in local dialect, is an indigenous grape variety from the Adige Valley, cultivated since antiquity in the townships of Dolcè, Ala and Avio between the regions Veneto and Trentino. After having been abandoned, since the market favored other – sometimes more prolific – grape varieties, Foja Tonda was destined to extinction, until Albino Armani rediscovered it. In 2002 it was reinserted among the varieties admitted for cultivation These old grapevines, sometimes with their original roots, seem to tell the story of the age-old passion for wine shared by the inhabitants of our valley. Since 2007 it is recognized with the appellation “D.O.C. Terra dei Forti”.

Yet again geography and history find their way into a glass of wine. Can you not feel yourself transported to north-eastern Italy? Is the Adige River not tinkling in your ears? Is that the whiff of espresso?

Then there’s the drink itself. Over a 24 hour period, the nature of this glass changed completely. Initially it was forward biased, with dark fruit, freshly tanned leather, vanilla and licorice. With air more red-fruit and sneaky-big acids introduced themselves. In some sips I found even strawberry notes, in the vein of a pinot noir.  Vinous and wild with sticky tannins, the finish became lengthy and fascinating. Acids: yes.

Notes mention tobacco, and I sense that thread, but nothing like you’d imagine. For what’s billed as an agricultural grape – a relic from another age – the subtlety and chameleonic personality are worth the price of entry.