Tuesday, 3 January 2012

I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante (NV)

Asprinio is a grape variety which is all but unknown in the UK. Hailing from a country with a huge selection of grape varieties to chose from, in this wealth of choice of wine from Italy, the Asprinio grape and the excellent still and sparkling wines that it can produce have been left behind in the rush to snare international consumers.

If you were to ask a typical UK consumer which sparkling wine they most associate with Italy, the answer would surely be Prosecco (or if that consumer were of a particular age, Asti Spumante may also spring to mind). Made from the Glera grape, Prosecco is grown within Veneto in North East Italy and on the whole produces inoffensive, enjoyable but often simple sparkling wines. Backed by a formidable marketing campaign (and heavy discounting in many UK supermarkets), Prosecco more than any other sparkling wine, has become the default choice for celebrations and as an aperitif in many British households. This is not to say that other Italian sparkling wines are not as good as Prosecco (in fact often quite the opposite), but simply that sparkling wines such as Asprinio are not as well known, nor widely exported.

A grape variety indigenous to Campania, which sits in the place of the shin on Italy’s boot, Asprinio is only really cultivated around the town of Aversa (something that limits the quantities available for UK consumers quite considerably). Cultivated in an unusual and traditional manner (strung between poplar trees 20-50feet up in the air) the harvest is done by brave men on long ladders, something that again limits the quantity of grapes that can be cultivated and indeed adds to the cost of production of wines made from the Asprinio grape.

Almost extinct in the recent past, the Asprinio grape was really rescued by a few dedicated growers who believed in the variety and its potential to produce outstanding wines. One of these growers was Nicola Numeroso - one of the Numeroso clan who have been growing Asprinio for over 100 years from their home cellar at Lusciano (near to Aversa) – and a grower who has been singly credited with gaining Asprinio and Aversa it’s DOC (higher quality) classification within the Italian wine classification system.

Having created the “I Borboni” brand in 1982, today Nicola produces 4 different wines from the Asprinio grape in both its sparkling and still guises. A three wine range of sparkling Asprinio consists of a vintage I Borboni Spumante Asprinio (reviewed here), a non-vintage Asprinio Spumante (reviewed here) and this, the I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante.

Produced in a slightly sparkling form (similar to much Prosecco) this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante is released in a bottle sealed with an exposed cork and traditional string seal (something which not only denotes this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante’s slightly sparkling style, but also qualifies this wine for a lower level of tax).  This string seal adorns a traditionally shaped, low shouldered bottle similar in shape and weight to most Italian sparkling wine. A green and black label adorns the face of the bottle.

In the glass, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV is a clear, golden colour of moderate intensity. Unusually golden for a sparkling wine, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV is certainly a shade richer in colour than Champagne or Prosecco. A limited number of fine bubbles rise from the base of the glass (with a few collecting underneath the surface tension at the rim). Lighter in alcohol than the majority of sparkling wine (including the two other I Borboni Asprinio Spumante wines already reviewed), this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV comes in at 11% abv which results in legs that dissipate particularly quickly when the wine is swirled.

On the nose, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV is clean and light with citrus and tropical fruit the predominant (although muted) aromas. Lemon zest is complimented by a twist of pineapple, in a bouquet that whilst hinting at the exotic is not in the slightest overpowering.

Once in the mouth, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV is similarly crisp. A dry wine, with high acidity, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV exhibits a body lighter than the other I Borboni sparkling Asprinio wines already reviewed. In keeping with the nose, lemon citrus provides the bulk of the flavour with pineapple providing a more tropical twang and additional acidity. The palate is comparatively short, although the balance of fruit and acidity keeps this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV very refreshing and indeed enjoyable.

Objectively not quite as complex as I Borboni’s other sparkling wines made from the Asprinio grape, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV is actually potentially the most commercially attractive wine of the three for retailers, given that it shares many of its characteristics with the highly in demand Prosecco. This wine’s relative simplicity also provides a great introduction to the Asprinio grape, without being exposed to all of its unique flavours, such as the more tropical fruit notes that become increasingly forward in I Borboni’s other sparkling Asprinio wines.

In conclusion, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV is a slightly unusual Italian sparkling wine with bags of character and style. Attractive and seductively easy to drink, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante NV is crisp, refreshing and with its limited alcohol content could well make the perfect aperitif. Nicely made, this is an Asprinio that has been respectfully vinified with just the right blend of Asprinio’s signature characteristics and a more internationally appealing style.

A great entry level sparkling Asprinio from I Borboni, this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante (NV) deserves the effort required to find some of this rare wine.
I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante (NV)

Score: 83/100 – A characterful and crisp Campanian quaffer

Value for Money: 8/10 – Make an effort to find a stockist, wines this interesting don’t appear in large commercial outlets. The estimated retail price of this I Borboni Asprinio Frizzante is £10 per bottle in the UK