Raboso is an ancient wine, grown in the Piave River valley of the Veneto region before the time of the Roman Empire. Pliny the Elder writes in his Naturalis Historia, of the grape Picina omnium nigerrima, a black wine and the ancestor not only of Raboso, but of Terrano, Refosco and Friularo. Antonio Carpene, one of the founders of the School of Enology in Conegliano, claimed that the red Raboso nero was perhaps the most important variety of eastern Veneto, especially as it was so widespread at that time. Even after the Second World War, Raboso was still the dominant wine in this region, accounting for approximately 80% of the production.
Giorgio Cecchetto is a winemaker passionate about the Raboso grape. His family winery, Cecchetto, is located in Tezze di Piave, in the heart of the Piave DOC area in the Treviso region of the Veneto. His family had a long tradition of growing the Raboso grape in this region. This region is quite flat, lying along the Piave river valley. It has flooded numerous times throughout history, and the alluvial soil is quite fertile. It can also be quite damp and foggy, making it a challenging environment for many winemakers. The Raboso grape in particular is highly resistant to fungal disease and rot, and so is well-suited for this climate. Giorgio is highly committed to making the most from his beloved Raboso, and during a recent visit to their winery, I observed firsthand some of his experiments. Immediately behind the winery are fields of Raboso grapes in which the rows of grape vines are interspersed with other plantings; vegetables, and in particular mulberry trees, replicating how they were planted traditionally. Inside, Raboso wines were aging in local woods such as chestnut, rather than in the French and Slovian oak that is all the rage today. Cristina Garetto, who gave me a quick tour, showed me an old book in which aging in indigenous woods was specifically mentioned. Giorgio has also co-authored a book, with several other experts: Il Raboso del Piave – Fascinosa realtà delle terre del Piave (The charming reality of the Piave land) which is also translated into English. According to Cecchetto, “it is an essential element of our heritage as much as our land, its good and bad seasons and the 500-year-old history of our people who have kept and renewed the tradition of Raboso, always looking at the future with hope and confidence”
I tasted the 2007 Cecchetto Raboso del Piave during my visit in September, 2011. This wine is made from 100% Raboso Piave grapes, which are harvested when slightly overripe. The grapes are macerated in oak barrels for 12-15 days, then the wine is matured in large oak barrels for 18 months, and partly in barriques for 12 months. A final 6 months of aging occurs in the bottle.
This wine is a ruby red, with a full aroma of dark berries, cherries, and vanilla, along with leather and tobacco. Quite dry on the palate, with good structure and nice acidity and medium tannins.
Cristina gave me a bottle of their Passito di Raboso, a sweet dessert wine made from Raboso grapes for me to try later. I shared it recently in a cooking class, and it was appreciated by all. This Raboso is a Passito wine, a wine made from grapes that have been dried to concentrate their juices. The best bunches are carefully picked and stored in crates and on trelliswork until April, so that dehydration goes on for over six months. Then maceration takes place in stainless steel containers for 20 days, followed by fermentation in barriques. To produce this wine, Cecchetto has blended together four vintages in a decreasing order of percentage: 2000, 2002, 2003 and 2005.
This Cecchetto Passito di Raboso is deep ruby red in color. It exhibits a cherry aroma, rich in dried fruits. It has a very full flavor, lots of powerful tannins, and a persistent finish.