Raboso is a red wine grape grown primarily in northeastern Italy around Veneto. It produces deep-colored wine, with notably high levels of tannin but low alcohol content. The vine ripens late, producing good yields with high resistance to fungal disease and rot.
Raboso is an ancient wine, produced from one of the rare vine varieties which grew in north-eastern Italy even before the time of the Roman Empire. This is confirmed by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia; he wrote that this area already produced Picina omnium nigerrima, a wine blacker than pitch and the ancestor not only of Raboso, but of Terrano, Refosco and Friularo.
With the fall of the Roman empire, the cultureof winemaking, too, fell into oblivion. Only when Venice spread its civilisation to the mainland would the memory of this wine be kindled anew.
In 1679, Jacopo Agostinelli, from Treviso, wrote a book of thoughts entitled "Cento e dieci ricordi che formano il buon fattor di villa" (One Hundred and Ten Reminiscences to Make a Good Steward) and a few of those concern Raboso wine. "Here in our country," he wrote in reminiscence no. 24, "we make chiefly red wines for Venice from a red grape called recaldina, which some call rabosa for its strong character.”
More information about Raboso wine were provided in more recent times by the Istituto Enologico Trevigiano and by Antonio Carpené who wrote about red Rabosa in 1881. Carpené also wrote that, of the grapes he had experimented with for winemaking purposes, red Rabosa nera was perhaps the most important variety of eastern Veneto, especially because it was so widespread.
In the Bollettino Ampelografico of 1885, Raboso del Piave is specifically mentioned, and according to the Bulletin: “this type of wine has always been considered very important... We can remember when similar wines were sent abroad to great acclaim; until only a few years ago the cellars of rich Englishmen still contained bottles of this wine, which was procured and given to them by the last ambassadors to the Republic of Venice”.
The Republic of Venice came to an end in 1797 and just a few years prior to 1885 there were still bottles of Raboso del Piave to be found in English cellars. It is therefore reasonable to believe that Raboso had for many centuries been considered one of the chief and leading wines produced in the Treviso area.
Raboso in modern times
In 1937, Giovanni Dalmasso stated that out of the 65,000 hectolitres of red wine produced in Sinistra Piave, 58,000 were of Raboso Piave; and of the 85,000 hectolitres of wine made in the area around Motta di Livenza, San Donà di Piave and Meolo, 70,000 were Raboso Veronese.
Immediately after the Second World War, in 1949, Raboso was still the dominant wine of the area. In Sinistra Piave, Raboso Piave accounted for as much as 80% of the 100,000 hectolitres of wine made there, while the stretch of land between Motta and San Donà produced 85,000 hectolitres of Raboso Veronese out of a total of 140,000.
Between the 50s and 60s of the last century, wine-growers in the Piave zone favoured varieties that produced more marketable wines, especially - with regard to red wines - Merlot and Cabernet.
The cultivation of Raboso Piave gradually declined and it was only in the 1990s that it was restored to popularity and gradually developed thanks to the Confraternita del Raboso Piave (Confraternity of Raboso Piave) founded by a few brave wine producers.
Raboso Piave is a native grape variety whose presence in the lands around the Piave is mentioned in XVII-century records. It has a full right to bear the name “Piave” for its historical origins and its constant presence, spanning the centuries, in the land bathed by the water of the river that is sacred to the heroes of the First World War.
Its traditional production zone stretches from the Piave river across the plain of Treviso, from Conegliano to Vazzola and on to Oderzo, Motta di Livenza and San Donà di Piave.
Viticulture and winemaking
It produces quite a large, tight, cylindrical bunch with one or two wings, which may be quite evident, and a sturdy, woody bunchstem. Its spheroid grape has a blue-black, tough skin with good bloom. Green-reddish pedicel. The flesh has a varietal, neutral flavour which is slightly meaty and sweet-acidulous-astringent. Each grape has two or three average-sized, pear-shaped seeds. This very vigorous vine produces an abundant yield. Optimal vinification requires appropriate maceration of juice and skins: this results in a full-bodied wine, acidic and tannic when young, ideal for laying down.
Left to age in wooden barrels, it will gradually acquire a beautiful deep ruby colour with garnet tinges, a wonderfully broad and full bouquet of wild violets with a concentrated note of morello cherry.
The palate is dry, attractively astringent, full-flavoured, faintly acidic, deeply satisfying.
At full maturity, Raboso Piave is one of the great Italian reds, excellent with furred and feathered game, red meat,
grilled meats and well-matured cheeses. It is also a superb sipping wine, an ideal accompaniment to long winter evenings in the company of friends.