If you get the price right, and especially if the autore carries a BIG name (though it doesn’t in this case), it’s a pretty nifty concept: a line of high quality, hearty quaffing wines made by various well-known wineries, marketed under a single, simple name. In this case that name is “Fuso”. This is a small line of all Italian wines, and the name Fuso, as the back label states, is a play on a couple of Italian words, the first of which is “sfuso” (SFOO-zoh), which when paired with word “vino” in the term “vino sfuso”, means bulk, jug, or simple wine. The word “fuso” literally means “melted”, but it’s also a slang term meaning mentally tattered, or even a bit off in the head…Who? You? Me? Them?….
Anyway, this example in the line (the only other representative I’ve come across is a Verdicchio from Matelica) is a 100% Barbera from an unsung region in southern Piedmont called Colli Tortonesi, made by a really dynamic producer named Walter Massa. Massa makes big, expressive, slightly eccentric wines from Barbera, Croatina, and a very rare local white variety called Timorasso, so when I saw his name on a wine like this, I was intrigued…
So let’s be clear about what kind of wine this is, or maybe what it’s NOT. What it’s not is a budget-driven, thin shadow of a truly “complete” wine. There’s nothing fake about it. This is not a wine that cares about taking the stage and making a mistake; it just gets up there and belts it out, a few small clinkers be damned. It is what really good vino sfuso should be – honest, bold, and very drinkable – and then some.
I served this gutsy wine with suitably hearty fare: pasta e ceci soup with rosemary, and my 100% from scratch eggplant alla parmigiana (eggplants and tomatoes from the farmer’s market, basil from the garden, and handmade mozzarella from an olde school Italian deli around the corner…)
Fratelli Massa Colli Tortonesi Barbera “Fuso” 2008
Medium magenta/garnet color. Rustic nose of bark, balsamic vinegar, dried cherries, black raspberries, and baked mushrooms. The palate is medium-bodied but with an appealing tannin level, juicy acidity, spicy ginger and cinnamon flavors, and supple sour cherry juice and tart watermelon candy notes. Finishes with a surprisingly long, broad-shouldered persistence.