Ronco Del Gelso “Old Style Wines”

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Giorgio Badin

After the winners of the 2014 International Pinot Grigio Challenger were announced, I visited several winemakers near Cormons. Giorgio Badin, owner of Ronco Del Gelso, picked me up. Fortunately, a translator joined us — a good thing because Giorgio spoke rapid Italian. While driving Giorgio said that his wines are to be drunk with food, they are mealtime wines and therefore he seeks to enhance the finest character of the grape. He ferments the juice using non-invasive vineyard techniques that do not detract from the characteristics of the grape.

Giorgio continued to answer questions. He said that his estate is in the Isonza Del Friuli DOC zone and this, along with the sub-zone Rive Alte, where permitted, appears on the label. The vineyards are all guyot pruned and vertical- trellis trained, with a high vine density to promote root competition and canopy restriction. Care is taken in the selection of clones and rootstock, which must be suited to the soils of Isonzo. He uses cultured yeast, and malolactic fermentation does not take place in any of the white wines.

One of the other producers remarked that Giorgio makes “old style” wines and added to what Giorgio had said about his wines, I could not wait to taste them. After tasting them, I could have not been more pleased with them.

Ronco Del Gelso Wines IMG_5815

Friulano “Toc Bas” 2012 DOC Riva Alte Isonzo Del Friulano 100% Friulano. The grapes come from vineyards in the lower area of Cormons. Giorgio said that this wine has flavor far removed from the so-called international tastes. There are 4,500 vines per hectare. Soft pressing of the grapes takes place and fermentation is at controlled temperature. The wine is stored on the fine lees until it is bottled. This is a wine with hints of apples, peaches apricots and a touch of hazelnuts and bitter almonds. The wine has hints of liquorice and ripe fruit with a very nice bitter almond aftertaste. There was also a 2006 Tocai Friulano that was drinking very well and showing no sing of age. It was still called Tocai because the law was not changed until 2007 because of the dispute with Hungary over the name Tocai.IMG_5820

Sauvignon “Sottomonta” 2012 DOC Riva Alte Isonzo Del Friulano 100% Sauvignon Blanc. The vineyards are located in Cormons at the foot of a hill where the soil is deeper, siltier and retains good moisture. There are 5,700 vines per hectare. The grapes are cold crushed and maceration lasts for 12/18 hours. The wine is aged on the lees in oval oak barrels of 2,500 liters for 12 months. Giorgio said that Sauvignon Blanc is a difficult grape variety to grow and to make into wine but worth the effort. This is a soft, full and balanced wine with good acidity and the aromatic notes typical of the variety.IMG_5811

Malvasia “Vigna della Permuta” Isonzo Del Friuli DOC 2006 & 2008 100% Malvasia. Giorgio said that the climate and gravelly soil of the Isonzo plain are ideal for this grape variety, which prefers warm dry soil not too far from the sea. There are 5,700 p/h and the training system is guyot. Grapes are destemmed and cold crushed and maceration lasts for 12-18 hours. It is fermented in steel. Both wines have hints of ripe fruit, anis and a touch of spice. A Malvasia that can age!IMG_5819

Chardonnay “Siet Vigni” Isonzo Del Friuli Rive Alte 2012 The wine is made from grapes from seven vineyards, covering a total area of less than three hectares. Giorgio pointed out that Chardonnay has been present in the area for over 150 years and has adjusted to the climate and soil. Chardonnay is an international grape that has allowed itself to be shaped by the local terroir taking on its personality. There are 6,000 vines per hectare. Temperature controlled fermentation with cold crushing and maceration for 12-18 hours.

It was more than interesting to taste Chardonnay produced in this way. The wine has hints of golden apple and a touch of tropical fruit. This is a chardonnay to drink with food.

Aur Traminer Passito  In answer to one of my questions about his dessert wine this was Giorgio’s response: “On an estate like mine, it is certainly not the product of market research, but more likely the fruit of an intuition or belief. To be honest, I must admit that I didn’t ever think that I would make a dessert wine, but that is what’s happening.IMG_5822

This is the story of Aur: a few years ago a plot of land adjoining our estate came up for sale. It was a tempting opportunity, so I took out a mortgage and bought it.
So far so good, but I still had to tackle the main problem, namely that the 18,000-square-metre plot was planted to Traminer, and if there’s one wine that I don’t like it’s precisely dry Traminer. The conflict between its sweet, aromatic nose and dry, salty palate is the exact opposite of the character that I try to give my wines. At the time I tasted a great many Traminers from all over the world, but none of them served to change my mind. Only those with a sweet aftertaste convinced me, and the dried-grape wines most of all.

My tastings resulted in a project for a dessert wine that I called Aur, which means “gold” in Friulian. I built a drying room and tried to understand how to make a high-quality sweet wine using first-rate grapes. There are 4,000 vines per hectare, the grapes are dried, and the wine is aged in small oak barrels for one year. This is a very subtle dessert wine which goes very well with soft cheese and foie gras”.

 

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International Grapes but not International Style

Franco Bengazi from The Wine Emporium, wine importers and distributors, introduced me to Tiziano Vistalli when I was in Florence for an event called “Buy Tuscany.” We had dinner together at Restaurant Cibreo and drank a white wine that I enjoyed made by Tiziano. As we talked I learned that Tiziano is an enologist and makes and consults on wine for a number of different producers.

Tiziano Vistalli

Tiziano Vistalli

when I was in Verona in May, I met Tiziano for lunch and tasted the wines that he makes for Fattoria le Corgne near Valfabbrica in the province of Perugia in Umbria. The owner of the winery is Andrea Formilli Fendi.IMG_5649

SVGB 2012 100% Sauvignon Blanc – the vineyards are at 650/700 meters, exposure is North-South. There are 4,500 vines/ha and the training system is spurred cordon. Harvest is manual and takes place in the beginning of September. Fermentation is at a controlled temperature and lasts for about 20 days. The wine is aged in stainless steel tanks and remains on the lees until April, and then it is racked. The wine is bottled in September and rests in bottle for six months before release. This is a wine with hints of citrus and grapefruit, a touch of herbs and grass, nice minerailty and good acidity.IMG_5652

PNTN 2011 100% Pinot Noir – Fermentation takes place at a controlled temperature for about 15 days and maceration continues for another 10 days. The wine is aged in French oak barrels for 18 months and during this time the wine is racked twice. In April the final assembly was made and the best barrels selected. The wine was bottled in September and released six months later. This is a wine with hints of wild strawberries and a touch of spice.

MRLT 2011 100% Merlot-- Harvest takes place in the middle of October. Fermentation is at a controlled temperature and maceration continues for another 10 days. The wine is aged in French oak for barrels for 18 months and is racked twice. The wine was bottled in September and released six months later. It was once said be a famous Italian wine consultant that Umbria might be the best place in Italy to grow Merlot grapes and in this case he might be right.IMG_5650

Fralù IGT Umbria 2010 made from 70 Merlot, 20 Sangiovese and 10% Pinot Noir. The soil is clay and calcareous. The wine is unfiltered.

 

 

 

 

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A Classic Chianti Rufina from Frescobaldi

At a recent tasting of Frescobaldi wines, Galen Crippin, the export manager, introduced a new wine, the Nipozzano Vecchie Viti 2011. As he spoke I tasted the wine and sat up in my chair. I no longer heard him speaking, my mind and my palate were telling me that this was a great traditional, classic Chianti Rufina, the type that very few producers make any more. I could not believe it! I finished the wine in my glass, asked to see the bottle and asked for some more just to make sure. It has been a very long time since I have been so impressed by Chianti. Though I often taste wines, I do not always drink them.IMG_5846

Nipozzano Vecchie Viti (old vines) Chianti Rufina Riserva 2011 90% Sangiovese and 10% complementary Tuscan grapes: Malvasia Nera, Colorino and Canaiolo. The vineyard is 20 hectares, located at 300 meters above sea level and the exposure is southwest. The soil is limestone, well drained and poor in organic matter. There are 2,500 vines per hectare and the vines are 40 years old.

The wine is historically dedicated to a new birth in the Frescobaldi family and originates from the oldest vines of Castello Nipozzano.

Harvest takes place in the beginning of October and is by hand. The wine is vinified in cement vats and fermentation lasts for 13 days. Maceration is for 20 days with pumping over. Malolactic fermentation takes place immediately after alcoholic fermentation. The wine is aged in 30HL French oak casks for 24 months and 2 years in bottle before release. This traditional classic Chianti Rufina is a rare find and a bargain at $30.IMG_5843

Nipozzano Riserva Chianti Rufina 2010 made from 90% Sangiovese and 10% Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Manual harvest takes place at the end of September/beginning of October. Each variety is fermented separately in stainless steel vats for 13 days. Maceration is for 25 days and malolactic takes place right after the alcoholic fermentation. The wine is aged in barriques of second and third passage for 24 months and 3 months in bottle before release IMG_5848

Montesodi 2011. As of this year it is no longer Chianti Rufina but Toscana IGT. it is produced from a cru selection of Sangiovese grown in the 20 hectare Montesodi vineyard, which is at 400 meter and has a southwest exposure The training system guyot. The harvest is manual and takes place in the beginning of October. Fermentation occurs in stainless steel vats for 10 days. Maceration is for 30 days. The wine is then aged in Austrian and French oak casks of 30HL. The first vintage was 1974.IMG_5847

Montesodi 1974 Chianti Rufina Mostly Sangiovese. In answer to my question Mr. Crippen said that it did contain a small amount of white grapes and in answer to another of my questions Eleonora Marconi, the oenologist, said that the governo method was used (10% of the grapes are dried). For a 40 year old wine it was drinking very well with all the characteristics of a great older Chianti. This is another example of a wine made using the governo method,and adding some white grapes to the blend that can age. As we all know, Chianti producers tell us today that wines made in this method cannot age because they no longer use white grapes or the governo method. In my opinion this wine had more in common with the Nipozzano Vecchie VITI than it does with the 2011 Montesodi.

 

 

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Tasting Soave

Soave has always been one of my favorite white wines. It is undervalued and always a great bargain on restaurant wine lists.

I have visited Soave a number of times and the last time there I was inducted into the Imperial Castellania Di Suavia as “Captain Spadarino, Protector of the Women of the Castello Scaligero” in Soave. This is a worldwide women’s organization that praises Il Vino Bianco Saove. received this honor for my contributions to Soave wine

A few weeks ago I was invited to a Soave Master Class. The speakers were Evan Goldstein, Master Sommelier and Giovanni Ponchia the enologist for the Consorzio Tutela Soave. I first met Giovanni a few years ago when I was invited on a press trip to the Soave region and was honored as Capitano Spadarino.  All the journalists on the trip were so impressed with Giovanni’s knowledge and his easy manner of presenting it that we nicknamed him “Mr. Soave.” Evan spoke about the individual wineries and Giovanni spoke about the Soave region.

Giovanni Ponchio "Mr. Soave"

Giovanni Ponchio “Mr. Soave”

The Soave production zone lies in the eastern part of the Province of Verona in the region of the Veneto. The production zone is of volcanic origin and the hills where the vineyards are planted have rocky strata that are a result of lava flows that turned into sediment over time. The soil is dark, stony and rich in minerals and there is a difference between the soil of the hills and the soil of the flat lands. Soave is one of Italy’s great terroir-based wines.

Soave is a relatively small concentrated area and it has a history of selling grapes outside of the region. There are some 3,000 growers and the DOC is the largest in the Province of Verona accounting for 40% of the production. There are 52 crus in the zone and, like Barolo, different producers can work one cru. The vineyards are so close together that they all spray at the same time.

The grapes are the same for Soave DOC, Soave Classico DOC, and Soave Superiore DOCG. Soave DOC, Colli Scaliger, and Recioto di Soave.  Garganega is the primary grape and Soave must contain at least 70% of it. The other 30% is made up of Trebbiano di Soave, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco (Trebbiano Toscano has been excluded). The better producers use 100% Garganega, or very close to it. There does not seem to be much Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco used.  Trebbiano di Soave seems to be the new favorite, but Giovanni said that this was is a matter of controversy.

Garganega is the fifth most planted white grape in Italy and may be related to the Grecanico grape of Sicily. Giovanni said it is not markedly aromatic in nature, but displays a range of perfumes of which almonds and white flowers are the most clearly identifiable. It does not actually complete its ripening until October. Its skin is very tough and is a particularly deep yellow (verging on red) when ripe. It does not display especially high acidity but rather a balance of extract and fruit sugars.

Trebbiano di Soave has traditionally always been present in the vineyards. It has a tangy liveliness that some wine makers feel blends well with the typical structure and density of the Garganega grape.

The training system for the vines is very interesting. It can be single or double Espalier (Guyot and Cordon Spur) or a Pergola (known as tendone in the South). The vines grow on trellises and the leaves cover and protect the grapes from the sun. It can be a unilateral Pergola, or uni- or bi-lateral pergoletta Veronese- Veronese Pergola. This Pergola does not close all the way in the middle allowing some sunlight to come through. This is the method used on flat land even at high elevation. The Veronese Pergola is again becoming popular among the producers. Giovanni said many producers were very proud of this system. No matter what the training system, there can be no less than 3,300 vines per hectare.IMG_5669

There were 12 wines altogether, some were tasted blind. I liked all the wines but the ones listed below were the ones I enjoyed the most.

Cantina del Castello Soave Classico DOC “Castello” 2012 The vines are on the hills of the Soave Classico region, facing Soave and the Alpone Valley, between Monteforte d’Alpone and Brognoligo. The Vineyards are situated at 200 to 250 meters. Generally basaltic soil of volcanic origin but some vineyards are situated in areas with soils having a markedly calcareous skeleton of coastal sedimentary origin. The training system is Pergola Veronese and short espalier. Harvesting is by hand and takes place the middle of October. There is pre-destemming and soft pressing with a 60% must yield. Fermentation takes place in temperature controlled water-cooled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in bottle for two months before release.

Bolla Soave Classico DOCG Superiore “Tufale” 2011  85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave. The vines are 25-30 years old and are located on the marly-tuffaceous soils in the once volcanic Classico zone in the commune of Monteforte d’Alpone. Southern and southeastern exposure at 200 to 300 meters and there is a significant temperature between night and day. The training system is the traditional Soave Pergolas. Harvest is in October. Mature grapes are macerated cold in a protected atmosphere for several hours. After removal of the stalks they are subjected to soft pressing then cold static sedimentation. Fermentation is slow and takes place at low temperatures. The wine remains for a time on the fine fermented lees with regular batonnage, while a small part matures in French oak barriques. The wine is bottled in March and aged in the bottle for two months before release.

Gini Soave Classico “La Frosca” DOC 2001 100% Garganega. The wine takes its name from the hillside La Frosca close to the town of d’Alpone. The vineyards are at 180 meters with a southeast exposure. The training system is Pergola Veronese and the harvest is in October. The grapes are hand picked. Soft pressing and immediate cooling of the must takes place. Fermentation at controlled temperatures takes place in steel and wooden vats. The wine is left for at least eight months with its own natural yeasts in steel vats and in 228 liter wooden barrels. This wine is 13 years old and is in perfect condition. When I visited the Gini winery on my trip a few years ago, we tasted a 1990 that also was in perfect condition. In the hands of the right producer Soave can age.IMG_5862

Cantina di Soave Classico DOC “Rocca Sveva” 2013 100% Garganega. The vineyards are located in the hills of the communes in Soave and Monteforte. The vines are planted in loose, medium gravelly clay soil of volcanic origin at 100 to 300 meters. The vines are trained for the Verona Pergola System the high, flat roofed system traditional for this area, in cover-cropped rows: cluster loke with cluster thinning. Harvesting is by hand and takes place the last week of September. The clusters are gently pressed and the must settles by gravity. Fermentation takes place with select yeasts at controlled temperatures. The wine is then drawn off and left to mature.

Monte Tondo Soave Classico Foscarino DOC “Casettte Foscarin” 2005 90% Garganega and 10%Trebbiano di Soave. The vineyards are on the western slope of Monte Foscarino and the soil is volcanic in origin, tufaceous and basaltic. The training system is Pergola Veronese and Guyot and the harvest is in October. A selection of the most sun-exposed grapes are harvested at different times according to their ripeness. Soft pressing takes place with low temperature maceration. The wine is aged in barriques and 5hl tonneau for about six months. Here is another example of how Soave can age and when I visited the winery there were a number of examples of excellent older wines.

Azenda Agricola Suavia Classico Monte Carbonare DOC 2011 100% Garganega. The vineyards are in Fittà, in the heart of Soave Classico at 250 meters. The soil is basaltic of volcanic origin and the training system is Pergola Veronese. Harvest is in the second half of October. There is a soft pressing of whole grapes and fermentation is in steel vats for 16 days. Malolactic fermentation is not carried out. The skins are in contact with the fine sediments for 15 months in steel vats. There is only one membrane filtration before bottling.

 Vincentini Agostino Soave Superiore Il Casale DOCG 2012. 100% Garganega The vines are at Colognola ai Colli, Il Casale and the soil is a mix of basaltic rocks and limestone. The training system is Pergola Veronese and guyot and the harvest is in October. There is a light pressing of the grapes and a long fermentation in temperature controlled steel vats.

El Vergo Recioto di Soave DOCG 2009 100% Garganega The vineyards are in Monteforte d’Alpone on the southern slope of Monte Foscarino. Harvest is by hand the last week of September and the First week of October. The grapes are dried for six months and the clusters are softly pressed. A very slow fermentation takes place at controlled temperature in steel vats. The wine is aged for three years in barriques.

Riccolo Grassi Soave La Broia DOC 2011 100% Garganega. The vineyards are in Mezzane di Sotto, which is the western area of Soave. They are at 100 meters and the soil is alluvial and rich in limestone. There are 7,000 plants per hectare and the training system is guyot. Harvest takes place the third week of September. 80% is fermented in barriques and 22HL Slavonian oak barrels the remaining 20% is fermented in stainless steel. The wine remains sur lie for 12 months. Malolactic fermentation is carried out mostly in barriques five and six years old. The wine is aged in 22HL oak barrels of Slavonian oak and 6 months in bottle before release.

 

 

 

 

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2014 International Pinot Grigio Challenge

The 2014 International Pinot Grigio Challenge was held in Corno Di Rosazzo, near Udine in the Northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy. I like the food and the wines of the region and have always enjoyed its Pinot Grigio, so I was delighted to be invited to be one of the judges.IMG_5741

The event took place over three days. The first day there was a round table discussion on Pinot Grigio: “Commercial Challenge on the World Market.” There were a number of speakers, including myself, and I found the conversation to be most interesting

Some of the topics discussed included the reasons for the popularity of Pinot Grigio, how to improve its image, Pinot Grigo in different countries and the other names for Pinot Grigio

Pinot Grigio came to Italy after the phylloxera plague in Europe in the late 19th Century. It most likely originated in Burgundy and is a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir. It is grown mostly in northeastern Italy. The best examples in my opinion come from Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige

Pinot Grigio is not a white grape as can be seen by looking at the bunches. The must of the grape is basically copper in color, of anthocyanin origin, that does not always persist through bottling. This has to do with the presence or lack of oxygen during fermentation.

In the 1960’s Santa Margherita, thanks to the latest vinification techniques, was able to produce a white wine changing the history of the grape forever. By the 1980’s Pinot Grigio from Italy became so popular that it is looked upon as an Italian grape in the eyes of the world. Today Pinot grigio enjoys world wine popularity and is the number one grape varietal imported into the USA with over a 40% market share.

Some of the bottles

Some of the bottles

Some producers have gone back to the old style and produce a wine, which is copper/ orange in color. An example of this was the #2 wine in the Challenge, “Gossip” by Di Lenardo

The judging took place on the second day. The idea for the International Pinot Grigo Challenge came from Daniele Cernilli, known as “Doctor Wine.”

With Cernilli as the head, 24 judges from many different countries were to taste the wines blind and select the winners. There were 128 wines from all over the world. The judges were divided into groups of three. In the first round a score was given to each wine tasted. Next the 3 judges were presented with 2 wines, each judge stated their preference and one wine was eliminated. With 3 judges there could not be a tie. When this was completed there was a break for lunch. After lunch it was the same except there were 5 judges, again two wines were presented and one was eliminated.

Daniele Cernilli "Doctor Wine"  announcing the winners

Daniele Cernilli “Doctor Wine” announcing the winners

Cernilli called the judging a “winebledon” with direct challenges in couples, like a tennis match, evaluated by mixed and uneven juries.

After this segment was over the votes were tallied and there were 8 finalists.

The third day was the official announcement of the winners and the award ceremony. Listed below are the eight finalists in order. The first three wines were awarded medals.IMG_5744

Pinot Grigio Alto Adige “Punggl” DOC 2013 Nals Margreid Trentino Alto Adige #1IMG_5745

Pinot Grigio Ramato (copper) “Gossip” IGT 2013 Venezia Gulia Di Lenardo Friuli Venezia Giulia Harvest is by hand. The grapes are placed in a tank for 18 hours of skin maceration. Then the skins are separated and the must is transferred to temperature-controlled fermentation steel vats. The wine is on the lees before bottling. For the whole process oxygen does not come in contact with the wine in order to preserve the color. The wine has a light copper color with luminescent clarity. The aromas include wild strawberry, elderberry, hay and dried roses with hints of dried fruits and almond. There is a balance of robust fruit and crisp acidity. It is closed with a composite cork DIAM. 20,000 bottles were produced.  I described  how this wine  because has the ‘copper” color. #2IMG_5746

Pinot Grigio Friuli Grave DOC 2013 I Magredi Friuli Venezia Giulia. This wine of the final eight was given the award for best value for the money. #3

Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali DOC 2013 Torre Rosazza Friuli Venezia Giulia

Pinot Grigio Collio “Jesera” DOC 2013 Venica & Venica Friuli Venezia Giulia

Pinot Grigio Alto Adige Castel Ringberg” DOC 2013 Trentinio Alto Adige Elena Walch

Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali DOC 2013 Friuli Venezia Giulia La Sclusa

Pinot Grigio Friuli Colli Orientali DOC Azienda Perusini di Perusini Teresa Friuli Venezia Giulia

Three of my favorite producers were in this group: Di Leonardo, Venica & Venica and Elena WalchIMG_5734

There was a special category for wines with residual sugar exceeding 9g/l. The winner was Pinot Gris AAC 2013 Cuvee Saine Chatherine Weinbach Faller France.

Looking back over the wines that I chose all of them were from Friuli Venezia Giulia and the Alto Adige. Daniele Cernilli confirmed that I voted for the number one rated wine.

 

 

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The Wines of Gradis’ciutta

I first tasted the wines of Gradis’ciutta at a lunch and tasting of the wines of Friuli Venezia Giulia given by the Wine Media Guild at Felidia restaurant. I was so impressed by these wines that I contacted Franco Bengazi of The Wine Emporium, the importer and distributor, to find out more about them. Since I was so enthusiastic about the Gradis’ciutta wines, Franco asked me if I would organize a tasting and lunch at SD26, one of my favorite Italian restaurants, for some journalists so they could meet Robert Princic the owner/winemaker and taste the wine.

Robert Princic

Robert Princic

Robert told us that his family has been in this area since the 18th century but the present winery was started in 1997. He said that the winery is located in the Collio wine region of Friuli Venezia Giulia close to the border with Slovenia. The Collio is a group of high hills west of the city of Gorizia. The soil here is sandstone and clay and the vineyards are at different elevations so that he can plant the vines that he wants at the best altitude for them. He said that he did not name the winery after himself but the area where it is located.

Gradis’ciuttaIMG_5641

We started with a sparkling NV Brut Sinefinis Rebolium (Classic Method) It is a joint venture between Robert Princic and his friend Matjaž Cetrtic a producer just over the border in Slovenia. The European Commission has classified these two territories as a C2 zone giving wine producers the opportunity to produce wines from grapes harvested from both countries.

The wine is made from 100% Ribolla grapes (Robolium is one of the Medieval names for Ribolla) obtained from Ribolla Gialla grapes from Collio in Italy and from Rebula grapes from Brda in Slovenia. These historic hills had been united until 1947 and were divided because of a treaty that was a resulted of the Second World War. Ribolla has been grown in these hills since medieval times. The vineyards that are the source for this wine are located at Giasbana (San Floriano del Collio) and Gradis’ciutta (Gorizia) for the Italian percentage and at Biljana (Bigliana) and Kojsko (Quisca) for the Slovenian. The grapes are obtained from vineyards with a density of between 4,000 and 5,000 plants per hectare in the guyot system, with a yield of 70-80 quintals per hectare.There is a soft pressing of the whole grape clusters and then a cold decanting and temperature controlled fermentation. Aging takes place with the tirage in the following spring, the year after the harvest. Secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle and the preservation of the effervesence is at a controlled temperature. Maturation on the yeasts lasts 18 months.IMG_5645

Collio Chardonnay 2011 made from 100% Chardonnay. Chardonnay was confused with Pinot Bianco in this region until the 1970′s. The vines are at 400 to 600 meters and the training system is guyot. The juice is obtained from a soft pressing of the grapes macerated for 24 hours. 80% 0f the fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks and 20% takes place in new oak barrels. The wine is matured on its lees, then the two lots are blended together and the wine is bottled. There were aromas and flavors of apple and honey with a slight hint of vanilla.IMG_5644

Collio Pinot Grigio 2012, 100% Pinot Grigio. This grape variety was first called Ruläander when it came to the Gorizia area in the second half of the 1800’s. The color of the grape tends to be copper. Pinot Grigio is a red grape and it was not until the early 1960’s with the use of modern vinification that it was made into a white wine. Some producers now make a wine in the old style that is pink/orange in color. The vineyard is at 325 to 475 feet and the training system is guyot. Soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks, aging on the lees until the wine is bottled. The wine had a slight copper color, with flavor hints of peach and ripe apple. There was also an aroma of tomato leaf. It is a very interesting wine.IMG_5646

Friulano Collio DOC, 2011, 100% Tocai Friulano.   If you ask for white wine in Friuli, this is what you will get. The name of the wine was changed from Tocai to Friulano because Hungary has a dessert wine called Tokay. The Hungarians convinced the EU to make Friuli change the name of their wine  to Friulano in 2007 to avoid confusion because the names sounded alike. This in my opinion was not necessary. Soft pressing of the grapes is followed by 24 to 48 hour fermentation at low temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged on its lees until it is ready to be bottled.  It has good fruit aromas and flavors with a hint of apple and a touch of almond in the finish and aftertaste.IMG_5642

Ribolla Gialla 2011, 100% Ribolla Gialla. This is the oldest grape variety of Collio. It has been here since Roman times. The vineyards are at 600 feet and the training method is guyot. The soil is sandstone marl and clay marl. The grapes undergo criomaceration for 24 hours and then are pressed and fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine remains on its lees until bottled. It has nice citrus aromas and flavors with a very pleasant finish and aftertaste.IMG_5647

Collio Bianco “Bratinis” 2010 made from Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla and Sauvignon Blanc in various percentages. The soil is a mixture of breakable sandstone and clay marl called ponca. The name of the wine comes from the locality where the grapes are grown and harvested. The vines are between 500 and 600 feet and the training system is guyot. There is a soft pressing of the grapes and fermentation takes place in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine matures on the lees and is then bottled. At one time the wine was produced in such small amounts that it was only available for the family.  It is aromatic with hints of apple and peach and a touch of pineapple. It has a long finish and pleasing aftertaste.

All of the wines sell for around $20 a bottle- great value for the money.

 

 

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Livio Felluga’s “TERRE ALTE”

Terre Alte from Livio Felluga has been a favorite of mine since I first tasted it in the early 1980’s. It is a wine that I describe as seductive and without a doubt one of the best white wines produced in Italy.IMG_5389

Recently, I was invited to attend a vertical tasting of Terre Alte going back to 1997 featuring Andrea Felluga as the speaker. I have known Andrea Felluga since 1994 when I visited the winery. That was also the year that Livio, Andrea’s father handed over the winemaking duties to him.

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Andrea Felluga

Andrea began by speaking about the history of Friuli-Venezia Giulia and of his family.  Andrea said that his father was born in 1914 when the area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He explained how the shifting borders after WWI and WWII caused many problems. His family lost everything after WWII but Livio was able to remain on the Italian side of the border and start his winery. Livio is now 100 years old.

Andrea told us that the “Map Label” on the wines was introduced in 1956 as a way for his father to pay tribute to the land and culture of Friuli. He described Terre Alte as an elegant, complex and “captivating” wine. Terre Alte in Italian means high ground.IMG_5376

Terre Alte Collio Orientali del Friuli is a blend of estate grown grapes: Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc from the vineyards in the Rosazzo zone. The soil is marl and sandstone and the training system is guyot. The bunches of grapes are carefully destemmed and left to macerate for a short period of time. Then the grapes were crushed. The must is then allowed to settle. Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon are fermented at controlled temperatures in stainless steel tanks. The Friulano is fermented and aged in small casks of French (no new oak is used) oak. The Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon matures in stainless steel tanks. After aging for ten months the wines are blended. The bottled wine is aged in temperature controlled binning cellars for 9 months before release. Andrea said that depending on the vintage one of the three grapes would assert itself.

If Sauvignon Blanc dominates, the wine will have hints of sage, and grapefruit. In other vintages the Friulano prevails with notes of pear, peach and fresh almonds.

There were also times when the floral notes of the Pinot Bianco took over and hints of orange blossoms and yeast stood out in the bouquet.

Andrea said that freshness is a key attribute. Terre Alte expresses a unique composition of aromas, depending on its age, and either floral or fruity fragrances with notes of pastry and bread. For the more mature vintages straw and dried flowers can be present. The first vintage of Terre Alte was in 1981.IMG_5378

The Terre Alte Vertical

2012 DOCG $80 This is a very young wine and needs time to develop

2011 DOCG $80 Andrea did not think that this bottle was showing well and he said that it had notes of garlic. We tried another bottle and it was fine but it needs more time.

2009 DOC $160 Very balanced wine with ripe fruit, a touch of ginger, a great finish and wonderful aftertaste.IMG_5384

2008 DOC In this vintage the Friulano prevailed with the notes of pear, peach and fresh almonds. Sold out.

2006 DOC This vintage was the most Sauvignon in character with aromas of sage and grapefruit and a touch of grass. Andrea said this was because it was a cool vintage and there was less skin contact. $180

2001 DOC The blend this year was 30% Tocai Friulano, 30% Pinot Bianco and 40% Sauvignon. Sold out. This was one of my favorites with just a hint of the Sauvignon showing through. 750 is sold out but there is a magnum for $645

1998 DOC Sold out of 750 but there is a Magnum at $720

This was my favorite wine of the tasting. Very well balanced, great depth of flavor, and very elegant. This is where the Pinot Bianco may have dominated with hints of orange blossoms and a touch of yeast.

1997 DOC Sold out of 750 but a there is a 3L at $1,650 This wine was beginning to show a little age, but still drinking very well,with hints of herbs, honey rosemary and nice fruit.

Even though the Terre Alte may differ slightly vintage to vintage it still can be recognized as Terre Alte by its depth of flavor complexity and elegance.

 

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Filed under Andrea Felluga, Italian White Wine, Livio Felluga, Terre Alte