Monthly Archives: August 2012


It is very unusual to discover a winery that produces only two wines–both from the same white grapes.  The name of this unique winery is Zuani. Patrizia Felluga, the daughter of the legendary producer, Marco Felluga, is the owner.  I met Patrizia a few years ago when I was working as a sommelier and though I liked her wines, I did not know much about the winery.
A few months ago Patrizia’s children Antonio and Caterina invited me to lunch to taste their new vintages and to tell me about the winery.  They said that they and their mother had looked for many years to find the perfect vineyard site.  Finally in 2001 they found a 30-acre vineyard whose soil and climate along with the grape varieties would produce a wine, as Antonio put it, “similar to a cru.”

Antonio, Caterina and Patrizia

Caterina said that it is named Zuani because of a geographic name found on an ancient map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The estate is set in the hills of Giasbana in the municipality of San Fioriano del Collio – also known as Collio Goriziano.

Antonio told me that the vineyards, all sustainably maintained, are situated on a medium to steep slope with marl and mineral soil.  This mineral rich but poor soil produces well structured age-worthy wines.  Collio’s mild climate and proximity to both the Adriatic Sea and the Alps create a vast difference in the nighttime and day temperatures allowing for a long ripening season.

Friuli is a region that is known for its single variety wines, but at Zuani they created a blend from indigenous Friulano grapes plus international ones, which they feel thrive in this region.  Antonio made it clear that their winery was the first in the region to follow the “cru” concept.  All of the grapes come from a single vineyard, where Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon thrive.

The Wines

Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco  DOC 2011
2009 and 2007 made from Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon Blanc. The percentage of each variety depends on the vintage. Each variety is vinified separately. Cold maceration takes place and fermentation is in stainless steel vats. The wine matures in stainless steel vats until it is ready to be bottled. This is a soft but complex wine with nice fruit, mineral notes and good acidity. It has a long finish and a pleasing aftertaste.  I liked all three vintages. The 2011 needed more but the 2009 and 2007 were drinking very well. $22
Zuani Zuani Collio Bianco Riserva 2010
2009 and 2008 Grapes- same as above. Cold maceration is followed by maturing in small new French oak barrels with the daily stirring of the lees in the beginning and then weekly. The main difference in the two wines is the grapes for the Zuani Zuani are picked later and it is aged in wood. This gives the wine more concentrated flavors, with hints of citrus fruit, a touch of vanilla and a roundness and fullness that results in a very long finish and lingering aftertaste. This is a white wine that can age. At the lunch, the 2009 was showing the best. $30

It is also very rare these days when one can taste a wine and say it must be from a certain region.  Tasting and drinking these wines I knew that they were from Friuli!



Filed under Collio Goriziano, Friuli, Italian White Wine, Zuani

Rivetto: The New and the Old

A wine distributor told me that a friend of his wanted to sell some old wines going back to the 1960’s. He said that the wines were from Piedmont and included Barolo, Barbaresco and Nebbiolo d’Alba. The price was negotiable and I decided to take a look.  What I found was not what I expected.

The wines were stored in the basement of the owner’s business. They had been kept unopened in the original cardboard cartons that were so old they were beginning to fall apart. The wines were from Rivetto, a producer that I know and whose wines I have often enjoyed. There was the 1964 and 1967 Barolo, 1985 Barbaresco, 1970 Nebbiolo and 1985 Nebbiolo d’Alba.

We agreed upon a price and I bought one of each to see if they were still drinkable. I contacted Enrico Rivetto on Facebook and he said the Nebbiolo should still be good but he had not had the Barolo or Barbaresco from these vintages in a long time so he was not sure about these wines. I opened the wines over a period of one week and found them all to be in good condition with some showing signs of age. I went back with a friend and we bought a number of bottles.

Recently I went to a wine tasting event and one of the wineries showing their wines was Rivetto. I knew the two people pouring and told them I had the older vintages but they could not tell me anything about them.  Nevertheless, it was interesting to taste a number of the new releases while keeping in mind the aromas and flavors of the older vintages.  At the event I tasted the following wines:

The Nebbiolo/Nebbiolo d’Alba 2010 now called Langhe Nebbiolo and made from 100% Nebbiolo. The harvest takes place in late September, early October and it is by hand. The must and the skins are in cold contact with each other for 36 hours. Temperature controlled fermentation takes place and maceration is for 7 days. Malolactic is completed in December and the wine is aged in 30 hectoliter oak barrels from Slavonia. Bordeaux bottle

Barbaresco “Cè Vavin” DOCG 2008 100% Nebbiolo The harvest takes place in mid-October by hand. Fermentation is in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Maceration is fro 7/8 days and the malolactic fermentation in wood is completed in December. Fining with egg whites and gel bentonite. The wine is aged in Slavonia casks and French barriques. Bordeaux bottle

Barolo 2008 Commune di Serralunga D’Alba DOCG 100% Nebbiolo. Destemmer crushing and cold fermentation takes place for 2 days. Fermentation in stainless steel  tanks and maceration for 20 days. Indigenous yeast is used. Fining with fresh egg whites and filtration with inert material. Aging is in 31HL oak casks for 32 months and 10 months in bottle before release.

These are my notes on the older Rivetto wines that I purchased:

Nebbiolo d’Alba 1985 Rivetto & Figli I opened a few of these and only had one bottle that was too old. Tasted blind I would have guessed these wines as a Barolo or Barbaresco- the Nebbiolo character was all there.

Nebbiolo 1970 Rivetto  Tenuta Loirano di Rivetto Gian Maria e Sergio F.lli. It is not in a 750-size bottle but a 720 bottle. I have only opened one bottle of this vintage and it was in better condition than most of the 1985’s.

Barbaresco 1985 Rivetto & Figli 750 bottle.  I have opened two bottles of this wine and one was in very good condition while the other-which I think must have been in a flood because the condition of the label-was very poor.

Barolo 1964 DOC Rivetto Ercole& Figli 720 bottle I opened a number of these wines and have had  very mixed results, the ones that were good were very, very good but there were a few that were not ready to drink.

Barolo 1967 DOC Rivetto Ercole & Figli (Vino Classico del Piemonte) 720 ml. All of the wines are in Bordeaux shaped bottles. Some have been very good and others were really showing their age.

Barolo 2004 Riserva DOCG Rivetto has now gone to the Albeisa bottle for all of his Barolo and some of his other wines. 2004 was a very good vintage and I purchased this bottle of Barolo and am looking forward to opening it in a few years.

Remember one does not drink great wine but great bottles of wine.




Filed under Barbaresco, Barbera, Barolo, Italian Red Wine, Italian Wine, Old wines, Piedmont, Rivetto, Rivetto Winery


A recent email from Florence Fabricant of the NYTimes asked what I thought about a restaurant that has a special category on its wine list for Chilled Red Wines.  I would like to expand on my reply, but for a little more background you can read her column here:
“On This Wine List, Cold Reds Get a Cozy Spot”

Here are some further thoughts on the subject.  I have always been of the belief that a cheap, not very good wine should be served very, very cold so as to disguise the unpleasant aromas and flavors.  Chilling red wine makes the tannin in the wine more pronounced creating the unpleasant impression of drinking tea that was steeped too long.

For a restaurant to list a number of chilled red wines on their wine list is to me just a gimmick.  One of the wines they list is Dolcetto. I have been in Piedmont a number of times ,in the restaurants, wineries and homes of the producers where I have been offered Dolcetto to taste or drink never did anyone ever suggest that the wine should be served chilled. It is just not done!

A reader responding to Ms. Fabricant’s article disagreed with me and wrote that Beaujolais should always be chilled below 55 degrees F. He did not make the distinction between Beaujolais Nouveau and Beaujolais Villages. The Villages wines should never be chilled, as they are wines with tannin and can age.  Beaujolais Nouveau is released at the end of November and this is the wine that most people think should be chilled.  Chilling the Beaujolais below 55 degrees will mute those wonderful fruity aromas and flavors that you want from this type of wine. This wine should be drunk as soon as it is released and is at its best up to the early spring.

Here is my bottom line.  When it is a very hot day and a wine feels warm to the touch it should be placed in the refrigerator or in an ice bucket until it feels cool to the touch. The perfect temperature to drink a red wine is between 63 and 68 degrees when the bottle will feel cool.   Since we do not carry thermometers around with us to check the temperature, touching the bottle and feeling that it is cool is the best test.

One exception to my rule — all sparkling red wines should be chilled.



Filed under Chilling Red Wines

A Wine Weekend

Last weekend began on Thursday night with a bottle of Champagne on a Manhattan terrace and ended with a bottle of 1990 Bordeaux in Sag Harbor on Sunday night. And there were some very nice wines in between.
Champagne Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut NV (Epernay)
Made from 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 20% Chardonnay, this was the perfect champagne to serve at a cocktail party: light, elegant, soft and crisp with a floral aroma.
Bandol Rosè 2010
Chateau de Pibarnon made from 50% Mourvèdre and 50% Cinsault. The location of the vineyards is on Telegraph Hill where the terraced vineyards form a sort of amphitheater to protect it from the  Mistral.  The soil has large quantities of blue marl, and limestone, stones and rocks as well as fossil material, which make it unlike any other soil in the appellation.  Traditional goblet (bush vines) training for the vines. After 30%/50% destemming, vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks. The wine is salmon in color with floral and white peach aromas and tastes of white peaches. This is one of the best rose´ wines that I have had in along time.

Brunello di Montalcino “Pian della Vigna”DOCG 1999
Antinori. Made from 100% Sangiovese. The Pian della Vigna estate is located 3.5 miles to the south of the town of Montalcino. The soil is mostly clay and calcareous with many small stones. The grapes are softly pressed and the must has 15 to 21 days of skin contact in 125-hectoliter temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is aged in large oak casks for a period of more ten two years. Complete malolactic fermentation takes place in oak. This is a big complex Brunello with red fruit aromas and flavors with hints of cherry, tobacco and a touch of spice. This wine will age for a number of years.

Barolo “Le Gramolere” DOCG 1993 G. Manzone made from 100% Nebbiolo. I visited the winery in November 2010 and met with the owner and wine maker Giovanni Manzone and his son Mauro. The winery is on the top of a hill called Le Gramolere overlooking the town of Monforte D’Alba. Giovanni said that they harvest the second week of October but in the past it was the first or second week of November. This is a very traditional winery.
Maceration on the skins is for 15 days and the wine is aged in 25HL oak casks for 24 months and bottled 36 months after the harvest. This wine was drinking very nicely with red fruit aromas and flavors, hints of cherry and raspberry and a touch of spice and balsamic in the finish.

Barolo Riserva “Monprivato Ca’D’ Morissio” 1993 Made from 100% Nebbiolo. Giuseppe Mascarello The harvest takes place toward the middle of October but in 1993 it most likely took place in the beginning of November. Estate grown bunches are thinned during the summer. The wine undergoes traditional floating cap fermentation for 20/25 days. The wine is aged in medium size oak barrels for about 38 months. The wine is bottled four years after the vintage. This is a big classic Barolo with good rich red fruit and hints of leather, tobacco and spice. It will age for a number of years.

The label indicates the number of bottles produced according to size. The 750 ml bottle is called an Albeisa* bottle.  The label says Albeisa, Magnum and Double Magnum followed by the number of bottles produced for each.  

*The Albeisa bottle goes back to the beginning of the 18th century. Wine makers in the Alba district proud of their wine wanted a different shaped bottle to distinguish them from other wines in Piedmont. During the Napoleonic invasion the Albeisa was replaced by two typical French bottles — Bordeaux and Burgundy.  Both were more uniform and cheaper to make. In 1973, 16 producers joined together and started using the Albeisa bottle again. The aim of the Albeisa association is to characterize and qualify oenology products of the Langhe and the Roero hills. Only wines with denominations within this area can be bottled in the Albesia bottle.  
Baron de Pichon-Longueville 1988 (Pauillac) made from 82% Cabernet Sauvignon and 12 Merlot. Aged in 80% new barriques and 20% in barriques that are one year old.
This wine was just starting to come around and can age for a few more years.
Baron de Pichon-Longueville 1990 (Pauillac) The1990 is a big wine that is not ready to drink. Both wines were served with grilled lamb and at this point in time the 1988 was the better wine with the lamb. For a wine to drink now I would buy the 1988 and for a wine to age, the 1990.

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Filed under Albeisa bottle, Bordeaux, Brunello, Champagne, French Red, French Wine, Italian Red Wine, Nebbiolo, Piedmont, Rose, Sangiovese