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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.