Posts tagged ‘collio’
Collio Vineyards of Livon looking towards Slovenia (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
During my recent visit to the Collio district of Friuli Venezia Giulia, I was able to taste several recently released white wines from the 2012 vintage. 2012 was a warm vintage, but unlike 2011, which was also quite hot, growers received a break with rain in late summer, which allowed longer ripening on the vine, giving the wines better acidity and structure. The 2011 Collio whites are very nice, but different, as they are very rich on the palate, while the 2012s are a bit more delicate, but have better balance overall and the potential to drink well for a few additional years.
Of course, Collio is a marvelous growing district, especially for white grapes, as there are temperate influences with both breezes from the nearby Adriatic Sea and well as winds from the Julian Alps, situated not too far away. Combine that with beautifully sited vineyards (Collio means “hill” in Italian) and you have a perfect home for distinctive white wines. The best examples here are what I like to call vibrant, as they excite your palate; how nice to find white wines that aren’t simple or on the other hand, burdensome. Be it monovarietal, such as Friulano, Sauvignon or Ribolla Gialla or several others or a wonderfully crafted blend of several varieties, the white wines from Collio are among the finest and most distinctive in the world.
Here are brief notes on some of my favorite 2012 Collio whites to date:
Villa Russiz Pinot Grigio – Yes, Pinot Grigio has become a commodity and unfortunately, there are too many insipid versions from Italy. But when it is made from grapes in a cool climate from hillside vineyards, the results are often wonderful. Villa Russiz has been producing one of Italy’s finest examples for some time now; this 2012 has a slight copper color (the color of the grape is actually a mix of copper, gray and gold) with fragrant aromas of Bosc pear, apple peel and magnolia. Medium-full, this is refreshing with very good acidity and a long finish. Simply put, it is delicious and beautifully made!
Villa Russiz Malvasia – Malvasia (or Malvasia Istriana, as it is sometimes known in Friuli) is a beautiful variety with amazing aromatics and striking acidity. I love it and I hope that more producers will work with this variety and export it to the United States and other countries, so more consumers can experience the exotic pleasures of this wine. The 2012 Malvasia from Villa Russiz is excellent with gorgeous perfumes of papaya and hyacinth (how’s that for unique fragrances?), lovely acidity and impressive persistence. This is one of the best examples of Malvasia I’ve had, as this has a bit more depth of fruit than many versions that are “pretty,” yet lack concentration. Perfectly balanced, this has marvelous texture and could work with any number of foods, from Thai and Oriental cuisine to roast chicken with lemon and tarragon. Enjoy this now or over the next 2-3 years. Another beautiful examples of the strength and wide array of Collio whites!
Livon “Solarco” – This is a lovely blend of Ribolla Gialla and Friulano that Livon has perfected. Offering beautiful aromas of green apple, spearmint and lilacs, this is medium-bodied with very good acidity and balance. Refreshing and quite complex, this is a lovely wine at lunch with lighter seafood or pastas.
Livon “Soluna” – This is a Malvasia from Livon that displays excellent varietal character, especially with its lovely floral aromatics, with notes of quince and Anjou pear along with a distinctive notes of cinnamon. Medium-full, this has very good acidity and persistence and is simply delicious! Enjoy this over the next 2-3 years with Oriental cuisine.
Muzic Malvasia – Muzic is a small, but notable producer in Collio; this Malvasia is an excellent example of the quality at this estate. Aromas of yellow peaches, lemon rind and acacia flowers, this is a lovely wine with lively acidity and ideal ripeness.
Humar Friulano – Friulano, formerly known as Tocai Friulano, is a signature grape of Collio. This is a version that offers lovely aromas of Anjou pear and lilacs with impressive weight on the palate, very good acidity and impressive persistence. This can accompany many white meats as well as risotto or many vegetable dishes.
Russiz Superiore Pinot Grigio - There’s no great mystery to this wine; it’s just a well made PInot Grigio with rich concentration, ideal acidity and notes of white spice in the finish that give this wine added complexity. What a lovely wine for just sitting down and enjoying with good friends at an outdoor enoteca or garden, much as I did with Marco Felluga, proprietor of this estate, who is an energetic 86 years young. Here’s to many more great wines, Marco!
Livio Felluga Sauvignon – The Livio Felluga estate (Livio is the older brother of Marco; he is 99 years of age) produces wines from both Collio and the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC zones. This 2012 Sauvignon is typical of the rich fruit and lively acidity one sees from this variety in Collio. Offering aromas of spearmint and white flowers along with just a hint of fresh hay, this is medium-full with lovely texture, good acidity and notable persistence. Beautifully balanced, this is a perfect partner with most shellfish; enjoy over the next 3-5 years.
Carlo Schiopetto (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
The hillsides of the Collio district (the word Collio means “hill”), are the home of some of the most vibrant white wines in the world. Here, varieties such as Friulano, Sauvignon (Blanc), Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Bianco and Ribolla Gialla are farmed to small yields, resulting in deeply concentrated wines that define the soul of this lovely territory in far northeastern Italy. There are certainly several producers from Collio that are among the finest in all of Italy; given their long track record of success as well as their contribution of local wine tradition, Schiopetto is a logical place to start when listing the great Collio wine estates.
When Mario Schiopetto established his Collio estate in 1965, white wines from this area – and from Italy in general – were rather simple products at best and at worse, dull, slightly oxidized offerings that faded away in just a few years. Schipoetto wanted to produce more complex, more vibrant whites, so traveled first to Germany and France to learn how vintners there made their white wines. Combining these practices, he utilized new technology in his cellars, being among the very first in Italy to use temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to preserve varietal aromatics as well as freshness and color.
Mario passed away in 2003, leaving his three children – twin brothers Carlo and Giorgio and sister Maria Angela – to continue his work. They have carried on brilliantly, as the Schiopetto white wines (there are also two reds produced) are wines of superb complexity, richness on the palate, brilliant varietal purity and notable structure. These are wines that drink beautifully upon release, but improve with 3-7 years in the bottle, depending on the variety as well as the particular vintage.
I recently tasted four of the Schiopetto 2010 whites and found that each wine offered complexity and tremendous style. The Pinot Bianco has lovely quince and apple aromas along with distinct spice; there is very good acidity and persistence and I’d expect this wine to drink well for another 3-7 years. The Blanc de Rosis, a blend of Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Malvasia and Pinot Grigio has inviting Anjou pear and tea leaf aromas, excellent persistence and a light nuttiness in the finish. This is an expressive, complex wine that should peak in another 5-7 years.
My two favorites Schiopetto whites are the Sauvignon and the Friulano. Sauvignon from Friuli is at its most interesting when it is a vigorous, almost assertive wine and in that respect, the 2010 Schiopetto succeeds marvelously. Brilliant light yellow with aromas of spearmint and Anjou pear, this is medium-full on the palate with wonderful texture and bright fruit. This receives no oak maturation, but is given 8 months of lees aging before bottling. There is vibrant acidity and excellent persistence. This is an excellent Sauvignon which will drink beautifully for the next 5-7 years.
My favorite of the Schiopetto whites from 2010 (and often my favorite every year, as it is a toss up between this and the Sauvignon) is the Friulano. Friulano is somewhat of a chameleon grape in this region, as local terroir is a key characteristic of this variety; I have tasted examples that are more fruit-driven, while others tend to feature more of a minerality. This has beautiful aromas of golden apple, Anjou pear, quince and chamomile; there is excellent persistence and vibrant acidity along with outstanding complexity. This is an outstanding wine and among the two or three very best examples of Friulano produced each year, a statement I make without any doubt and one that confirms the brilliance of the wines of this great winemaking family in Collio.
The wines of Schiopetto are imported in the US by Vintus, Pleasantville, NY.
It’s early of course, but it appears that 2009 may be judged a great year for Italian wines throughout the country. I’ve written earlier posts about the white wines and now that I’ve tasted a few dozen reds from this vintage, I’m beginning to think that you really can’t go wrong with just about any 2009 Italian wine type.
The Italian whites from 2009 are first-rate, offering the depth of fruit of the 2007s with the structure and acidity of the 2008s. I’ve tasted several dozen of these wines, predominantly from the regions of Friuli and Campania and many of the top examples show the potential to drink well for 3-5 years. Among the top 2009 whites I’ve tasted so far are the following:
- Edi Keber Biano (Collio)
- Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon (Collio)
- Livio Felluga Sauvignon (Colli Orientali)
- Isidoro Polencic Ribolla Gialla (Collio)
- La Tunella “Biancosesto” (Colli Orientali)
- Zuani “Vigne” (Collio)
- Feudi di San Gregorio “Cutizzi”
- Mastroberardino Greco di Tufo “Nova Serra”
- Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino
- San Paolo Greco di Tufo “Montefusco”
- Marisa Cuomo “Fiorduva”
- Coffele Soave Classico “Ca’Visco”
- Guado al Tasso Vermentino (Bolgheri)
- Lunae Bosoni Vermentino Lunae “Etichetta Nera” (Liguria)
- Malvira Roero Arneis “Trinita”(Piemonte)
- Planeta Fiano “Cometa” (Sicilia)
Of course, many of the top whites, especially the blended whites and selezioni from Friuli, Campania and Alto Adige are yet to be released, so the list should dramatically expand.
As for the reds, a few 2009s have been released, ranging from Dolcetto and Barbera in Piemonte to Valpolicella from Veneto and Chiantis of all types and Morellino di Scansano in Toscana. I love the purity of fruit, concentration and acidity of these wines. It was a warm year, especially in Piemonte, so there is an explosion of fruit in these wines. Yet as there were several cool spells during the growing season, there is beautifully defined acidity, as the grapes experienced a long hang time. Among my favorites so far are these:
- Cascina Roccalini Dolcetto d’Alba
- Cascina Roccalini Barbera d’Alba (arriving in the US market in a few months)
- Pio Cesare Dolcetto d’Alba
- Fontanabianca Langhe Nebbiolo
- Motta Morellino di Scansano
Of course, most Italian reds from 2009 have not been released and in some instances, such as Barbaresco, Barolo, Amarone, Taurasi and Brunello di Montalcino, we will not see them in the market for at least another 1-5 years. But based on what I’ve tasted so far, Italian wine lovers should be in for several years of finds from the 2009 vintage – white and red.
As we head into the final few weeks of 2010, it’s time to look back on some of the more memorable wines of the year. I’ll list some of my top choices over the next few weeks, but for now, I’m focusing on the best values. This post is about Italian white wines, while the next will be on the reds:
2009 MASTROBERARDINO LACRYMA CHRISTI DEL VESUVIO BIANCO
There is so much excitement about the white wines of Campania these days, given the wonderful bottlings of Greco di Tufo, Fiano di Avellino and Falanghina that are being produced in regular numbers. But don’t forget about the humble Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, a popular wine served in many trattorie in Napoli. Produced entirely from the Coda di Volpe grape, this has gorgeous perfumes of lilacs, quince and Bosc pear, offers good depth of fruit and glides across the palate. Aged only in stainless steel, this would be an ideal partner for shrimp, clams or just about any shellfish – I love it with seafood pasta as well. This 2009 bottling (a wonderful vintage) from this iconic Campanian producer is a standout for its suggested $18-$20 price tag.
2009 BASTIANICH “ADRIATICO” FRIULANO
I just posted on the Adriatico project from Joseph Bastianich, a selection of three whites from areas near the Adriatic Sea. Each of the wines is notable, but it is the 2009 Friulano (DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli) that is the most complete and complex. This is a delicious white with notes of Anjou pear, mango and cinnamon that has remarkable richness and complexity for $15. This is an outstanding value!
2009 GRADIS’CIUTTA BRATINIS (DOC Collio Bianco)
I featured this wine in a post last month and raved about the quality as well as the price tag. Robert Princic manages this estate in San Floriano del Collio, which has rapidly emerged as one of Friuli’s finest. This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ribolla Gialla offers gorgeous aromatics, impressive concentration, vibrant acidity and a distinct streak of minerality and should drink well for another 2-3 years (perhaps longer). Not bad for a wine that retails for $20!
2009 COFFELE SOAVE CLASSICO “CA’ VISCO”
This family estate has released one of its finest bottlings in recent years with the 2009 Ca’ Visco. Produced from 80% Garganega and 20% Trebbiano di Soave, the grapes are sourced from the family hillside estate in Castelcerino in the heart of the Classico zone. Medium-bodied with excellent complexity and light minerality, this is ideal with vegetable or seafood risotto or lighter white meats. ($17)
2009 FRATELLI GIACOSA ROERO ARNEIS
I featured this wine in a post on my other blog back in August. This is a typically fresh, no-oak version of Arneis with textbook pine and pear aromas and a rich, refreshing finish. Perfect with risotto or lighter poultry dishes or just by itself over the next 1-2 years. Arneis has become very popular over the past decade, driving prices up slightly, so the $17 price tag here is quite welcome.
Robert Princic, Gradis’ciutta (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
At the recent Simply Italian event in Chicago a few weeks ago, several dozen vintners from Friuli were in attendance, pouring their newest releases. Many of the whites are from the splendid 2009 vintage, which may be ultimately judged as outstanding, given the excellent depth of fruit, finely tuned acidity and ideal structure these wines display. Among the most impressive were the bottlings of Collio Bianco from Edi Keber, the Sturm Sauvignon and the Zuani “Vigne”, a wonderful assemblage of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Friulano aged solely in stainless steel. (Another excellent white sampled at the event was the 2007 Ribolla Riserva from Primosic, loaded with apple and spice notes and offering beautiful complexity.)
But for me the finest 2009 Friulian white at this tasting was the “Bratinis” from Gradis’ciutta. This Collio estate, owned by Robert Princic, has quietly become one of Friuli’s finest wineries over the past few years, as Princic’s whites have excellent varietal character, notable balance and excellent complexity. Princic sampled his 2009 Pinot Grigio as well as Ribolla Gialla, both fresh, fragrant and complete.
But with the Bratinis, the Gradis’ciutta wines really take a quantum leap. This blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Ribolla Gialla offers gorgeous aromas of white peach, green apples, chamomile and a hint of ginger; there is excellent concentration and complexity and the wine has a very long finish with vibrant acidity and a dynamic streak of minerality. This is wine that grabs your attention from the initial encounter with its perfumes to the complexity of its finish and its overall balance. It is a rich wine, but it is never over the top. Best of all, this wine was fermented and aged solely in stainless steel, which preserves its glorious aromatics and varietal identity. I tasted the 2008 with Princic at VinItaly in Verona this past April and rated it as excellent; I rate the 2009 version as outstanding. It has become in just a few years of production, one of Friuli’s most compelling blended whites.
One final note: The 2009 Gradis’ciutta Bratinis retails for approximately $20, which makes this wine a Great Value. I know only of one importer at current, Wine Emporium in Brooklyn. While they cannot sell to the public, you can go to their website where there is contact information; they can set you in the right direction to find this wine.
Located in the far northeastern reaches of Italy, Friuli is one of the country’s most distinctive wine regions. Though some intriguing reds and a few remarkable dessert wines are made here, it is the singular white wines that give this region its strongest viticultural identity.
There are nine different DOC districts in Friuli; the most famous are two that border with Slovenia: Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. These zones are dominated by hillside plantings that limit yields; combine that with cool breezes from the nearby Adriatic Sea and the Giulian Alps and you have a recipe for wines of beautiful structure thanks to the long, cool growing seasons.
White wines are the stars of these zones, produced from a mixture of indigenous varieties such as Friulano and Ribolla Gialla and others such as Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco and Pinot Grigio. These white wines – most of them without any oak aging – represent the soul of the vintners in these two zones. Robert Princic, owner of the Gradis’ciutta estate in Collio, produces a brilliant Sauvignon typical of this area with its bright pear and spearmint fruit, light herbal notes, vibrant acidity and impressive structure. For Princic, Sauvignon from Collio, “is always elegant, at times discreet. at times intense, never coarse.” While he understands that there are many styles of Sauvignon from around the world, he finds that some of these wines are a bit aggressive, unlike the bottlings from Collio. “One should discover the pleasure that is the strength of Sauvignon from Collio.”
Here is a brief list of some of the finest producers of Sauvignon in the Collio and Colli Orientali districts:
- Russiz Superiore
- Villa Russiz
- Venica & Venica
- Ronchi di Manzano
The local variety Friulano is another that deeply reflects the character of this region and its’ winemakers. Fermented dry and usually aged only in stainless steel (a few producers do experiment with older oak barrels), Friulano offers a variety of aromas, depending on the local terroir; in fact, I have yet to find a variety that displays as wide an aromatic profile as this. One example will feature pear and chamomile aromas while another offers notes of mandarin orange, kiwi and grapefruit. When you have as many pleasing aromatics as you do with Friulano, why cover it up with oak?
One other advantage Friulano has is its ability to age. Even the basic examples are often fine three years after the harvest with most drinking well from five to seven years from the vintage date with a few lasting as long as 10-15 years. At the I Clivi estate, owner Ferdinando Zanusso is now selling his 1999 and 1996 bottlings of Friulano; the wines have beautiful color and excellent freshness; these two wines, if properly stored, should drink well for another 5-7 years.
Here is a brief list of some of the best producers of Friulano from the Collio and Colli Orientali districts:
- I Clivi
- Livio Felluga
- Russiz Superiore
- Villa Russiz
- La Castellada
- Le Vigne di Zamo
- Isidoro Polencic
Many vintners in these two zones also produce a high-end white – sometimes referred to as a Super Friulian – blended from several varieties. Arguably the most famous is Terre Alte from Livio Felluga, a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon. Quite rich on the palate with aromatics of chamomile, pear, grapfruit and hawthorn, this is one of Italy’s finest wines and one of its longest-lived whites; bottlings from the late 1980s and most of the 1990s are drinking beautifully now.
Other producers also make a similar white. Livon is well known for its Braide Alte bottling, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Picolit and Moscato Giallo, the last two varieties used for increasing the aromatic profile. This wine spends more time in oak than the Felluga Terre Alte, so the flavor profiles vary, yet it too enjoys a long life; I tasted the 1996 at VinItaly this past April and was impressed by its power and balance.
Here is a brief list of the most famous blended whites from Collio and Colli Orientali:
- Bastianich “Vespa”
- Livio Felluga “Terre Alte”
- Livon “Braide Alte”
- Russiz Superiore “Col Disore”
- La Tunella “Biancosesto”
- Gradis’ciutta “Bratinis”
- Marco Felluga “Molamatta”
These blended whites – as well as the monovarietal whites – are striking examples of the quality of the whites wines from Friuli in particular and Italy in general. Here’s hoping that these wines are given more widespread visibility so the world can experience the glories of the Collio and Colli Orientali districts!