Posts tagged ‘friuli’

Premio Collio

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The author pictured with the other four recipients of the 2013 Premio Collio

I’ve been a fortunate individual to have traveled to Italy so often and to have tasted so many great wines and more importantly, meet so many gracious, warm people. Each one of my 59 trips has been special, but perhaps none as memorable as the most recent to Collio, where I received the Premio Collio.

This award is given out each year by the Collio Consorzio to a few select journalists and wine professionals who have done the most to promote the wines of this beautiful district in the region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Collio is situated in the southeastern portion of Friuli, in the province of Gorizia and shares part of its border with Slovenia. This area is blessed with rolling hills (the word collio means “hill” in Italian) and is a marvelous climate for grape growing, as there are breezes from the nearby Adriatic Sea as well as winds from the Julian Alps that help moderate temperatures, ensuring a slow, even ripening that results in wines with excellent natural acidity, pronounced aromatics and ideal structure. The cool climate here is ideal for vibrant white wines, although there are also some excellent red wines from Collio as well.

I was given the award for the section on the wines of Collio in my recently published book Beyond Barolo and Brunello: Italy’s Most Distinctive Wines. I wrote about selected wines from more than 20 producers in Collio; these included famed estates such as Marco Felluga, Schiopetto and Radikon. Individual wines included some very famous offerings such as the Edi Keber Collio (Bianco, though he chooses not to label it that way) and Villa Russiz Sauvignon “De la Tour” along with underrated bottlings such as the Gradis’ciutta “Bratinis” and the Primosic “Klin.”

I decided that I would give my acceptance speech in Italian, as I thought that was the proper thing to do. After more than fifty trips to Italy, I have a good foundation in Italian, though I am certainly not fluent in the language. I’m sure if I lived there for an extended period of time, that would be different, but for now, I can understand and speak Italian, relatively well.

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Giving my acceptance speech in Italian for the Premio Collio. Tania Princic, who helped me with the translation,  is to my right.

I speak often in seminars to the trade and public about Italian wines, but this night was very different, as I would be speaking to 125 locals in the wine business, so needless to say, I was a bit nervous. Prior speaking helped me overcome my nerves to a large degree, but it will still a unique experience that I hadn’t done before. Thankfully, Tania Princic, who works with the public relations group for Collio helped me to translate my speech into Italian just a short while before the event.

Now combine that with the fact that I had to wait more than an hour and a half and you can imagine that I was getting a little more nervous by the moment. But I made it through without too many mistakes (I did mess up a word or two) and the audience gave me a warm reception. I’m sure they appreciated my gesture of speaking in Italian and I’m glad I did as well, as it will help me prepare for the next time I need to give another speech in Italy.

I thought I’d close with the last paragraph of my speech, first in Italian and then translated into English.

“Non ho ancora visitato il Collio quanto mi sarebbe piaciuto, ma grazie alla ospitalita e la qualita dei vostri vini, vi guarantisco che ritorno molto presto.”

“I have not visited Collio as often as I would have liked, but thanks to your hospitality as well as the quality of your wines, I guarantee I will return very soon.”

Thank you very much to the producers of Collio for giving me this award. I am honored and I will certainly not only visit again soon, but will also continue to promote these wonderful wines any way I can! A special thank you also to Alessandra Gruppi and Veronica Brumat for their help organizing my trip.

June 24, 2013 at 9:13 am 2 comments

Best Values of the Year – Italian Whites

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.

December 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm 5 comments

Adriatic Pleasures

Every industry needs new ideas – this is true no matter how large or small a business we are talking about. The wine industry welcomes new wines from emerging markets all the time, yet many of these wines are their country’s vintners’ take on recognized varieties seen around the world.

I recently tasted three wines from a project that is not only new, but one that is creative and very welcome in the wine world. The wines are three whites produced by Joseph Bastianich, who worked with several growers and producers in Istria, Slovenia and Friuli to craft these delightful aromatic wines. As the represented wine regions are all near the Adriatic Sea, Bastianich has given this project the name of Adriatico.

My tasting notes are below, but a few general notes on the three wines. They represent this area very well, each focusing on a different variety: Malvasia (from Istria), Ribolla (from Slovenia) and Friulano (from the Colli Orientali del Friuli zone of Friuli). They are from the excellent 2009 vintage and feature bright, tasty fruit and lively acidity, are beautiful food wines and are delicious. Best of all, each wine retails for $15! There are some gorgeous wines in these areas that retail for two to three times that and as some of those wines have received tremendous critical acclaim, it’s great that Bastianich and his friends in these areas have combined to give consumers such lovely wine values, which can only help focus more attention on these wine zones.

Here are brief notes on the Adriatico wines:


2009 MALVASIA (Istria)

Winemakers: Matosevic, Degrassi, Kozlovic

Bright yellow with a light effervescence. Yellow peach, pear and honey aromas – just lovely. Medium-bodied with good concentration. Lively acidity, good persistence in the finish and subtle notes of yellow spice. Very refined and delicate – enjoy over the next 1-2 years. Fine for lighter Oriental cuisine.

2009 RIBOLLA (Brda, Slovenia)

Estate bottled by Marian Cimcic, Ceglo, Slovenia

This variety is often identified as Ribolla Gialla; Bastianich is using the variety name as it is most often known in Slovenia. Straw-light yellow with lovely aromatics of spiced pear, jasmine and cinnamon. Medium-full with very good concentration. Rich entry on the palate and a lengthy, beautifully structured finish with vibrant acidity and notes of ginger and white spice. Gorgeous wine- enjoy over the next 2-3 years. (35-40 year old vines- stainless steel fermentation and aging).

2009 FRIULANO (Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC)

Ripe Anjou pear, cinnamon and mango aromas – just lovely. Medium-full with very good depth of fruit, very well defined texture, vibrant acidity and very good persistence in the finish along with a distinct streak of minerality. Perfect winemaking, excellent complexity and an outstanding value for $15. This wine is all about varietal purity, balance, complexity and best of all, pleasure! Enjoy this over the next 2-3 years. This is the richest wine of the three and offers the greatest complexity. This can stand up to most rich seafood and it would also work well with vegetable risotto or lighter poultry dishes.

As I wrote at the beginning of this post, every industry needs new ideas. The Adriatico wines at a $15 retail tag are especially welcome in this economy, but this is a concept that goes well beyond value. It’s also a project that sheds some light on a wonderful area of the wine world that receives much too little attention from the major wine publications. Congratulations to Joseph Bastianich and his team for their outstanding work on this initiative, from the beautiful label design and packaging to the remarkable quality of the wines!

December 6, 2010 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

V for Vitovska – V for Vodopivec

The beautiful orange hues of Vodopivec Vitovska “Anfora” (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Face it, it’s a lot of fun going on the remarkable journey that is the world of indigenous Italian varieties. You get to try so many wines made from grapes you find nowhere else (sometimes not even in any other regions in Italy), meaning you learn so much and experience so many new flavors in wine. If that isn’t the definition of fulfilling pleasure, I don’t know what is.

One of the most distinctive varieties I’ve embraced over the past year has been Vitovska. If you’ve never heard of it, well, don’t be surprised, as this white grape is only found (to the best of my knowledge) in the relatively small Carso district in southeastern Friuli. This is the small peninsula that curves around the Adriatic Sea and borders with Slovenia.

Only 122 acres of Vitovska currently exist in Carso; the best-known producers to work with this variety are Edi Kante and Paolo Vodopivec. The latter vintner produces two versions of this wine: one aged in large oak barrels (referred to as classica) and one aged in anforae, clay pots once used by winemakers centuries ago. Friulian winemaker Josko Gravner made this vessel important again when he decided to age his white wines in them and Vodopivec, an admirer of Gravner’s traditional winemaking ways, has followed suit.

Vodopivec (pronounced vo-do-pee-vetz), works solely with Vitovska, so he has been able to do a great amount of research with this variety; he believes high density planting is what is needed (his planting regime is at 10,000 vines per hectare, an extremely high amount) and as he believes the variety displays its finest aromatics and qualities when aged in anfora, he has settled upon this for the primary percentage of his production. His vineyards are organically farmed and he uses no chemicals. While this makes his work more difficult, Vodopivec believes this is the proper way to produce the most distinctive version of Vitovska.

The Vodopivec Vitovska Anfora is what is referred to today as an “orange wine”, as it has a deep orange, light amber hue that comes partly from the skins (Vodopivec leaves the grapes in contact with the skins for six months) as well as from the anforae. As there are no wood notes, the variety’s aromatics shine through, usually with notes of Anjou pear, mango and cooked orange. There is good, but generally not extremely high acidity, although that depends on the vintage, as Vodopivec mentions. “In my wines, the acidity is normally not too high, but if it is expressed, there is a pronounced freshness.” The vintner also notes the pronounced minerality as well as notes of honey and almond in the finish.

Vodpoivec first made Vitovska from the 1997 vintage, fermenting and aging it in large oak casks; beginning with the 2005 vintage, he decided to also age some of the wine in anforae and from now on, most of the production will be from anforae. Not only does he love the complexities of the wine as aged in these vessels, he also believes the wine’s structure is improved in this manner.

I recently tasted the current 2006 vintage and was quite impressed at how much better this wine is than the excellent 2005 version. Whether that has to do with the particulars of that year or the fact that Vodopivec now has a better handle on things is up for argument, but the fact is that the 2006 Anfora version (noted by a small orange strip on the bottom of the front label) is an exceptional wine. The aromas are of apricot, baked pear and a note of canteloupe, while the wine glides across the palate; there is a very lengthy finish with lively acidity and excellent persistence. This beautiful looking deep orange wine has impressive texture; as rich and as deeply concentrated this wine is, it is also a wine of great finesse. The balance of this wine is impeccable, as everything is in harmony. What a joy to drink!

While this bottling is quite tempting now, it will greatly improve with time; I expect this wine to be at its finest in another 10-12 years. As only about 1000 cases were made (this is the average production for Vodopivec), the $75 retail price is an honest one. The wine is imported nationally by Domaine Select Wine Estates of New York City.

This is not a wine that anyone would drink every day (even if you could purchase enough), but it is a stunning wine that reminds us of the individualities of Italy’s indigenous varieties as well as the vintners that work with these grapes. Here’s to Paolo Vodopivec and his endeavors with the Vistovska variety!

September 28, 2010 at 11:06 am 2 comments

Doing it Their Own Way

Fiano Vineyard of Mastroberardino, Santo Stefano del Sole (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Looking back on the first six months of the year, I am reminded of the wonderful Italian wines I’ve tasted in 2010. Perusing the lists of these bottlings, I’m once again reminded of the amazing variety of Italian wines – be they white, red, sparking, rosé or sweet. These wines are from the breadth and width of the country, from Piemonte to Sicily and they run the gamut of price ranges. Most of them, of course, are from indigenous varieties, which combined with their excellence, also give them a singularity.

This is nothing new, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves of the identity of Italian wines as well the the quality. I’ve made 4 trips to Italy this year and a total of 45 trips in all (maybe I should just move there?), so I’ve been able to gain remarkable insight into the Italian wine industry. At its best and most honest, it’s about making wines that represent one’s land and one’s heritage. Yes, some Italian wines of today are international in style, but most of the finest wines of today are based upon terroir and communicate a sense of place. Personal preference is one thing, but there’s no disputing heart, passion and honesty.

Montalcino (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

I’ve just published the Summer issue of my Guide to Italian Wines and it’s evidence to what I mean about Italian wines. In this 46-page issue, I have conentrated on several wine types and regions including:

  • 2009 Whites from Friuli
  • 2009 Whites from Campania (an excellent vintage in both regions- these wines have fine backbone along with impressive concentration)
  • 2005 Brunello di Montalcino – an overlooked vintage, especially after 2004, but one that offers elegance and very good typicity.
  • The beautiful sparkling wines of Franciacorta – especially those from Bellavista – what a remarkable lineup of wines!
  • The sumptuous 2007 reds from Bolgheri – these are not produced from indigenous varieties, but are often gorgeous wines; 2007 represents some of the finest reds from Bolgheri to date.

These are the highlights of this issue. I’ve been writing my Guide to Italian Wines for eight years now and this was one of the most notable collection of wines I’ve reviewed during that time.

The Guide is available on a subscription basis of $30 per year (four issues), but if you would like to purchase this Summer issue only, the price is a mere $10. I don’t think you’ll spend your $10 more wisely when it comes to learning about Italian wines.

To find out how to purchase, email me at thomas2022@comcast.net

July 13, 2010 at 11:10 am Leave a comment

The Decade’s Best Producers – Part Two

 

 

Planeta Moscato di Noto (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

Here is part two of my list of the Best Italian producers of the first decade of the 21st century:

SICILIA

DUCA DI SALAPARUTA

The days when this winery was best known for Corvo white and red are long over. Today, this is one of Italy’s top producers, especially for its glorious red, “Duca Enrico”, which was the first great bottling of Nero d’Avola. The “Triskele” bottling, which is primarily Nero d’Avola with a small percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, is another excellent wine. Congratulations to winemaker Carlo Casavecchia for his excellent work!

COS

Partners Giambatttista Cilia and Giusto Occhipinti continue to produce beautifully styled wines from indigenous varieties at their winery near Vittoria. Their bottlings of Cerasuolo di Vittoria are so elegant and finesseful, while their offerings of Nero d’Avola and Frappato are so varietally pure. Then there’s the aging process in amphorae – why be a slave to modernity when you can make wines this good in the centuries-old way of tradition?

Giusto Occhippinti, COS (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

 

BENANTI

This is one of the finest producers from the exciting Etna district; this producer is adept with both whites and reds. The top white called “Pietramarina” is made from the Carricante variety – the word Carricante means “consistent”, an apt descriptor for this producer. Several noteworthy reds here as well, especially the “Rovitello” and “Serra della Contessa” Etna Rossos. Never anything less than excellence from Giuseppe Benanti and his sons!

PLANETA

Arguably Sicily’s best-known producer – also one of the best, period. While famous for a lush, tropical-tinged Chardonnay, for me their best white is the non-oak aged Fiano called Cometa, an exceptional wine. I also love the beautifully structured “Santa Cecilia” Nero d’Avola, produced from grapes grown near Noto. The Syrah and the eleganty styled Moscato di Noto dessert wine are also highly recommended. Wonderful work from the Planeta family – they do as much as anyone to spread the good word about the wines of Sicily.

 

PUGLIA

TORMARESCA

This is the Antinori project in Puglia and one of their best. I love the fact that they are offering not only high-ticket wines, but value bottlings as well; the Neprica, a blended red that sells for about $12 is very good. At the other end, the Bocca di Lupo, a 100% Aglianico, is a first-rate rendition of this variety, bursting with fruit and combining all the components in harmony.

ALBERTO LONGO

A vastly underrated estate that concntrates not on making the biggest wines, but the most honest. A very good Nero di Troia called “Le Cruste” an even better Falanghina (“Le Fossette”) that is a revelation for white wines from Puglia and best of all, a lovely version of the local DOC red, Cacc’e Mmitte di Lucera, a charming blend of Nero di Troia, Montepulciano and Bombino Bianco. Longo almost singlehandedly kept this DOC from extinction – bravo!

CASTEL DI SALVE

From the far southern reaches of the region, rich, ripe and modern wines, but beautifully balanced, zesty and for the most part, handled without too much oak. My favorites are the “Priante”, a Negroamaro, Montepulciano blend (aged in used French and American oak) and the “Lama del Tenente”, a Primitivo/Montepulciano blend. Then there is a remarkable Aleatico Passito, one of the finest of its kind.

 

FRIULI

LIVIO FELLUGA

A long-time standout producer in this region; excellent white and reds. The Pinot Grigio is famous; the Friulano and Sauvignon should be – each is subtle with exceptional balance. The “Terre Alte” is one of Italy’s finest and most ageworthy whites. The “Sosso” is a beautifully crafted blend of Refosco, Merlot and Pignolo and is one of this region’s most consistent reds. Finally, the Picolit is a rare and exceptional dessert white.

MARCO FELLUGA/RUSSIZ SUPERIORE

I love the elegance and flavor of these wines and I also love the price, as most are quite reasonable. Best evidence of that is the “Molamatta”, a Pinot Bianco, Friulano, Ribolla Gialla blend that offers one of the best quality/price relationships for a Friulian white. The Russiz Superiore Sauvignon is assertive, flavorful and quite memorable.

BASTIANICH

This producer gets the award as much for the quality of its wines as for its efforts to popularize the lovely whites from this region. Joseph Bastianich, one of America’s most famous restaurateurs, is becoming as successful in the wine world as he is with Italian food. The regular Friulano is simply delicious, while the blended white “Vespa” (Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit) is a stunning white that also ages well (try this wine at 5-7 years after the vintage – if you can find a bottle). The “Vespa” Rosso (Merlot, Refosco and Cabernet Sauvignon) is another fine bottling.

LE VIGNE DI ZAMO

An exceptional estate that consistently produces some of Friuli’s best whites and reds. My favorites include the “Cinquant’anni” Friulano, the “Ronco delle Acacie” blended white (Chardonnay, Friulano and Pinot Bianco) and the Schiopettino, a spicy specialty red of this region. Hard to go wrong with this producer!

 

Next post – Part Three of the decade’s Best Italian Wine Producers

January 11, 2010 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment


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