Posts tagged ‘robert princic’
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!
A stunning Franciacorta, some gorgeous 2009 whites and that Vermentino Nero:
Back from another VinItaly and bursting with dozens of beautiful wines I’d like to talk about – and I didn’t even get to taste any wines from Abruzzo, Alto Adige or Sicily. Here are thoughts on a few:
Beautiful 2009 whites
VinItaly has the advantage of being the first major fair of the year where producers sample their newest wines for the press and the public; in the case of the white wines that meant the 2009s for most bottlings. However, this also meant wines that had only been bottled for a week or two, so it’s a bit difficult to reach a final decision on these wines, as they’re not quite all together yet. However, the 2009 whites as a whole showed beautifully, especially from Avellino in Campania and from Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli. Among the finest 2009 white wines I tasted were the Alberto Longo Falanghina “Le Fossette” from Puglia; Monte de Grazia Bianco, a blend of local indigenous grapes from the Amalfi Coast including Peppela, Ginestra and Tenera; the Mastroberardino Fiano di Avellino “Radici”; the I Clivi Verduzzo Friulano, a dry version of this grape that is normally vinified dry (I Clivi is doing wonderful things with several grapes from their vineyards in Collio and Colli Orientali del Friuli – this winery will not be a well-kept secret for long) and the Gradis’ciutta Sauvignon from Collio.
This last estate is managed by Robert Princic, who at 34 years of age has become one of the most important vintners in Collio, a great white wine area. This Sauvignon is a brilliant wine, offering aromas of spearmint, bosc pear and ginger with excellent concentration, a lengthy finish and vibrant acidity. Look for this wine to be at its best in 5-7 years.
Stunning 2008 whites
There are always some exceptional Italian whites that are released a bit later than the normal wines; given the complexity and structure of these wines, they are ideal when they are initially offered some 18 months after the harvest. The finest at this fair included Bastianich “Vespa”, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Picolit from Friuli; the exceptional Grattamacco Vermentino from Bolgheri and the stunning Marisa Cuomo “Fior’duva”. an Amalfi Coast offering made from Ginestra, Ripole and Fenile. This is as lush and as concentrated a version of this wine I have enjoyed and it should once again be in the running for one of the best Italian white wines of the year.
There are just too many wines to try at the fair, so it’s difficult to focus on one category. I didn’t try as many Amarones as I would have liked, but the two best for me were the 2006 Tedeschi “Monte Olmi”, full of ripe cherry fruit and peppery notes and the 2004 “Il Fornetto” from Stefano Accordini. This last wine is a true riserva, produced in only the finest years. This is a robust, full-bodied wine with impeccable balance and is a great Amarone from one of the area’s most dependably consistent producers – one that should be better known.
Yes, you read that right – there is a Vermentino Nero grape that is planted in tiny numbers in Liguria and Tuscany’s western coast. The bottling I tasted is from Cantine Lunae of Liguria, also the home of brillliant examples of Vermentino Bianco.
This is a rosato, as the Vermentino Nero grape does not have the structure to produce a red wine, as the winery’s export manager, Michele Gianazza, explained to me (hope you’re not disappointed, Jeremy). Che un rosato! This has a deep cherry color, aromas of bing cherry, chrysanthemum and mint and finishes very dry. What a pleasure to try this rarity!
A Stunning Dessert Wine from Soave
Ca’Rugate in Soave makes one of the very best examples of Recioto di Soave, the famed DOCG dessert wine of the area. Now comes the 2001 Corte Durlo, an amazing wine, a 100% Garganega made from dried grapes that have been aged in small barrels that have been sealed for seven years. My notes for this wine go on and on; aromas of creme caramel and dried sherry with notes of honey and mandarin orange in the finsh; I think this should drink well for 12-15 years and it could go on for 20 years! This is basically a Vin Santo; however, it is not legal to label the wine this way in Soave, so it is technically a Veneto Bianco Passito. Regardless, this can compare with the finest examples of any dessert wine produced today in Italy.
Matteo Vezzola, Winemaker, Bellavista (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
A Brilliant Franciacorta
If I had to name one wine that was my favorite at this year’s best fair, it was the 2002 Bellavista “Vittorio Moretti”. I tasted through the lineup of Gran Cuvée bottlings from this producer and then was asked if I wanted to taste one more wine. When I was told what it was, I had honestly never heard of it; I’m sure I’m not alone as this is only the sixth time this wine has been made in the winery’s 33 year existence. Named for Bellavista’s owner, the wine is an equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Nero that was partially barrel fermented. The lip of the bottle has two levels, meaning that the normal crown cap used to seal the bottle ater the first fermentation cannot be implicated here; rather a cork is used and the wine is manually disgorged.
The wine itself is full-bodied, with sublime aromas of yeast, biscuit, quince and dried pear. I told winemaker Matteo Vezzola that while I didn’t mean to compare Franciacorta with Champagne, as they are two different products, that this wine reminded me of Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. Matteo smiled and said that my comparison was fine with him!
A brilliant wine from a brilliant producer – bravo Matteo!