Posts tagged ‘villa russiz’
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.
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.
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.
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!