Sunday, 22 September 2013

Estate Italiana - Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia

While not strictly 100% oenology, I have been meaning to document my travels from earlier this year, and this blog seems to be a convenient place to put it. 

This summer I visited NE Italy, Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. I sought advice and suggestions about all these countries including where to go, what to do and who to visit. So to return the favour for the wisdom I received I am sharing my experiences.

Perfect Venetian evening

We started the holiday on the Venice beaches.  Most of the time was spent BBQing and drinking Aperol. However on a bar crawl into Venice, we spent a significant amount of time in Osteria alla ciurma in Rialto.  It has a diverse list of local Venetian wines, supplemented by wines from FVG. Traditionally Venice has been a major consumer of wines from its neighbours and they take pride of place in these local drinking spots. The bar all served plenty of top notch Cicchetti to go with the wines. Highlights were a sparkling Refosco and Salmon wrapped in pancetta and the deep fried in tempura. 

On the cultural front we took a trip out to Padua to see the stunning Giotto frescoes of the Scrovegni Chapel. it was a breath taking sight and worth the trip to visit.

Maurizio (Left) and me
Besides the experiencing the joys of the Adriatic, I decided to also find out more about Prosecco by taking a trip to Conegliano Valdoobbiadene. I visited the small producer Malibran Vini and learnt as much as possible from the winemaker Maurizio Favrel, about these wines, how they are grown and what it takes to make them. This was probably one of the best tastings I had during the holiday, starting with Col Fondo Prosecco (sparkling bottled with lees) then moving to more normal Charmat/Autoclavi styles. Interestingly both their driest and sweetest wine styles need to use the very best base wines to achieve the best balance. Last wine on offer was a Sparkling rose made from Rabaso and Incrocio Manzoni Moscato 13.0.25 which is a grape I knew very little about  but took a particular shine to during my trip in Italy.

Cloudy Col Fondo Prosecco 
Vanio Spumante Rose

From Venice we moved onto the Colli Orientali del Friuli, where we stayed in the vineyards of Aquila Del Torre. I spent some time with the winemaker Michele Ciani touring the wonderfully terraced vineyards tucked up into the Foothills of the Julian mountains.  This is a beautiful spot where the hills have been extensively sculpted into sun-catching terraced bowls, which are both functional as well as striking and highlight the role of people in revealing the terroir of a site.  
South facing Vineyard amphitheatres of Aquila del Torre
Vinous highlights from the winery were the Picolits, a capricious grape that was made in both the traditional sweet style and the rule-breaking dry style that Aquila del Torre call Oasi. A mature Merlot from the family cellars was no slouch either and highlighted NE Italy's long relationship with this international grape.
Picolit grapes shown its distinctive poor set character
Alto Gradimento, food as good as the views
The region of FVG has some wonderful sights, but the one enjoyed most was the amazing mosaic floor of the Basilica of Aquileia. This basilica is now a UNESCO world heritage site due to importance in linking Roman and Christian era's together. While touring the region many people recommend the nearby town of Grado for its beaches, however we found it the most disturbing beach in the world; muddy, tepid and weedy. It it could be best described as like swimming in Miso soup. To redeem our trip to Grado, we ate a modern Italian dinner in the 6th floor Alto Gradimento restaurant in the centre of town had superb views and fresh and lively food. 

Cormons custom built press trays with 3 press cuts
A day spent driving the hills of FVG and Slovenia with my good friend Professor Mario Gregori of the University of Udine lead me to two very different wineries. Firstly was the Cormon’s, a co-operative for more than 200 grower, which was a very slick operation making an extensive portfolio of wine styles, many single varietals as well as distillates. 

The company and winemaker Luigi Soini are innovative in wine making and wine marketing including a long tradition of engaging with famous artists and there is an amazing collection of large oak Botte featuring a diverse range of modern and traditional art pieces. For me the most interesting wine on offer was il Vino della pace (Peace wine). A single vineyard wine comprising over 300 different varieties from all over the world.  From this difficult to manage vineyard, due to natural difference in grapes maturities, flavours, colours, disease pressure etc, they can produce an interesting full-bodied white wine with a intriguing mouth-feel and distinct Muscat aroma twang. 
Saša’s new wines
Following on from this large winery was a trip to the decidedly smaller family affair of Radikon. Here I spent time learning the ins and outs of making mature, long lived skin-contact wines. Saša and Stanko generously shared many of their wines, including current release 1999 Merlot, a lovely mature 1998 Ribolla Gialla and the 2000 Fuori dal tempo Duemila.  However my favourites were Saša’s new style wines which are shorter in skin contact to the normal Radikon wines. To me they were fresher, lighter and showing a more invigorating approach.

After this visit we said arrivederci Italy and moved onto to central Europe where I was to visit more places and wineries.

1 comment:

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