Friuli Grave Rocks The Sparkling Life

 Friuli is one of the most important white wine producing areas in Italy and arguably, the world. Between the Alps to the north and the Adriatic to the south, huge extremes of temperature occur between day and night which heighten the aroma and flavor in their grapes.  Friuli produces delicious, high acid, crisp, cold climate white wines from a variety of grapes (30 different grape varieties are grown), many indigenous. (They produce red wines as well.)

I get excited when the huge wine juggernaut, Simply Italian Great Wines U.S. Tour 2017 organized by IEEM USA comes through Chicago. Other than flying on a trip to Italy, it is a huge slice of Italian wine and culture from all over Italy for one day. This year it was structured into seminars on some of the different regions and DOCs within the regions as well as the big grand tasting. Maybe because it was the first seminar of the day, sparkling for breakfast, or the engaging presentation style by James Beard award winning writer Lyn Farmer or the beautiful wines poured or just my interest in Friuli and love of their wines but I have to say, “The Sparkling Life, Fresh & Fun Wines from Friuli Grave” was my favorite seminar and some of my favorite wines of the day (of a day with an incredible array and diversity of beautiful wines, I did have many favorites).

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FriuliMap (1)Before getting into the sparklers, Lyn oriented us as to the climate, geography and DOCs of Friuli. Pictures are always worth a thousand words and as you can see, the region is in the very northeastern corner of Italy. The Veneto region is to the west, Friuli is included in the huge Prosecco DOC, Austria to the north, Slovenia to the east and to the south is the Adriatic. The region itself is officially called Friuli-Venezia-Giula reflecting all the influences on the area, Italian, German and Slavic. Like Alsace in France, Friuli has been ruled by different countries over the centuries. They have many indigenous grapes and they have their own style of wines.

Lyn took a moment to acknowledge the new Friuli DOC which was recently created to cover the whole region. There are 3 DOCG wines, Ramandolo (Verduzzo grape, white passito), Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit (COF) (made with the Picolit grape, a white passito), Rosazzo (Friulano main grape, white blend). The focus of the tasting was sparkling wines from the largest DOC in terms of production, making over 50% of the wines from the region, the Friuli Grave DOC. 

The climate and geography creates a huge temperature variation between day and night and long growing seasons which are always excellent conditions for creating aromatic intensity in the wines. Friuli Grave got its name from the rocks found in the alluvial soils of the region, similar to but not the same as the Grave region in Bordeaux.

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Photo from Emilio Bulfon site
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Photo from Emilio Bulfon website
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Photo from Emilio Bulfon website

High acid whites are a key necessity for delicious sparklers, so no wonder, that the Consortium of Friuli Grave developed The Sparkling Life campaign to raise awareness of the delicious sparklers being made (most by tank/charmat method). Friuli is the 5th smallest region out of 20. The producers we tasted all take great care in crafting their wines. The prices for these wines in the marketplace are incredible value when you look at their quality price ratio.  Malen Imports is one of the importers of wines from this area in Chicago.

Lyn covered some of the grapes of the region.

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Then we dove into the wines, 5 sparklers and 3 still.

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All the sparklers were crisp with a mineral edge and were soft and delicate.

1. Vini La Delizia  Spumante  cuvée brut “Jader” – 80% Glera, 20% Ribolla Gialla Spumante Tank Method 11% ABV Produced by the Cooperative Viticoltori Friulani La Delizia, the largest wine making company of the region. Lyn’s comments were the distinctive aroma of white flowers, about 4.5 ATMS and the Ribolla Gialla adds a bit of spiciness.

2.  I Vini Di Emilio Bulfon  Sciaglin spumante brut – 100% Sciaglin Bulfon 12% ABV Tank Bulfon has been instrumental in bringing back some long lost indigenous grapes like Sciaglin to the region. Lyn’s comments: pale lemon color, subtle on the nose, lots of acidity, fresh and embracing with a sneaky concentration of fruit. Biggest impression “really clean” tasting, crisp and fresh. You can find Bulfon’s wines at Autre Monde Restaurant and Wine Bar in Berwyn, I wrote about Autre Monde and Bulfon in a previous post last year. The gorgeous pictures of the region are from the Bulfon website. Start flipping through them and you will want to plan a trip there soon.

3. Pierra Martellozzo 1899 Ribolla Gialla Spumante Brut “075 Carati”  100% Ribolla Gialla Tank 12% ABV Deeper in color, more golden, fresh, delicate scents of white flowers, well balanced, persistent finish, appley, lemon

4.  Pecol Boin Ribolla Gialla Spumante Brut Millesimato 2015 100% Ribolla Gialla Charmat with a long stay on the yeasts 12% ABV Single vintage The grapes were riper, leaning towards apples, hints of the yeasts on the palate.

5. Antonutti Spumante Rosé Extra Dry “Collevento 921” 80% Merlot  20% Refosco Tank, Red berry aromas 12.5% ABV

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The 3 still wines:

  1. Tenuta Fernanda Cappello – Traminer Aromatico 2016 100% Traminer Aromatico (Gewürtztraminer) 12.5% ABV Lychee, rose petals, ginger, good clean finish Given the cooler climate the Traminer aromas and flavors are there but not quite as bold as warmer weather wines.
  2. PitarsSauvignon “Braida Santa Cecelia” 2016 100% Sauvignon R3 Clone 12.5% ABV Braida (means broad) Lyn commented this has the hallmarks of the French style of sauvignon lots of minerality with the pyrazines on the understated side.
  3. Tenuta Tomasella – Friulano “Le Bastìe” 2011 100% Friulano (known as Sauvignonasse used to be called Tokai Friulano) 13% ABV malo 9 months in wood, 6 months in steel vats, 12 months in bottle The grapes are harvested at very low yields. A gold color, flowers, fruit and spices, nuttiness, almond notes

The seminars were 1 hour, this one just flew by.

It was an action-packed day, up next was Sicily and then the Chianti DOCG after that and more.  Italy won the terroir lottery, there is such variety between grapes and styles and so much quality. It was a very happy Italian wine day indeed!!!

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Sources : Notes from the seminar,  Coursebook and notes from the Italian Wine Specialist course given by NASA, the booklet produced by Friuli Grave DOC, and Wine Grapes by Robinson, Harding and Vouillamoz. 

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