There are certain spots, places in the world, that have a magic about them. Standing in these places, the world feels at ease and all is good. Italy, with its mountains and hills, has these places, particularly, in the nooks and crannies of its wine regions. In Asti, Piemonte, there is the hill at Ceretto winery or the terrace at Palais Cerequio , on this trip through Collio there was the green hilltop and lawn at Azienda Agricola Baronesse TACCO, an ancient renovated farmhouse and now resort, in San Floriano del Collio.
Standing on this hilltop at San Floriano del Collio, watching the sunset, with a glass of Friulano in my hand, next to some of the biggest yellow roses I have seen, surrounded by a mix of the wine producers of Collio, wine educators, sommeliers, journalists and influencers, was one of those moments in time that I just did not want to end. I wanted the sun to stop setting and time to freeze.
The Place – Baronesse TACCO
In Italy, it always amazes me how far back the family histories go. The earliest records of the Tacco family date back to Ghino di Tacco, mentioned in Dante’s Divine Comedy (14th century). he was kind of a robinhood, sort of, protesting taxes, robbing people but leaving them with funds to survive. In the 17th century, the Tacco family obtained the land title for San Floriano. The last male heir, also named, Ghino di Tacco, father of the current owner, died in 1914. It is now a hotel and event venue. A beautiful setting for our wine tasting with the producers and dinner.
We were there for a wine tasting of basically all “native” wines of the Collio Consorzio (see my previous post, “All Roads Lead to Collio, Bianco, in terms of the geography and place) as part of the Enjoy Collio Experience 2019.
On the hilltop, after a welcome and introduction by Consorzio head Robert Princic (Gradis’ciutta) winemaker, Elisabetta Bracco, (BRACCO1881) 5th generation of her family, spoke about the significance of the Collio Consorzio and the Collio Experience program. She has just been elected Secretary of the Collio Consorzio Board. The Brach family (their original name), has cultivated vines in Brazzano since 1881. Due to the Great War between Austria and Italy, post-war the family was forced to change their name by the Italian dictatorship to Bracco. Up to the present day, in 2003, Elisabetta, daughter of Giuliana and Alfredo Bracco, after studies in Bordeaux, came back, identifying the ‘vielles vignes’ and created the founder’s line, known as the Mattia Brach Selection. Elisabetta furthered her studies with an MBA in the Wine Business at the MIB School of Management in Trieste and continues to receive recognition and awards for her achievements and contributions to the wine business including mention in the ebook by Marta Aja, ‘100 Women Who Will Change Italy.’ Needless to say, she is a mover and shaker in the wine business. BRACCO1881 produces Collio Bianco as well as single varietal white wines made from Friulano, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc as well as reds, Merlot and Refosco del peduncolo rosso.
Although this tasting was a bit overwhelming by the number of producers in the room, no matter the grape, or the wine style, all wines were balanced, and of very high quality. Each producer pouring the wines had a story, It was a wine “palooza”. Marko Primosic was pouring his wines including my favorites, “Klin” Collio Bianco (Sauvignon Blanc, Friulano, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla) and his elegant style orange wine, Ribolla di Oslavia. Robert Princic, the head of the Collio Consorzio was pouring his wines, Gradis’ciutta. This is one of those places where you really feel that the soul of the winemaker is in each bottle. I did not get a picture of Robert speaking on the lawn at TACCO but I did get one at the final awards event at Spessa Castle (post to follow).
Gradis’ciutta is the name of a rural hamlet on top of a hill in this beautiful area of San Floriano del Collio. Around this hamlet, Robert’s grandfather, Franz Princic, had his historical vineyards. Before being named Gradis’ciutta, this place was known as Monsvini, which in Latin means “the mount of wine”; the name recalls the old winemaking tradition in Collio.
After the general tasting, we broke up into tables to sit with winemakers and have dinner. I sat with Gianni Sgubin, winemaker for Ferrucio Sgubin, his family’s winery and his daughter as well as German wine writer, Herbert Heil. The meal suited the wines, elegant, tasteful, with bursts of flavor. I asked why the bird on the label and Gianni said, his father decided on it because the bird was frequently seen at the vineyard. His friulano was crisp, light, floral without being overpowering and paired well with the appetizer.
The meal was created by Chef Daniele Repetti of Ristorante Nido del Picchio, a Michelin 1 star restaurant in Emilia-Romagna. The plates included trout filet, fava beans, and clam soup, lightly smoked pork, wine reduction, apple chutney and tapoica chips, and a dessert (I really loved all the desserts I had on this trip) of ricotta semifreddo, raspberry meringue and verbena gelee.
The biggest treat for me was to taste the Picolit, white ancient grapes, which are late harvest dessert wines. The grapes are believed to go back to the Romans, they are small in size to begin with, low yields producing wines that taste of candied orange and dried figs with aromas of wild flowers, peach and orange blossoms. Dessert wines are a category that sometimes just sit on a wine shelf but then you get to a dinner like this, they pour these wines with dessert and you realize what a delicious and prized commodity the wine is and why dessert wines exist. The desserts on this trip all included fruit as well as a savory component and were complex but at the same time not overly fussy. The Picolit and ricotta semifredo were a decadent and delicious end to a lovely day. It felt that all was right with the world and I felt very wine, food, people lucky!