Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Adventures in Collio

Estate Vineyards of Skok, San Floriano del Collio (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

Well on my 49th trip to Italy, I finally made it to the gorgeous Collio zone in the Friuli region. Clearly I was overdue to finally visit this temple of great Italian white wines. It was a brief three days, but I was able to visit several influential producers as well as attend some informative and excellent dinners.

Collio - the name literally means "hill" - is all about hillside vineyards. Tucked along the border with Slovenia in southeastern Friuli, the Collio zone is one of the premier white wine producing zones in all of the world. Here varieties such as Friulano, Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla are implemented on their own or in blends simply labeled as Collio Bianco. Other varieties used include Sauvignon - the examples here are among the most distinctive for this variety anywhere in Italy - as well as Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay.

I enjoyed my ride on the Vespa, but ...
(Photo by Alessandra Gruppi)

One of the highlights of my time there was a special dinner at Rosenbar Ristorante in Gorizia with several producers of Ribolla Gialla from the small commune of Oslavia. Gialla means "yellow" in Italian and as you can see from the photos, yellow is a major theme with the wines of Collio. Think yellow and you think of the sun and nature- two appropriate descriptors for the identity of the Collio district. 

But with these Ribolla Gialla, it was orange and not yellow that was the common color for these wines. Producers including Radikon, La Castellada and Dario Princic take this grape very seriously, aging their wine for several years - sometimes as much as six years - before releasing their wines. We tasted examples from 2004 through 2008 from the various producers and the wines display lovely freshness as well as marvelous texture. These are among the best evidence that Italian wines can age for many years - it was clear from the 2005 Radikon (and the 2001 I tasted the following evening) that the wines have at least another 5-7 years of life ahead of them.

... I much preferred my time in the Porsche Carerra 
(Photo by Paola Antonaci)

I will write a more in-depth post on the wines of Collio on my other blog, Learn Italian Wines, very soon. For now, I will give you a short list of some of my favorite Collio wines from my recent trip:

  • 2010 Zuani "Vigne" (Collio Bianco)
  • 2009 Gradis'ciutta "Bratinis" (Collio Bianco)
  • 2010 Muzic Malvasia
  • 2010 Skok Friulano "Zabura"
  • 2010 Venica Sauvignon "Ronco del Cero"

  • 2006 La Castellada Ribolla Gialla
  • 2008 Il Carpino Ribolla Gialla
  • 2005 Radikon Ribolla Gialla
  • 2008 Livon "Terre Alte" 
  • 2009 Carlos de Pradis Friulano

  • 2006 Marco Felluga Sauvignon Riserva
  • 2008 Renato Keber Friulano 

Marko Primosic (Photo ©Tom Hyland)

While there were so many excellent wines I tasted during my brief stay, there was one that stood out above the others and it was no surprise. The wine was the 2008 Primosic "Klin"; designated as a Collio Bianco, it is a blend of Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla and Friulano. I mention that this was not a surprise, as I have tasted two previous vintages of this wine and have been amazed at the intensity of the aromas, outstanding concentration and structure of this wine. The 2008 is as fine a bottling of this wine as I have had; with aromas of spiced pear, lavender and beeswax and outstanding persistence, this is for me, one of the very best of all Italian whites. 2008 was a wonderful year in Collio and the wines have striking acidity and the potential to age for many years - I expect this to be at its best in 7-10 years and it may drink well beyond that. Bravo Marko Primosic!