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IL VIN NOSTRAN
Prin: sapà, netà, uaià,
Son lis tassis di pajà
e un sol nùl al fàs tremà.
Prima zappare, pulire, potare,
trattare la vite con zolfo e verderame.
Ci sono le tasse da pagare
e un solo nuvolone ti fa tremare.
Ermete Zardini (Cormòns, 1868-1940)
DARIO PRINCIC, OSLAVIA, COLLIO, Friuli – Biodynamic
Your palate is bored. Your palate needs a sock in the gills. Let’s shock it. It lives! They live. The whites are yellower than ripe
corn, cloudier than just-fermented cider, purer than the driven grape skin. The Sauvignon is actually veering towards amber,
so put your preconceptions into neutral and your taste buds into overdrive and experience a wine with minerality, relentless
focus, bitter bite and guts. Princic’s wines have the same feel as those of La Stoppa and Valentini: totally unfiltered and
minimally sulphured, they taste of the earth, of rock salts and bitter stony fruits, in other words edgily natural. This may not be
everyone’s cup of tea (or Sauvignon), but thank goodness in an era of branding and conformity that we have the opportunity
to dance on the wilder shores of winemaking. Trebez is a triumphant triumvirate of Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay
if not quark, strangeness and charm. This orange-rosé (the result of extended skin maceration) wine is bone-dry with a hint of
dried grape-skin and suggestion of butterscotch. It’s very understated, a wine that you have to meet more than halfway. Try
the whites with braised veal shank. The Pinot Grigio has a dark pink-amber colour, with exotic and ripe fruits, mutating all
the time. Apricot skin, mandarin and ginger surge across the tongue and there’s a touch of astringency to remind you of the
original grape. Not just a great Pinot Grigio, a wine reeking (in the classiest sense) of individuality. Punch downs and twenty-
day skin maceration account for the delicate amber colour of the Jakot. Two years ageing on the lees in vat completes the
process. The nose is understated – apricot kernels, butternut and warm spice (ginger). The wine is smooth and marrow-like in
the mouth edged with wild herbs, beautifully fugitive. Jakot? Tocai – forgivable persiflage.
VINO BIANCO TREBEZ
VINO BIANCO RIBOLLA GIALLA
VINO BIANCO JAKOT
VINO BIANCO PINOT GRIGIO
VINO BIANCO PINOT GRIGIO – magnum
I was reading Jamie Goode’s excellent wine blog when I noticed he had written about resveratrol aka the molecule that made red wine
sexy to drink. Although resveratrol may indeed have a wealth of beneficial health properties red wine may not be the best way to get it.
He talks to an expert in the food and health field called Professor Corder.
‘The 255elabeling255 story has become a bit of a publicity stunt for those lacking knowledge in the field’, maintains Corder. ‘At a dose
of 22.4 mg/kg per day (used in the recent mouse study reported in Nature) and typical resveratrol levels of 1–2 mg/litre in wine, the dose
in human terms for wine would have to be around 1568 mg/day or 780–1560 litres per day’…
… which is a trifle above my normal consumption. And there I was so looking forward to my bottle of Teran (Refosco) from Friuli.
Purely for medicinal reasons, of course! Apparently, it is so full of procyanidol that in the Carso/Karst region they prescribe it over the
chemist’s counter for digestive and liver problems. It can dissolve anything – even the oak in an Australian Chardonnay.
The French Paradox is nothing new. It’s funny how wine has always been viewed as having therapeutic qualities. Pasteur described it as
“healthful and hygienic” and an English doctor, Francis Anstie, of Westminster Hospital, wrote a detailed treatise in the 19
about which illnesses should be treated with which wines. Dyspepsia was Burgundy (coincidentally high in antioxidants), port for
anaemia and old sherry for typhoid. So if our Victorian sewers finally buckle under the weight of infrastructural neglect, fish out that
bottle of Bristol Cream from the cupboard that you’ve been hoarding on the offchance of a maiden aunt popping over, and inoculate
yourself. If the typhoid doesn’t get you, the cure will!
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AZIENDA AGRICOLA ZIDARICH, DUINO AURISINA, CARSO, Friuli – Biodynamic
As further evidence that there is more viticultural diversity in Italy than perhaps anywhere else on the planet, we give you
the Carso – the thin slice of land connecting Trieste to the main mass of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Officially speaking, this is
Italy, but, as is the case all along Italy’s border with Slovenia, the wine culture transcends national boundaries.
Winegrowing Carso extends well beyond the border into Slovenia (as does winegrowing Collio further north), and its trio
of peculiar local grapes – the whites Vitovska and Malvasia and a strain of the red Refosco known as Terrano – are
uniquely Slavic contributions to the “Italian” viticultural whole.
Carso is a limestone-rich plateau that extends out from the city of Trieste and reaches toward the Julian Alps to the north.
The heavy limestone content of the soils likely gave the zone its name (Carso is thought to be derived from a Celtic word
meaning “land of rock”), and it lends the wines, both white and red, a firm acidic backbone and mouth-watering
minerality. On the white side, this means flinty, fragrant accompaniments to fresh seafood in Trieste, Muggia, and other
fishing towns along Friuli’s Adriatic basin, while the red Terrano is a high-acid companion to the heartier, Slavic-and-
Austrian-inflected food further inland (you’d be surprised how good a tart, tongue-piercing red like Terrano can be as a
contrast to the richness of Stinco di Vitello). The Azienda Zidarich is located in Prepotto, near Duino Aurisina, which is a
small and characteristic village of the Carso area. The landscape is extremely varied and stimulating. The vegetation of
the environment is very different and enhances the peculiarity of this territory dedicated to viticulture. Jagged chalky rock
is the keynote of Carso viticulture, which is carried out on small terraces of red, iron-rich soil that have been reclaimed
from the woodland. This lends the wines the characteristic acidity and mineral notes.
The Vitovska is part macerated on the skins for twelve to fifteen days. It has a fine, delicate, fruity nose suggestive of
plums, yellow cherries and poire 256elabel, followed by a palate with an upfront entry as you might expect from a variety
that shares its environment with the bora gales that batter the coast.
The Terrano is made with a variant of the Refosco grape (known as Refosco Istriano or Refoscone) grown in
characteristic red soil. The peculiar quality of the sun and soil of the Carso area contribute to the wine’s particular
characteristics. Low in alcohol, it is sometimes prescribed by doctors to cure digestive problems as well as to patients
who need iron, because its acidity is thought to be beneficial.
CARSO VITOVSKA – magnum
PAOLO VODOPIVEC, CARSO, Friuli – Biodynamic
Fasten your tastebuds – it’s going to be a titivating ride. For aficionados of the amber nectar this is reassuringly shockingly
pinkish-orange and cloudy and biffs you with a mineral-peach-sage-smoke-honey combo that keeps changing with every sniff
and sip, a wine thrilling in its richness and striking in its textural complexity.
We are far in the small rugged commune of
Carso, where two enigmatic brothers, Paolo and Valter Vodopivec have earned an enviable international reputation for their
To discuss the terroir of Carso is to speak more about rock than soil. Carso, in fact, actually means
something like “land of rock” in Celtic. Walter and Paolo Vodopivec actually had to physically break up the limestone
bedrock to plant their vines. The rocky terrain leaves a firm imprint on the wine with an undeniable acid and mineral streak.
Made from the Vitovska grape, which is a crossing between Prosecco and Malvasia Bianco, the wine is first fermented in clay
amphorae that are buried underground.
These amphorae come from Georgia. We should also mention the ransom story. As it
goes, brothers Walter and Paolo Vodopivec had experimented with aging their wines in wooden cask and Spanish amphorae
(inspired by Gravner), but they weren’t enamoured with the results. Paolo felt sure that Georgian amphorae would be
superior, and so off they went to Georgia to source some. However, the local mafia held the clay pots for ransom. The story
unclear whether their demand was “Given us the lari, or the 256lumies gets it!”, but the vessels were eventually ransomed
and repatriated in Friuli as fermenters. Or as the anti-naturalists would have you believe, dementers.
Back to the wine. Treat it with the respect it deserves. Upon opening it is intensely tannic and grippingly mineral. Decant
once. Twice. The result, if you’re patient, is a wine that have a purity and fascination that makes you want to roll it
appreciatively around your mouth.
Deep, rich (but not heavy) and aromatic with layers of dried peach, warm apricot and
apple notes on both the nose and mid palate, a splendid Vitovska that is as bone dry as the rocks from which the vines eke out
their precarious existence, yet somehow refreshing and curiously saline with a very long finish that imparts further flavours of
hazelnuts and dried fig. An ideal match for grilled trout, swordfish or sea bass or pork chops with fennel.
VITOVSKA – amphora
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BRESSAN, FARRA D’ISONZO, GORIZIA, Friuli – Organic
The Bressan Mastri Vinai winery, located within the town of Mariano del Friuli in the Gorizia province, dates back to
the 1600’s. Their vineyards are drenched in rich Celtic history in the form of the strategic landscape of Farra d’Isonzo
and the winemaking philosophy is founded on family values and a respect for the land and the ancient culture, where
limpid horizons seem to capture sensations, colours, scents and flavours most effectively.
Where the slopes of the Collio region fade gently and open up on to the Isonzo river valley these vineyards are located
on a segment of land shielded to the north by the Julian Alps and open to the hot winds of the Adriatic Sea from the
south, where a rare mixture of natural elements (geographic, geological and climatic) have combined to create a
unique and inimitable “terroir.” With this natural protection extreme climatic conditions are avoided, and moderate
weather permits early development of the entire growing cycle by several days with respect to vineyards that are
farther from the river, thus granting grapes with excellent levels of maturation.
Fulvio Luca Bressan, a classically trained Bordeaux winemaker and descended from a family long dedicated to the
vines, cuts no corners when it comes to making wine. Like many in Friuli, he’s of the opinion that varietals such as
Pinot Nero and Cabernet Sauvignon do not “belong” to the French, since those varietals have been cultivated by their
ancestors since the early nineteenth century. He believes that these grapes have not only a home in Friuli, but can
reflect in their quality and terroir that long history, and be among the finest in the world. For him, the fruit and its pips
dictate readiness for harvest, and wood treatment should always reflect subtly in the finished juice. That means big
2,000 litre barrels. “I want to drink the wine, not eat the door to the kitchen,” he says. Time we were polishing our
collection of hens’ teeth.
Verduzzo was recognized in the mid-1800’s as one of the most typical and representative of the varieties originating in
Friuli. It is certainly a very old variety which was once very widespread and we even find it described in Acerbi’s
“Friuli Vines of the Udine Area”. This is an emphatically dry wine, robust, with a bouquet which has strong accents of
apple, pear, nectarine and apricot and a dry, almost tannic taste giving an almondy finish with hints of wild flowers.
The Pinot Nero is ruby red, dry and aromatic, a veritable jewel of nuances, including smoked wood, truffle, raspberry
and wild blackberry, revealing a bouquet of underbrush and musk when mature.
The final wine is made from 100% Ribolla Nera aka Schioppettino. Intense in its warm velvety colour and flavour, this ruby
red wine presents a full fruity flavour of wild blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries and that typical
Of all of the long-cultivated varieties, Pignolo is without doubt the most prestigious and refined native Friuli variety and is
on the way to extinction. It is a highly distinctive wine; in its shy mysterious taste, the flavour is almost hidden, as though it
is fearful of being discovered. The Pignolo grape, another very rare, refined, prestigious and indigenous grape of the
Fruili-Venezia Giulia region in North-Eastern Italy. This grape has the potential to make “Cru” level wines, like Bressan’s
Cru Pignol, a stunning example of what this grape can do when care is taken in the vineyards and the winery. According to
Fulvio, the Pignol needs at least 8 years of aging to become a great wine. Elegant in body, fruity and reserved, the bottle
opens with an inviting bouquet. What does it taste like? Cooked fruit, plum, raisins, silky texture, balsamic-like sweetness
and acidity in spades – all that and so much more because the wine is proper ornery – it changes its mind in the glass, gets
earthier and deeper.
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A de-alcoholised wine has just been launched in Italy. Called Wine Zero the 0.5% “wine” is made from fermented juice
that is then given a full lobotomy in a stainless-steel vacuum. Following on from the local Pinot No-Grigio, Rusk-ati and
Zero d’Avola this version quite rightly comes from all over the plains of Spain and is available in three colours; pale,
utterly transparent and cochineal. There is also a Spanish-American oak-aged red marketed under Oak-a-hola! Label.
An advertising campaign called “Fear the mark of Zero” will launch the product. A sequel advert called “From Hero to
Zero Point Five” will stress the wisdom of drinking wine that will only make you ill or crazy because of its incredibly bad
The wines have been praised for stopping alcohol abuse by an Alcohol Awareness pressure group. “Who’s going to abuse
alcohol, when you can abuse this bat’s piss so easily?” leered a spokesperson.
the town sewer”.
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The public has been submerged in a tide of “legally-built” wines which have been made with wine making corrective processes and
advanced technologies. These are intended to compensate the imbalance that man has been careless enough to make in the vineyard.
These wines are all rather similar and certainly satisfy the taste that has been “imposed” on the market. They are technically perfect but
they have no soul and authenticity to connect the grape and the wine to the soil and environment. Even for the trained palate it has
become virtually impossible to tell the difference between all these technical wines even though they are from different places. True wine
is an expression of nature of which the wine-maker can only be a humble interpreter. Wine has to have its own personality, culture and
tradition of the earth. It has to transmit all these sensations to those who are looking for taste and bouquet that are inextricably linked to
the land and the grape.
MASSA VECCHIA, FABRIZIO NICCOLAINI, MASSA MARITIMA, Toscana – Biodynamic
Fabrizio Niccolaini’s wine vision is, if not unique, then original and of another era. His vineyard, which he inherited
from his father and grandfather, is a mere handful of hectares. And within that tiny plot are such white grapes as
Vermentino, Ansonica, Sauvignon Blanc, Trebbiano, and Malvasia di Candia, and red varieties such as Merlot,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Aleatico, Sangiovese, Alicante, and Malvasia Nera. All are at least 35 years old, including the
Cabernet and Merlot, which is unusual as these two varieties are generally only newly planted in Tuscany. He has also
recently planted another vineyard with only Sangiovese.
Fabrizio subscribes to the deceptively simple sustainable agriculture theories of the Japanese farmer-philosopher
Masanobu Fukuoka, detailed in his 1975 book, “The One-Straw Revolution.” “We use no chemicals, no herbicides,
really not even much in the way of machines,” What little ploughing is done, usually to “rip” the soil between the vine
rows to turn over the crop cover, is performed by one of two white, long-horned oxen kept by Fabrizio for this purpose.
Francesca Sfrodrini has taken up the reins with several partners and continues to work the farm with respect for nature
and the cycles it imposes.
The wines are as original and uncompromising as everything else about this exercise in purist winegrowing. Take, for
example, the Massa Vecchia which is mainlyVermentino with some Malvasia for aroma. The wine is fermented with the
skins, which is conventional for red wines but still highly unusual for whites. The grapes are pressed by foot twice a day
for five days then the wine spends three weeks on the skins, with a daily punch down. Aged in small chestnut casks, the
resulting dry white wine is nothing short of thrilling, with a bright golden colour and a powerful scent of wild garrigue
herbs amongst the notes of lemon oil and orange and just the slightest astringency (from the skins) in the finish. It
reminds us of the wines of Princic and Gravner and even the nonpareil Trebbiano of Valentini. Try with stuffed sardines
(an Elba speciality) or cacciucco (fish stew) a variation on the famous dish from Livorno and most loved by Napoleon
during his stay on the island. Ariento’s amber partner in crime is made from the pleasingly aromatic Malvasia grape.
Think apricots with a dusting of white pepper and spice – best served from the carafe.
sweet-sour – it’s not just that nowt is taken out, but it seems that a whole lot has been shovelled back in to La Querciola. The
colour – hazy ruby red. The nose – what a nose, more of a full-blown conk, wafting 259lumies cherries on aromatic gusts of
balsamic vineyard. Fresh in the mouth, earthy and smoky, with marked yeastiness this Sangiovese is truly a walk on the wild
side. The rosé is barely that, a deep ruby-complexion’d blend of Merlot and Malvasia Nera (of course). The nose is earthy and
herbal: there’s fennel, eucalypt and red chicory, liquorice and cherry and the mouth manages to be soft and refreshing. As
crazy volatile rosés go this is madder than Mad Jack McMad, the winner of this year’s Mr Madman competition. As for the
Aleatico, from sun-shrivelled grapes, it is a true oddity, a sort of red Muscat being “wild, sweet and volatile with musky, herby,
grapey fruit and a blast of vinegar” (Jamie Goode).
For Fabrizio simplicity and deference is everything. In an interview with Matt Kramer he observes: “Wine is not
something separate from the earth, from the planet, or from us. When you cultivate vineyards with care and you make
wine in a way that allows everything to come through, then it’s enough, don’t you think?”
MASSA VECCHIA VERA MENTE (VERMENTINO BLEND)
MASSA VECCHIA VITA BIANCO
MASSIA VECCHIA ROSATO
ALEATICO MAREMMA TOSCANA IGT – ½ bottle
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