Jancis Robinson

June 2005 

Great whites from Friuli (http://jancisrobinson.com/articles/wineweek050628)
Publication date: 28 jun 05

Do I have to apologise for recommending another white wine this week? Probably yes to you southern hemisphere dwellers, especially if you are shivering. But the white wines I am writing about this week are so substantial and so packed with flavour that I hope they are of interest to you too. They’re certainly not tart, vapid little numbers that are worthy only of being severely chilled and thrown down an overheated throat. In fact they are some of the most complex whites you can find today.
I refer to the finest dry whites of Friuli, which in my opinion means those made of the region’s most characteristic grapes (although there is no shortage of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grown here). This Blanc de Rosis 2003 Schiopetto blend from the incomparable house of Mario Schiopetto is made from a blend of Tocai Friulano (perhaps the variety to which he was most attached personally), Pinot Grigio, Ribolla, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia and is seriously fruity yet nervy with as many layers of flavour as you might expect from this varietal cocktail. Honey and flowers are conjured up but the whole is a distinctly dry, refreshing drink worthy of the table. I can’t think past the proscuitto and melon I had for lunch today, without wine alas. Lea & Sandeman are currently selling this for £14.95 a bottle but according to winesearcher.com you can find it in Italy for as little as 11.25 euros.

 But this is far from the only Friuli white worth raving over. Lis Neris is the king of Pinot Grigio and the Pecorari family`s Tocai Friulano, Fiore di Campo 2004 Lis Neris, £11.75 from Berry Bros (find this wine), is also delicious, though perhaps just a bit too young at the moment. A greater wine, though very definitely designed to be drunk with food too, is their top Pinot Grigio Pinot Grigio, Gris 2002 Lis Neris, £14.25 at Berry Bros (find this wine). This smoky essence of Pinot Grigio is just coming into its own now and is quite extraordinarily persistent. I much prefer it to Lis Neris’s supercuvee of Pinot Grigio, Traminer and Riesling Confini 2003 which they are flogging for £21.59 a bottle and which is just too fat and flabby for my taste.

 There are many driven, small-scale producers in the region. Gravner’s wines are highly individual, but perhaps just a bit too individual for me. But I came across recently the wines of Ferdinando Zanusso of I Clivi in Corno di Rosazzo who has 12 hectares/30 acres of particularly old (40 to 60 year-old) vines from densely-planted hillside vineyards in both Collio and Colli Orientali which he seems to transform into the entrancing wines. He apparently leaves them for two years on lees in stainless steel before bottling – and they certainly taste super-natural. No low-temperature fermentation aromas or evidence of any extraneous yeasts. I tasted his Clivi Galea, Colli Orientali del Friuli bottling of old Verduzzo and Tocai Friulano from the vintages 2001, 2000, 1999 and 1997 the other day and was extremely impressed by all of them – even the eight year old was still going very strong and the 1999 was quite stunning for current drinking. The wines are apparently imported into the US by Kermit Lynch of Berkeley and Ballantynes of Cowbridge are considering importing them in to the UK. They say they would charge between £15 and £20 for these vintages, truly rewarding essences.

 I urge those of you who are yet to discover this rich seam of top quality white wine to go mining immediately.