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Sunday, 15 May 2011

Italy - Friuli (1)

Over the past few years we have visited the north east of Italy and the excellent but little-known wine area of  Friuli several times.  On our first visit, with our friends who have a house near Udine, we decided to explore the area just north of their village, and in the hamlet of Ramandolo we found the Anna Berra winery perched on a steep winding road with magnificent views across the vineyards and away to the south.
It was nearly 7 in the evening and we had no appointment, but we were greeted with enthusiasm and courtesy by the wine maker, Ivan Monai, who spent an hour with us in one of the best tastings I have ever experienced - 8 wines, each carefully presented from new bottles in glasses rinsed with each new wine before we tasted it.  And they were great wines too - of the reds, the cabernet franc stood out for me, and there are also dry whites of which we liked both the friulani (grape variety also in the past confusingly known as tokai although it has little to do with the Hugarian grape) and pinot grigio.
But it was the 2 sweet wines made from late picked and for one wine partly-dried Verduzzo Friulano grapes that were really special.  Ramondolo gives its name to one of these while the second, Anno Domini, the one from dried grapes, is fermented in oak barrels.  We did not even taste the third sweet wine, Piccolit, also made from late picked and dried grapes, but we’ve since tried wines from this variety and from other producers and found them excellent.
Azienda Agricola Anna Berra, via Ramandolo 29 NIMIS - (UD) Italia tel. 0432 790 296
On a return visit we accompanied our friends to their nearest wine makers Sandro and Andrea Jacuzzi near Torreano.  Again, we were very interested in local grape varieties although the makers often use internationally-known varieties like merlot, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc and pinot bianco too.  This time we tasted 5 wines - 3 local reds made from schioppetino (grapes dried for a month before vinification) tazzelenghe (which means tingling tongue, in reference to the tannic 'buzz' of the first taste in the mouth) and refosco, and two whites, a dry tocai, and verduzzo (here used to make a semi-sweet and complex wine).  All 5 were excellent in their way - the tastes lingered pleasantly in the mouth without unpleasant aftertastes, and demonstrated the potential of talented makers to rediscover old varieties and wines as well as using modern varieties well.
Azienda Agricola Iacuzzi, Viale Kennedy 35, 33040 Montina di Torreano (UD)
Tel. 0432 715147.

A brief mention here of a wine maker Livio Felluga whom we did not visit until a later visit, and whose wines are very good but pricey.  They are reviewed in  the British wine press more frequently than most other Friuli makers, and we confirmed their quality by sampling a bottle we were given.  The website is good too!

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