Tag Archives: Friuli

Good times with PLUS in Switzerland.

 

 

 

Last week I was working the market(s) in Switzerland with two sales agents from Meregalli, our distributor there. First thing that struck me (after I snapped out of my trance at how beautiful the place was) was the vast area that the guys had to cover. My first day consisted of visits in Lucern, Zurich and Bern. Very hardcore!

The next two days were visits in the Ticino area, further south and closer to the Italian border. This area is simply stunning with various lakes that lie in the parallel valleys surrounded by spectacular mountains with incredible lake views (and really tiny, steep roads).

One of the stops was particularly memorable for the food. Locanda Orico is in the center of Bellinzona, surrounded by awesome castles. Chef/Owner Lorenzo Albrici was nice enough to come out after lunch and taste wines with us…

Image(Above, Dario, Chef Albrici and Saverio @ Locanda Orico)

By chance I had mentioned how much I loved the Bastianich PLUS with Foie Gras… Chef Albrici jumped up and went to the kitchen, returning with a fresh plate of Foie…

Image(That’s our man Maurizio lunging for another taste of PLUS with his Foie Gras…)

It was really a magic moment to see people get as excited as I do about the wines and about a great pairing. Plus is such a special wine, unlike anything else you find in Friuli… Super-concentrated (Tocai) Friulano grapes from 60-year-old vines, 10% of which are dried for about a month to concentrate them EVEN more…

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Vinification done in stainless steel to let the grapes do all the talking and let the majestic power of this wine show without interference from wood. It’s a little gem we make here, just 6000 bottles or so. 

Old-vine Friulano is rare because usually Friulano is a fresh and relatively inexpensive daily drink… When the vines get past 30 or 35 years-old they start producing less fruit, making the resulting wine more expensive, but the concentration is so intense! It’s a shame that only a handful of producers in Friuli make an old-vine Friulano. 

Foie Gras is only one of the great pairings with Plus, it’s intensity and body works great with spicy dishes (I remember a stewed octopus with pepperoncino in Croatia that was AWESOME with Plus) like Thai or Indian but it’s also a wonder with Shellfish (lobster and scampi come to mind) because of the slight sweetness echoing between the wine and the fish…

OK, now I’m hungry… 

 

 

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Snowy Day in Friuli

We had our first significant snowfall last night here in Friuli. Lovely to look at, but tough for driving…

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Some chunks of ponca under snow…

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The terraces behind the winery…

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We got about 5 or 6 cm (3 inches) but its slushy and slippery now… Windy too… Best to stay inside and warm up with a glass of Calabrone!

Looking Forward, Looking back…

Buon Anno Nuovo friends! Welcome to the new BUZZ… the Official blog of the Bastianich and La Mozza wineries!

We are working to improve the look and the effectiveness of the blog in some ways you can see and some ways you can’t. We are migrating to a new host, new design, and plenty of features “under the hood” that will make it better…

But really, what could make a blog better than creating content?

Well, that’s changing too. The blog is no longer a one-man show (yours truly), but I have some very capable help from Julia Segal in New York who will keep me on time with posts (we have already started filling in an editorial calendar! *gasp*) She will also be contributing on a regular basis, (she has her own excellent blog here) So look for posts about the wineries but also about other wine related stuff…

Lastly we are working on guest posts from Joe and Lidia Bastianich, winemakers and other folks connected with the winery. I know I’m excited!

A Brief recap of 2012…

From a winery perspective, 2012 was a great year. The harvest was very good this year, with the biggest problem being heat and lack of rainfall that lowered yields by 25% and shrivelled a lot of berries. Concentration and ripeness were great though, and early tastings point to some really dense and intense wines. The sorting table was an important addition to the cellar and we look forward to seeing it’s effect on quality.

From a sales perspective, we had a fantastic year in Italy in general, Friuli in particular and we opened more international markets in 2012 than in any other calendar year ever! The US market is always our best and we continue to see growth overall in the States.

We also had a proud moment when Vespa Bianco was voted the best Italian Superpremium white wine in Snooth.com’s “Peoples Voice Awards”… News so exciting it was covered in Italy!

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The single most exciting addition of 2012 was the opening of the tasting room at the winery in Gagliano…

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You can look out to neighbouring  vineyards through the 15-foot glass entrance. It has two Enomatic wine dispensing machines, a serious temperature controlled wine room and a bar complete with a fridge, drawers, glasses and everything –  I’m like a kid in a candy shop! It’s what I’ve personally wanted for the winery for years, and a great way to taste wine and meet folks who come to the winery. And with Joe’s success on the USA and Italian MasterChef TV shows, more and more people are coming every day.

All in all, I can’t complain about 2012. The new year brings possibilities for showing the Bastianich wines in such exotic places as Istanbul, Moscow and the Turks and Caicos Islands!

Finally (and possibly most exciting of all) will be the release this spring of the 2011 vintage of Vespa Bianco. Why am I so excited about the release of a new vintage? I’ve been tasting the elements and the progression of the 2011 Vespa for more than a year now and every time I try it, I get goosebumps. It’s that friggin’ good. I’m looking forward to showing the wine at the new and improved 4-day VinItaly in April just to see if everyone else is as enthusiastic about it as I am. Quite possibly the greatest Vespa EVER.

Buon Proseguimento!

Adriatico 2010 and the Dream-Team…

Last year we had the pleasure of creating and launching a very unique line of wines callled “Adriatico”. This line was envisioned by Joe Bastianich who wanted to express the terroir of the northern Adriatic Sea through 3 native grape varieties in their native lands: Friulano, from Friuli Venezia Giulia, Ribolla Gialla from Slovenia and Malvasia Istriana from Croatia.

Obviously, the Friulano is Home-Grown here on the Bastianich vineyards in Friuli. We enlisted the help of local winemakers for the other wines… Marjan Simcic is our man in Brda for the Ribolla and the Malvasia Istriana is made by a group of 3 producers in Istria: Moreno Degrassi, Gianfranco Koslovic and Ivica Matosevic.

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2009 Bastianich Adriatico (r. to l.) Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, Friulano.

The line has been a big hit, with healthy sales (retail in the mid-teens is the sweet-spot) and great reviews. Online, Wine is a Condiut really hit the nail on the head in a great post and Frederic Koeppel also wrote a great review of the Friulano and also named it one of his 25 Great Wine Bargains of 2010.

Most recently, Antonio Galloni bestowed 89 points on the Malvasia and 88 points on the Friulano, calling both outstanding values. Good stuff.

Last week we started the process of selecting the ines for the 2010 version of Adriatico, tasting some wines from Simcic. Yesterday we drove down to Istria to meet with the producers and coordinator Glauco Bevilaqua (who also imports our wines to Croatia and Serbia)…

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Istrian Dream-Team (l. to r.) Glauco Bevilaqua, Moreno Degrassi, Ivica Matosevic, Gianfranco Koslovic.

It was a lesson in the beauty of blending wines… Matosevic’s Malvasia was all aromatics and brightness with flowers and minerals jumping out of the glass… Koslovic’s example was less aromatic, but spicy on the palate with white pepper and a hint of cardemom, very mineral, almost salty… the Degrassi Malvasia was all about ripeness and rotundity caressing the palate, finishing dry and almost chalky… Blending the three brought out all the goodness and filled the mouth with flavor and texture while remaining incredibly lithe and fresh.

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We were very pleased. We were even more pleased when Moreno Degrassi brought out the most delicate and delicious Calamari Fritti I’ve had in YEARS…

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Paired with his 2007 Malvasia Istria, it was like lunch in fish heaven…

Ain’t no sunshine when they’re gone…(and Schiopettino galore)

Here’s the weather today, much like it has been since the Magnifici sei left on Saturday:

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I’ve written before of the “Friulian Gloom”, and this week we’re getting a little bit of it.

Last week, however, when the bloggers were here, this was the weather for FIVE STRAIGHT DAYS:

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Blue skies, warm days, chilly, star-filled nights. More than one producer asked if the bloggers could come back to Friuli in September, if this was the kind of weather they carried around in their luggage.

The week continued with what might have been the group’s most unanimously positive visit: Ronchi di Cialla. The Rapuzzi family single-handedly cultivate the only winery and vineyards in the Cialla subzone, specializing in native grapes, but most of all Schioppettino..

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(Jeremy sniffin’)
The ’05 started the tasting with red fruits, elegant balance, a hint of rust and a fresh apply finish…. the ’01 was almost smoky with a hint of charcoal, more bass notes, a little of that funk and silky Tannins… The ’95 was still fresh-colored with plenty of mineral and hints of warm orange peel, delicate and feminine with some spicy cherry on the finish… and then the ’85… all poise and balance, color almost indistinguishable from the 10-years-younger ’95… sexy texture on the palate with a long peppery finish. Awesome…

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See all thise  bottles up there with 13.5% and 12.5% on the labels? Well the exact opposite of Cialla is the Schioppettino from Moschioni…

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(That’s Nicolas, Francesco, Michele Moschioni and Dr J.)

Here are my notes from Moschioni’s ’06 Schioppettino: “16.4% alc., 20 days natural appassimento (drying grapes in shallow cassettes); big and rich, ripe nose, warm going down but not hot, very velvety tannins with cherry, licorice and pepper”… Maybe not as elegant as the Cialla wines, obviously very different, but I enjoyed both for what they were.

Later in the evening we had the privilege of eating at the Petrussa winery where we tried 3 vintages there: ’04, ’03 and ’99. I found these wines a bit of a synthesis of the Cialla and Moschioni wines: A little riper, fleshier and oakier than Cialla, but not as BIG as Moschioni. The ’04 was still very young, the ’03 had more leather and tertiary aromas, but “smoothed out and sexy” according to my notes, and the ’99 was lush with the epitome of “velvety tannins”.

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Finally, I’d like to mention some other Schioppettini that I liked from the large tasting: 2008 Giorgio Colutta, 2008 La Viarte, and the 2006 Dri-Il Roncat.

SO what’s the final word on Schioppettino? Like so many wines in Friuli and in COF, we have different interpretations, different points of view… But the key is that this native grape has been rescued from oblivion, extinction, literally… Thank goodness (and the Rapuzzi family, or the Nonino family.. or whatever)

What’s cool is that one of these Schioppettini will turn you on. If you’re into the big Cabs or you’re into fine Burgundy, somebody makes a Schioppettino you’ll like.

And that’s what will spur others into keeping these local grapes alive…

COF2011: Tocai day, and discovering a neighbor…

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This was the scene yesterday for the first day of tastings at the the Colli Orientali Consorzio and the COF2011 blogger gathering. That’s Alfonso, Nicolas, Jeremy, McDuff and Samantha working their way through no less than 42 different (Tocai) Friulani…

Most of the wines came from the 2009 vintage, and it was good to see a consistancy of quality from that vintage. Styles were slightly varied (from zingy Ronco delle Betulle and Ermacora) to the yeasty (Rocca Bernarda) that really seemed to float Samantha’s Champagne-lovin’ boat.

Others I really liked were from Grillo, Conte D’Attimis and Borgo Judrio.

This is a real learning experience for me. Getting to sit down and see what other great producers are doing with Friulano, and being able to taste our Friulano with them (even if not blind) is something I think many producers DON’T do and really SHOULD. It’s an eye-opener.

I can’t really compare the ’07 PLUS we tasted with yesterday’s group. Plus is in a class by itself, in a stylistic sense, and its massive richness and mature fruit stands apart (purposely) from the more traditional Friulani.

Our Adriatico Friulano came at the end of the tasting and it made me realize that the style for that wine is also slightly richer and fatter than your average Friulano. Our philosophy is to give the wine more depth and feel, rather than zing. It’s nice to see how balanced the Adriatico Friulano is in spite of being a little rounder and fuller.

Finally, the afternoon’s visits brought me to an new winery I’d never heard of before (in spite of my living here for almost 10 years now).

I Clivi is a very interesting property run by Mario Zanussi (second from left below). Organic vineyards, all stainless steel (for whites) and some very interesting wines. Laser-beam focused and austere, the wines took me a moment to understand. We only tasted recent vintages, and due to the tightly-wound style of these wines, I would expect them to open up with time.

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There was one wine they make that reminded me of Vespa Bianco, but chalkier and more austere, called Bianco degli Arzilliari… Chardonnay and Sauvignon (like Vespa Bianco) but with Traminer instead of Picolit. It was more complete and rounder than their Friulani, with a little bit of warmth and a hint of that traminer spice.

It’s a pleasure to discover new neighbors and new wines. Now that these wines are on my radar, I look forward to trying them again… Maybe a little head-to-head with Vespa Bianco?

Bloggers and Background…

So it has begun…

The bloggers have landed here in Friuli and today begins our adventure together as the COF2011 blogging team.

We all met up at Il Roncal yesterday to meet in person and break bread together in fine Friulian style. A light lunch of pasta and local affettati paired with Roncal wines. Things were quieter than expected, but I’m sure we’l loosen up… The bloggers were jet-lagged (Nicolas said he was hallucinating), and after lunch we all retired to rest up for Dinner…

Before things get started with tasting notes and beautiful photos and praise for my Friulian friends, I’d like to explain a little the past of Friuli (as it was explained to me, so please excuse any small inaccuracies) as I feel it may shed some light on the wines:

Friuli has an ancient history of winemaking, going back pre-Roman. For this there is no dispute. That isn’t much different than the rest of the Italian peninsula.

What separates Friuli from the rest of Italy starts a little bit later.

First, the name of the region tells you a little about it’s past: Friuli VENEZIA Giulia. This area is really composed of at LEAST 3 distinct sub areas united (more or less) under the Venetian empire. The Venetians were sailors and traders. They were not great fans of wine, considering it something of a peasantly pursuit, along with the rest of agriculture.

Therefore the nobility wasn’t a great sustainer, follower of cataloger of wines and their best sites, as the Tuscans and Piedmontese were. Every family had its vines, along with other produce, that was grown for sustenance. Wine was not a noble’s beverage. It was a source of caloric content, fueling the working-class’ need for energy.

The influence of Napoleon and the Austro-Hungarian empire can’t be overlooked. It was the Austrian nobility, with their close familial connections to the France that truly popularized the use of French Varieties in Friuli, like Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Native varieties suffered and many were lost.

Next, there was the impact of two world wars fought on Friulian soil. The first being the most devastating. The impact of these conflicts destroyed most of Friuli’s vineyards and almost ALL OF ITS MEN… who were the principal winemakers.

So it was’t until a generation AFTER World War II that viticulture and winemaking began making a comeback in Friuli Venezia Giulia… We’re talking about 50 years ago. FIFTY YEARS. Nothing when compared to Bordeaux, Tuscany, etc…

Friulian viticulture is young. It has not had the historical stability to gain a foothold in the global wine mentality, even though it IS Italy’s premier white wine producing region. It’s a technologically advanced wine culture: The first to use stainless steel and to control the temperature of fermentation. That technology REVOLUTIONIZED white wine production in Italy. Previously italian whites were heavy, oxidized and lacked delicate aromas.

But… it’s a viticulture that hasn’t had the time to hone it’s intrinsic style…and that can be liberating. There IS a beauty in not being hemmed-in to a certain style. Experimentation is common, change is not considered a major break with history.

As we begin our journey this week, it’s important to keep these things in mind.

“Di Venere o Marte, ne si torna, ne si parte.”

Roughly translated, this means “Never start anything on Friday or Tuesday” (venerdì=Venere, martedì=Marte)

Therefore, in order to appease the frightening gods of Italian superstition, we can’t start the harvest tomorrow. Friday.

It would mean disaster.

Easy enough to solve though… We start the harvest today. We don’t need to actually start making wine today, we can just start the harvest. Today. Right now.

SO into our hail-scarred vineyards just in front of the office to pick a few bunches…

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That’s Davide saving this year’s harvest, single-handedly, by picking this year’s first grapes on THURSDAY (Giovedì) September 2, 2010.

Thanks, Davide. That was close.

Scenes from San Martino

Just a couple of things I wanted to share…

The weather has been cold and rainy for about a week, but once the clouds clear a little, I can safely say that I have a beautiful morning commute…

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And then I have this little guy constantly flitting and chirping outside my office window:

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In the winery, we’ve started pressing some of the appassimento grapes. We use the basket press for these because there simply isn’t enough volume to fill a pneumatic press. Unfortunately the guys in the cellar got the grapes in the press before I even arrived at the winery today, but I’ll catch them later on and post a few pictures.