Tag Archives: tocai

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…


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… 



Photographing the photographer – vInception?

Woke up in the dark this morning to meet Daniele Borghello, pro Photographer, at our Buttrio vineyard for a sunrise shoot. The weather has been astounding recently, and it has been a fantastic vintage so far (more details to come). Today did not disappoint, although Daniele did complain of a little bit of foschia (haziness, light fog) that made the morning light more yellow than red.

Now, I’ll admit (and you may have guessed) that I’m horribly jealous of great photographers who really know how to use those “big clicky cameras”, as my friend Samantha calls them. Someday I’ll get me one of those big clilcky cameras and take some good pictures… For now I entertain myself trying to snap a couple shots here and there, and I thought it would be interesting to take pictures of someone taking pictures… Like the movie “Inception”, but with vineyard photos… vInception!


The sun came up and revealed a gorgeous morning, lighting the vineyards in Buttrio in a way I haven’t seen since I worked the ’02 vintage. I managed to pop off a couple of my own before heading home to shower and properly dress for the office. Daniele stuck around to watch the pickers do their thing and get some poetic shots of the old Tocai Friulano vines in the “Plus” vineyard… Something I have not managed to capture with my small, non-clicky camera.

I’m sure Daniele’s photos will be stunning, but in the meantime, I’ll hit you with my best shot…


Lovely Day in the PLUS Vineyard

I just wanted to share a couple shots I took recently in the Plus vineyard just at budbreak, a day or 2 before VinItaly. I was a wonderful day and these photos came out so well… CIMG1426

In these you really get an idea of the altitiude and position of these vines and how they get sun and air all day for perfect ripening and clean fruit… CIMG1428

Tocai Plus feeling the love… Blog-wise, and from the heart…


I’ve just read the most incredible review of our beloved Tocai PLUS on Frederic Koeppel’s Bigger Than Your Head wine blog…

Bastianich Tocai Plus 2006: Lord Have Mercy!

My favorite part of the review says:

“When you smell and taste a great wine, you know it unmistakeably, though that doesn’t mean that it’s overpowering or blatant; rather, its greatness, in this case, lies in an essential gathering of nuance and subtle details.”… He went on to call the wine “Exceptional”…

Thanks so much Frederic for the “blog-love”!

Tocai Plus will simply be called “PLUS” after the ’06 vintage, due to the fact that the Friulani lost the EU battle to keep the name “Tocai”, awarded exclusively to the makers of dessert wines in Hungary. The ’06 is still available and still called Tocai Plus. It is a unique style of (Tocai) Friulano… 60-year-old Old vines already give very concentrated fruit. The vineyard’s perfect exposure ensures clean, full ripening almost every year, it’s high position on the first hills giving it exceptional cross-ventilation during summer, as the winds shift between the Adriatic Sea and the Carnian Alps… ButtrioPLAY2

We also do some appassimento on these grapes to even further concentrate and intensify…


The purpose of Tocai Plus is to showcase the maximum potential of the Friulano grape variety, especially in this particular site. We wanted to see how far we could take Friulano, how intense we could make it, while always maintaining its balance.

The result is a small amount of labor-intensive (the dried Friulano is destemmed BY HAND) and very low production (no vine produces more than 1kg of grapes) wine for those who enjoy the intensity of great Alsatian whites or are looking for a white counterpart to Amarone…

It’s our labor of love… I remember when I worked in the cellar, the stainless steel tank where we fermented the PLUS was smaller than the other tanks, and wasn’t connected to the central cooling system in the winery… In order to control the temperature, you’d have to climb up and drop a thermometer inside the fermenting must for a couple minutes, and then read the result.. If things were a little too warm, you’d open a valve and cold water would begin to run down the outside of the tank for cooling.

After a while, I didn’t need to look at a thermometer, I could tell by feel if the fermentation was getting too warm… by placing my cheek against the outside of the tank… Every hour or so, and last thing before bed and first thing in the morning, I would hug the tank, press my cheek to the surface and take the baby’s temperature, a ritual that always got a laugh out of my wife each time we left or entered the winery…

Labor of love indeed.