Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Friuli Whites - WBW # 41

The first Wine Blogging Wednesday of 2008 is here and it's hosted by Jack and Joanne at Fork and Bottle, the great website that spreads information about food, wine, cooking with kids, restaurant reviews, gardening, and all things related to good and healthy living.

They chose Friuli Whites as the theme, and an interesting theme it is. I like it when WBW gets "esoteric" on us like this. Not esoteric at all, actually. Although the typical wine emporium might not offer a large selection of these wines outside of generic drippy Pinot Grigio, a good wine store probably keeps at least a few bottles in stock. And I think it's fair to say that wine geeks know about Friuli whites.

I am a wine geek who does not know about Friuli whites. I know they exist, and that Jack really likes 'em, and that a few of my favorite wine writers love Gravner or Radikon or Movia, but I have extremely limited experience with these wines. As in almost no experience. I'm talking about a few bottles of 1999 Clivi Tocai Friulano, and probably a few bottles of banal Pinot Grigio along the way. So this is an opportunity for me to get to know a little something about these wines, and that's exactly what I did. I couldn't decide on one wine, or even one grape, so I tasted a few wines and three grapes. A little mini-canvas of the region, if you will.

My overall reaction: intrigued. I did not fall in love with any of the wines I tasted, but I was fascinated by them. Each was an interesting wine with real character, and in each the flavors were quite clean and pure. There was something that they each shared, and I have to assume it is terroir specific: there was a distinct apple and cider spice thing happening on the nose of each of the wines, and to some degree in the flavor profile too. Not necessarily as the dominant aroma or flavor, but it was there in each wine. Not the green apple thing that I get in some wines I am more familiar with, but a red apple, cobbler/dessert kind of thing.

The quality is evident, alcohol levels were reasonable at either 13% or 13.5%, and the prices on the wines I tasted certainly will not break the bank. I also respect the trend towards natural wine making in the region. That said, I found myself wondering what to eat with the wines. Semolina bread with golden raisins and fennel seeds, and a selection of cheeses? Roast pork loin? Fresh fruit and almonds? I really couldn't settle on anything. The flavor profile of these wines is so new to me, and to be honest, I'm not sure if it is a flavor profile that I like as much as that of Loire or Burgundy whites. I probably need a guided tasting of Friuli whites.

Here are the wines I tasted and some notes:

2001 i Clivi Galea Corno di Rosazzo
, $14 at Chambers Street Wines.
i Clivi makes natural wine using organic methods and naturally occurring yeast, and the aromas and flavors are not surprisingly very pure and fresh.This is predominantly Tocai Friulano (about 80%) and the rest Verduzzo. Right out of the bottle the nose is ridiculous - just amazing. I get fennel seeds, honey, mushy red apples, cinnamon or other cider spices, and minerals. On day two the honeyed roundness was more dominant on the nose but swirling brought out the spices, fresh spring water, and something herbal - tarragon? The palate is apple cobbler with honey and herbs and it's very tasty, but I found myself wishing that there were more acidity to cut through the fat. There is a pleasant lingering cider spice finish. This is compelling wine. By the way, this price is a big discount. The 1999 cost about $25. A sales guy at Chambers Street told me that this is a closeout on the vintage, explaining the deep discount.

2005 Movia Pinot Grigio, $27 at Slope Cellars.
My first Movia (the name of a future film?). With vineyards on both sides of the Italian/Slovenian border, this estate farms biodynamically and doesn't filter the wines. Eric Asimov wrote about Movia here, and the comments on his post are informative too. I went to Italian Wine Merchants, the famous temple of Italian wine here in New York City, hoping to find something by Movia. They had at least five wines to choose from but I actually left empty-handed, not yet knowing how I wanted to structure my Friuli tasting. I decided that I wanted to try their Sauvignon Blanc, but never made it back to Manhattan, and Slope Cellars had the Pinot Grigio.

The color is lovely, a golden yellow with a peach or salmon hue. There are a few floaties in there, a clear (pardon the pun) sign of the lack of filtration. The nose is almost impossibly fleshy, so peachy and clean, it feels like I'm eating the aromas. BrooklynLady said "it smells like walking near a freshwater stream in the woods." There are cider spices and an herbal character in the background. Pure and juicy on the palate with orchard fruits, cider spices, and tarragon. On day one it felt a bit thin on the midpalate, but on day two the wine had put on some weight and gained complexity and balance, and there was a lingering herbal and cider spice finish to go with the memory of peaches after swallowing. This is also compelling wine.

2006 Sirch Ribolla Gialla, $16 at Chamber Street Wines.
Light yellow color with a nose of lemon, apple, and spicy vanilla. On day two the nose was much more interesting, with clean lemon grass and balsa wood aromas. This wine was bright and fresh on the palate, more lively and young than the other wines, also more simple. Easy to enjoy, with flavors of citrus, herbs, hints of cider spice, and bright acidity. Tasty, but not memorable.

Thanks to Jack and Joanne for hosting, and to Lenn for starting this whole Wine Blogging Wednesday thing.


David McDuff said...

Memorable or not, you clearly fared better than I did (one for three). Nice write-ups.

Jeff said...

I really like the idea of having three wines from the region and tasting them side by side over a couple of nights. I really need to do that more often - for WBW or just a regular night.

Marcus said...

I love Tocai. Had the Movia varietal when I was in New York a year ago... my only chance!

What's ridiculous is that I can't live out your recommendations and find these bottles up here. The Clivi Galea especially sounds like I'd love it. Why don't you spawn yourself for a guided tasting at the SAQ?

It's neat you found a common ground between Ribolla, Tocai Friulano and Pinot Grigio. I can be a bit scared off by the grape diversity and steep prices of this wine region.

Joe Manekin said...

Interesting choices. I think your food instincts are correct. I was skimming through a book on friulian cookery last year, and tried out a few of the recipes. Lots of gnocchi, risotto, butter, seasonal veges. and fresh herb preparations.

You need to try Gravner, preferably the Ribolla rather than the Breg. The most intriguing, complex white wine (non-Riesling) I have ever had. It'll probably run you around $100 at IWM. Yeah, it's expensive. You also might try to hit the Vias (Gravner's US importer) trade tasting with one of your retailer friends. The tasting is typically in January.

Anonymous said...

Hi Neil,

Great reviews. It's a shame that you found yourself somewhat disappointed by the wines that you chose.

We had a great experience with ours, a Sauvignon Sol from Ronco del Gnemiz. We also thought of pork loin as a pairing suggestion.

There's a wine seller in New York that has the bottle we tried. I'd recommend it for a second take on the region.

(In fact, I've bought a few extra bottles with the idea of pairing them with different foods on the site as part of the Wine Book Club.)


Brooklynguy said...

thanks david. and actually the clivi wine was at its best on day 4 - i kid you not. sort of goes against the friulano is best young idea...

it's a splurge jeff, but once a month it really makes you feel good to treat yourself to an extravagance like that. the wine lasts 4 days in the fridge so its like opening one a day anyway, but this way you get to taste more and track progress.

hey dok - your precious SAQ doesn't carry lots of good stuff. who knows why? friuli is way over my head right now too, as is most of italy. i can't understand how people think french wine labes are confusing - what on earth is an italian wine label all about anyway??

hey old skool - risotto with fresh herbs - that's it! would be perfect , and the BrooklynLday makes a mean risotto. next time. i'm down with gravner, but not with the 100 smacks needed for the bottle until i taste it first. i'll ask around about the tasting - that's a great idea, thanks.

hey sean - i wasn't disappointed at all. i am just brand new to these wines and didn't immediately fall in love. i really liked the wines, and will explore further when the opportunity presents itself.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you need to try Gravner Ribolla 98-00 vintages...ranking as three of the greatest whites I've had. I think the 2001 still needs more time.

Btw, I had the same i Clivi wine, but the 1997 - the first one Kermit Lynch brought in (I believe). I just haven't gotten to his shop in a while to see if they still carry it; last time they have none, but the was a while ago.

All I'll say about Movia as that it holds the #2 position in my cellar (to Rochioli).

Lyle Fass said...

Nice notes. The reason I bought Sirch is to ween people off inocous Pinot Grigio. It is $16 and right at a Pinot Grigio buyers sweet spot. So if they come in and want Pinot Grigio they can also, if they want, try something that is similar, made from a much more interesting varietal that has great character.

Brooklynguy said...

hiya jack - i'm going to try to get lyle to take me with him to the tasting at the end of january. that's my only gravner hope for the near future. i was really impressed with this clivi, maybe more than the 99. and such a steal right now dollar-wise. movia, unlike gravner, is something i can explore.

hi lyle - that's a real service to the public, offering this instead of insipid pgrigio. it's like protecting people from themselves.

RougeAndBlanc said...

Thanks for the notes on I Clivi, sounds like it is much better than the Sirch I tried at the same price point. I shall get one from Chambers and give that a shot.
I also find that these young Tocai holds up very well in mulit-day tastings.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the interesting post on Friuli wines. While there are a lot of similarities between the wines of Collio and those of neighbouring Goriska brda (Slovenia), in my opinion they remain two clearly distinct wine regions.

And while Movia produces some great white wines (and not-so-great red wines), there are definitely other great winemakers there you rarely read about.
I'm thinking about Klinec (also in Dobrovo, who makes a.o. a great red "bela quela"), Batic, Skurec,...

Steven Van De Woestyne, Belgium

Brooklynguy said...

hi andrew - it really is a steal at chambers street - such a good value.

hi Steven - welcome to the site, and thanks for your comments. i was quite impressed with the Movia wine I tasted. i'm hoping that Jack at Fork and Bottle discusses the differences you mention in his round up. thanks for the suggestions on those producers.

Unknown said...

Nice. More over-achieving on WBW!

I've added these wines to Vinismo; any contributions, expansions or embellishments welcome.

2005 Movia Pinot Grigio

2001 i Clivi Galea Corno di Rosazzo

2006 Sirch Ribolla Gialla