Friuli-Venezia Giulia: Rethinking white wine

Named after Julius Caesar, Friuli-Venezia Giulia has made people rethink Italian white wines.

Friuli’s soil has a varied minerality and the 10 sub-zones that include the DOCG Ramandolo — and the prestigious zone of Collio — play host to a multitude of grape varieties. On the white-wine side, the indigenous grapes of Ribolla Gialla, Picolit and Tocai Friuliano share the spotlight with sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, pinot blanc, riesling, chardonnay and others. You will find a lot of single-varietal wines but blends are also common. Traditionally, the wines were vinified dry, and no oak or Slovenian oak was used. These days, there are myriad styles — including fermentation and aging in barrique, skin fermentation and the use of open top fermenters. The result is that Friuli is making not only some world-class white wines but also offering a diverse selection for different palates. Here are three white wines that are exceptional and distinct.

La Tunella Bianco Sesto, 2007: This family-run estate in Colli Orientali del Friuli is not well-known, but every one of its wines I’ve tasted has been a hit. Bianco Sesto is a blend of equal parts Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friuliano. The grapes are fermented whole-cluster and aged in Slovenian oak barrels. Minerally with hints of citrus and white peach, this wine has fantastic acid balance, good weight and a superb, long finish. Suggested retail: $25

Radikon Oslavje, 2001: Stanko Radikon is one of the original mavericks in Friuli. He uses extended maceration, Slovenia oak barrels and little to no sulfur. By the time release date comes around — usually about five years after the vintage — the wines have gathered a cloudy, golden color and developed a mysterious and intense bouquet. The Oslavje, a blend of pinot bianco, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, is a full-bodied, textured matrix of dried apricot skin, lime peel and roasted hazelnuts. It is a singular wine in many respects and definitely worth the splurge. Suggested retail: $65

Guerra Albano sauvignon, 2006: This is a winery to watch. The Albano family has been growing grapes for several generations but it was not until 1992 that they actually began to bottle the wines. I’ve tasted a couple, leading me to think that there is great potential, but this sauvignon blanc has already arrived. Medium-bodied with herbal, coffee-grind overtones and a crisp minerality underscoring peach, grapefruit and guava fruit, it is extremely pleasant and typical of sauvignon blanc from the area. Suggested retail: $25

One more wine: 2005 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot, Cold Creek Vineyard

Chateau Ste. Michelle’s merlots just seem to get better and better. This full-bodied, structured wine has plenty of backbone but is also accessible now. It should age well in the next decade, gaining in complexity and fragrance. It offers intense and pure black-cherry fruit and hints of chocolate and herbs. It’s one smooth wine that really shows the difference between merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Retail price: $26

Pamela S. Busch is the wine director and proprietor of CAV Wine Bar & Kitchen in San Francisco.

artsentertainmentOther Artswinewine reviews

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Musician shot by off-duty FBI agent on Haight Street speaks out

Man thought official was a ‘fake cop’

Emails reveal another FBI suspect may have given Mayor Breed a gift

onguard Mere days after Mayor London Breed revealed she took a potentially… Continue reading

Video shows angry 49ers fan throwing items at cashier on Super Bowl Sunday

San Francisco police are asking the public for help identifying an aggressive… Continue reading

New plan provides a road map to better transit for Bayview residents

SFMTA to review suite of 101 projects designed to improve community safety and access

Mandelman bringing bathhouses back to The City

New ordinance would amend health code restrictions imposed in 1980s

Most Read