Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The sweetness of Friuli Venezia Giulia

Friuli Venezia Giulia is a little gem in Italian wine production. This small region of the extreme North East of Italy makes high quality wines, especially whites (either from traditional and international varieties) thanks to a well draining limestone soil. But the two most prestigious appellations (DOCG) of the area are actually two sweet wines: Ramandolo and Picolit. Both from indigenous grapes, both small but ancient productions. Ramandolo, was the first of the two to achieve the DOCG qualification in 2001. It takes its name from a small village in the hills north of Udine. It is made with Verduzzo Friulano grape,as a "passito", by drying the grapes on racks or by late harvesting . It normally has a shimmering golden colour, sometimes almost orange. It is characterised by flavours of dried apricot and figs, stewed pears, honey and caramel. It is intensely sweet and has a creamy textured palate. A couple of producers are really remarkable: Coos and Roncat (especially the Uve Decembrine). It would amazingly pair a plate of San Daniele ham and figs, a strudel and as well some aged cheeses.

Once said all this, I have to admit that honestly my favourite is the second one: the Picolit. First of all for its name, that is also the grape's name and derives from the the dialectal word for "small" and indicates the size of the berries. Because this varietal is quite fragile and affected by poor pollination rate and natural  floral abortion, causing small sparsely-berried bunches and of course low yields. Especially in the 18th century, during the philloxera period, its survival was really in danger. It finally  managed to resist mainly thanks to the work and researches of the Perusini family that tried to reproduce harder clones to reduce the failure rate. The second reason for my preference is that this wine stands for character and elegance.No surprise that was know and loved in most European courts since the 17th century. It is a firm noble wine. It has aromas of delicate white flowers, acacia but also candied peel, fruit in syrup, caramel, honey and apricot jam. It is balanced and harmonious, aromatic and persistent. It works magically with foie gras and strong blue cheeses but most of all it is a meditation wine.
I know you could think "how is it possible I've never heard about it if it's so good?".....Well if you haven't (and it would be a shame), probably it is due to the limited production and diffusion. Also the low yields and the fragility of the grape make this wine quite expensive. But even if not cheap, trust me: you would not blame yourself for spending some money on this delicious nectar.
Couple of outstanding examples are the ones from Livio Felluga and Ronchi di Cialla and both can be found in!!!