Checkin' Out Collio

View from Monte Quarin near Cormòns and Beate Vergine del Soccorso Church
Back again in Italia! It's been a while. This time I've been in Friuli-Venezia Giulia's Collio region in the very North-East of the country right on the border to Slovenia. Thanks to the kind invitation of Collio Vitae I was able to explore another Italian wine region slightly off the spotlight. In late September I spent two knowledge dropping and pretty merrily tasting days in the city of Cormòns to get a good overview of the regional wines, some traditions, plenty of food and its beautiful surroundings.

Ribolla Gialla vines
Before I drift off to the crucial part of today's post I'd like to provide some background information about Collio

The late budding and rather demanding, in sense of sensitivity and harvest, Friuliano (or outdated: Tocai Friuliano; or on international level: Sauvignon Vert), the lushly colourful as well as even later budding Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia Istriana (the regional offspring from the Malvasia family) are the autochthonous players on Collio's vineyards. Besides these traditional varieties international players like Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and blues like Merlot and Cabernet Franc enjoy rathter great popularity. However most Collio Biancos are blended. Like the ones I'd like to intruduce to you a bit later on. 

The predominant soil in Collio region is called Ponca (or flysch) - a diversified mixture of sandstone as well as stratified marlstone. These appropriately poor soils are characterized by large parts of marine sediments like fossils, minerals and especially profound footprints of salinity. Concerning vinification and maturation there are no general statements possible. In Collio you will come across the whole range from stainless all the way to eggs and amphorae as well as from pragmatic "traditionalists" to inspired biodynamic'ists. Enough knowledge for today! Now the time is ripe for the crucial part ...

Pitoresque vineyards near Plessiva in late September

The Colle Duga Collio Bianco 2013 from Azienda Agricola e Vigneti Damian Princic in Cormòns is a white blend made of stainless aged Sauvignon Blanc and Friuliano as well as in barrique aged Chardonnay and Malvasia Istriana. Its colour presented light reflexes of green and quite a lot of dense viscosity. Its nose appeared delicate, flowery and packed with slightly tart scenting fruit aromas from white peaches, bananas and tangerines. A fair share of typical herbaceous tart Sauvignon Vert characteristics provided this Collio Bianco with an elegant and full seeming dimension. On the palate I got flavours of rather mellow acacia honey, finely tuned white peaches, a few impressions of pretty sweet bananas, green tangerines, traces of green paprika and not so few freshly cut twigs. The Colle Duga presented itself as a delicate fruitful, already nicely accessible, not too tart appearing (especially on the palate), quietly mineral driven Collio Bianco with decent **** qualities and proper finish. More an elegant charmer than a intellectual challenger.

The second wine I'd like to introduce is the Collio 2013 from Azienda Agricola Raccaro Dario. This one is a blend of 20% Friuliano, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 50% Pinot Grigio from old vines (approx. 45 years old). Its colour seemed rather clear and colourless. There were a few reflexes of silvery gold and muted green. The nose showed reserved fragrances of green bananas, some cantaloup, yellow pear, yarrow, perhaps some powdery detergents and rather tart freshly cut twigs. Its taste seemed very reserved as well. It was rather tart, diffusely grape'y fruity, a bit tight, astoundingly acidic and somehow astringently “tannic”. Its body seemed much lighter than the rather prominent Colle Duga. To me this Collio Bianco was more like a bit irresolute and intimidated teenager which might need a certain while to evolve. Its earthy, reductive, very reserved and tart character made it difficult to comprehend. At the moment for me a very solid so la-la *** quality.

Left to right: Raccaro Dario Collio 2013, Damian Princic Colle Duga 2013, Edi Keber Collio 2013, Picéch Roberto Collio Jelka 2013 and Damijan Podversic Kaplija 2009

The third wine was the Collio 2013 from Azienda Agricola Edi Keber. His Collio is a blend of traditional Friuli grape varieties like Friuliano (70%), Ribolla Gialla (15%) and Malvasia Istriana (15%) which were aged in old cement vats. Its colour was obviously (and only comparatively) more lush (in a reduced sense) and less colourless. Due to its share of Ribolla Gialla there were a few golden'ish sparkles detectable. The nose of Keber's Collio appeared pretty reductive, delicate to filigree and surely rather reserved (with plenty of signalizing potential). There were herbaceous cabbage'y scents (very delicately balanced) as well as aromas gooseberries, a whiff of black currant, some black pepper, nettles and a bit yeasty appearing impression. Its taste was equally reserved, shy and downright signalizing. There were mild aromas of gooseberries, cassis, a hint of pear and assorted mild appearing herbal-mineral flavours like white pepper, thyme, green leaves, salt, cactus and aloe vera. Some phenolic drive was evidend, too. I am sure this shy, not yet fully settled, mild, pretty long lasting, already a bit salty and precise Collio will have a bright and punchy future. To me downright decent **** and with convincing potential to even more for the coming years.

Another tasted Collio Bianco was the Jelka 2013 from Azienda Agricola Picéch Roberto. The grapes for this one were de-stemmed, macerated for up to 14 days and aged in large oak barrels. The Jelka is a blend of equal shares from Ribolla Gialla and Friuliano plus approx. 20 % of Malvasia Istriana. This one's colour showed a notion of straw-golden-yellow characteristics and hardly any green'ish signs of the previously mentioned Collios. The nose showed nicely balanced, almost expressive and chummy exotic fragrances of guava, cactus, aloe vera and ripe pears in combination with not so tart appearing earthy and herbal aromas of freshly cut twigs, some bark, tamarind and white pepper. All in all a very appealing, dense and long fruitful character. On the palate there were similar fruitful, ripe and exotic expressions. Perhaps a little bit more reduced and so far less integrated. Right now the herbal part seemed more in the foreground. Anyway, it wasn't all too tart, though. In given time this will integrate nicely. A notion of oak was detectable as well. Just a minor one. For me surely a decent **** Collio with prominent, ripe, lush and exotic qualities.

Left to right: Collio Bianco Jelka 2013, Bianco Kaplja 2009 and plain aqua minerale

My last Collio was kinda different! Well, all wines were rather unlike to each other. However, the following one showed far more different characteristics. Damijan Podversic's Bianco Kaplja 2009 is a blend of 40% Chardonnay, 30% Friuliano and 30% Malvasia Istriana. The grapes for this Collio were jointly macerated for approx. 90 days. The subsequent aging period took three years in large 3000 l oak barrels. Its colour was dense, pretty murky and full with bright orange'y amber'ish reflexions (check out the photo above). The nose presented attributes which reminded me of assorted candied fruits, a minor and well fitting fine shade of Sherry, delicate smoke and in the background fresh seeming fruit fragrances of tangerines (very ripe ones) and pulpy yellow pears. Its taste was dominated by fine caramel, ripe and slightly spicy seeming candied fruits (oranges and lemons), some coffee (and perhaps a hint of toffee), ripe-fresh aromas of lime, a trace of passion fruit and to the finish a well set herbal as well as a bit ethereal touch. The complexity and concentration of this wine was really convincing. So its certain domesticated savagery. The latter aspect seemed very well integrated and not just challengingly interesting. That is why I wouldn't consider this one as a wine only for jaded wine geeks. For me a very decent ***** wild and chummy Collio with straight complexity!

Left to right: Edi Keber Collio 2008, Raccaro Dario Collio 2005, Edi Keber Collio 2005, Picéch Jelka 2004 and Edi Keber Collio 2002

Heading towards a few conclusive thoughts I really shouldn't forget to mention a couple of aspects concerning the longevity of white blends from Collio. 

During my stay in Friuli I had the opportunity to taste a couple of aged, mostly very well aged, Collios. For instance there was the elegant, surprisingly fruitful (if you compare it to the edition before), profoundly contenting and well balanced Collio 2008 from Edi Keber. Keber's Collio 2005 preformed even more precise, expressive and quite subtle on my palate. The “edition” from 2002 was the most convincing one. This one appeared downright well structured, not as openly fruitful as the 2008 or 2005 and with its elegantly resinous mineral characteristics and beautifully integrated acid. It was astoundingly profoundly gripping to more than just a certain extent. All three were more or less very decent ***** indeed.

Raccaro Dario's Collio Bianco from 2005 showed a few advanced qualities, surprisingly salty aromas as well as a nice fruitful lushness. The 2001 appeared pretty different. This one showed far less indications of its relative seniority. It was fresh, showed very nice evolved and reduced fruit flavours, appealingly mild herbal characteristics and a very gratifying finish. Both wines, although rather unlike, were surely decent ****.

Picéch Roberto's Collio Bianco from 2004 showed distinct flavours of smoke, not so much of fruit, quite a lot of spice, surprisingly brawny as well as broad qualities (in a positive sense) far off any restraint. Surely more of a food wine. Definitely a decent **** white Collio. The one from 1998 showed plenty of aged attributes, some of them seemed really refined and still nicely set. Especially in an olfactory sense. Some of them seemed a bit too far advanced (at least for my palate) towards the oxidative side. Nevertheless this 15 year old wine showed plenty of impressive complexity as well as density. Surely an experience worth ...

And the conclusive thoughts? Well, as you all know I am not man of many words: I guess it's really been awesome  ... this checkin' out of Collio!

No comments: