• Maximum Tension:  2015 Ronco del Gnemiz Sauvignon Blanc SOL

    Maximum Tension: 2015 Ronco del Gnemiz Sauvignon Blanc SOL

    The Friulian Sauvignon Blanc selection has long been dominated here by the skin macerated style. To be blunt, I've left the direct-press, crisp style to Chavignol and the eastern Loire valley. The reason is simple. I've found the tension and structure much more appealing in the Loire versus Friuli. Of course, my #1 job is to continue to taste and continue to have opinions flipped. Ronco del Gnemiz marks a serious shift in my thinking.

    Today, I'm happy to offer the 2015 Ronco del Gnemiz Sauvignon Blanc "SOL".

    Ronco del Gnemiz' entire range of wines is dead-set on displaying a serious backbone of minerality that perfectly frames the sun-soaked hill of Rosazzo, famous for its poncasoil (a limestone/clay marl). Their "SOL" bottling comes from a parcel of selection massale Sauvignon Blanc vines on a particularly limestone-dominant portion of Rosazzo. "SOL" is endowed with a rigor and laser-like focus that stands out, as not only one of the greats of Friuli, but one of the world's most compelling expressions of Sauvignon Blanc.

    Tasting "SOL" is a masterclass in how Friuli's unique ponca soil translates into wine, as the pulverized chalky components here skyrocket out of the glass on first sniff. There's loads of tropicality like grapefruit and guava, but all held in check under a tremendous amount of tension that offers a serious side here that matches anything you're likely to find in the Loire valley. The sensation of grip, dancing minerality on the palate, and long finish is a statement on the world class effort this is.

    The Ronco del Gnemiz wines still very much fly under-the-radar. 
    Serena Palazzolo and her sons have organically farmed these parcels since she took over for her father in the 90's. Today, these southern-facing slopes see moderation from the Adriatic ocean that also offers a sea-breeze element that differs drastically from what you're likely to find in the Loire. A must try for any Sauvignon Blanc lover, or those who gravitate towards whites founded on structure and a more linear focus.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • The Great Italian White:  2015 I Clivi Brazan Collio Friulano

    The Great Italian White: 2015 I Clivi Brazan Collio Friulano

    Italy has long been maligned when the debate at a raucous dinner party turns to The Great White Wines of the World. Often, names like Miani, Gravner, Radikon, Emidio Pepe, and Valentini are quick retorts when Francophiles list off the dizzying array of top producers throughout the country. To be fair, I've long struggled in finding Italian whites that reverberate with me like the benchmarks of France, Germany, and Austria do.

    The aforementioned five Italian estates can be difficult to source, and pricing is often astronomical. Making proclamations about the great whites of Italy may be silly considering the wild diversity of varieties grown. But, after revisiting the oldest Friulano release by I Clivi I'm throwing caution to the wind: The 2015 old vine BrazanFriulano is one of the great, great whites I've ever had from Italy. At $39 per bottle this is not to be missed.

    I Clivi's Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano) comes from 70-year-old vines in the Brazan vineyard. In Collio these revered marl soils are known as Ponca. As a variety Friulano can be tricky, often succumbing to fatty and overly-glossy characteristics as acidity can drop off quickly while grapes are on the vine. Ferdinando Zanusso has fought against this by his meticulous organic work in the vineyard and in regularly sampling grapes before harvest to ensure picking occurs at the optimal moment. He also began to block malolactic fermentation in order to retain tension and verve.

    I can't overemphasize just how thrilling the Brazan is to drink. On the nose there's a massive brioche character derived from the long aging on lees. On the palate there's a seductive gossamer texture that's perfectly proportioned to the ripe fruit and laser-focused acidity. And, while creamy coconut characteristics sound like an impossible feat to execute being balanced by bright freshness, that's exactly what Brazan does that ultimately made my head spin. 

    Some wines take a moment to really pull you in and reveal their greatness, but upon first sip this Friulano's perfection is made abudnatly clear. The best of Collio can show rich textural and exotic fruit notes OR they're built on mineral drive full of mouth-coating salinity. There's only one bottling I've found that displays both, and with each year in bottle Brazan's magic is divulged even more.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Picture Perfect Collio: 2012 I Clivi Brazan Friulano

    Picture Perfect Collio: 2012 I Clivi Brazan Friulano

    Friuli can be home to some of the most fascinating and adventurous wines in the world. Skin macerated whites (orange wines) have gained world wide loyalists, with producers like Gravner and Radikon reaching rock star status among them. Occasionally lost in all this is the brilliant whites of the region that march to the beat of a different drum. The clean and precise wines coming from Ferdinando Zanusso's I Clivi estate in the Collio region is just about the perfect representation of this other side of the coin. The first time tasting Ferdinando's wines it became clear these are destined for stardom, especially for those who favor more detailed, crystalline, and finely-etched whites.

    I Clivi has a wide range of wines, but it's his Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano) coming from 70-year-old vines in the Brazan vineyard that stole the show for me. The variety can be a tricky one, often succumbing to fatty and overly glossy characteristics as acidity can naturally fall out of these grapes rapidly on the vine. Ferdinando has fought against this by his meticulous work in sampling grapes regularly before harvest to ensure picking concludes well before sufficient acidity is lost. He also began to block malolactic fermentation to retain a taut and disciplined structure.

    All the winemaking specifics aside, this bottling was an epiphany moment. As a more regular drinker of white Burgundy, dry Riesling, and focused Chenin Blanc I've found a certain criteria for whites that really reverberate with me - where fruit is shown through a prism of a well defined frame. Where plush and ripe characteristics are allowed, but held in check with an element of salinity and a mineral backbone for support.

    The Brazan vineyard is ideal for these principles, planted on marl soils known in Collio as Ponca. Ferdinando goes out of his way to drive home the point that all his wines are a natural representation of his sites. Farming is organic, fermentation is native, and everything is handled in the cellar with the least amount of intervention possible. The Friulano from Brazan's 70-year-old vines are aged 18 months on their lees before bottling. This process allows the wines to regularly take a couple years in bottle to fully reveal themselves. The 2014 and 2013 vintages produced gorgeous wines here, but the 2012 Brazan Friulano stole the show.

    The rich texture of Friulano is one that provides a never ending sense of fascination. I Clivi's example just happens to be one that balances that inherent weight with a fleet-footed touch that's unlike any I've come across.

    2012 I Clivi Brazan Collio Goriziano Friulano
    $35 per bottle.

    Posted by Max Kogod