All wines stored at 55° and 70% humidity
From 78-year-old vines.
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 Brazan Friulano is one of the great, great whites I've ever had from Italy.
I Clivi's Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano) comes from 75-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.