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A Wine Lover's Diary, Part 624: Friuli Collisioni (November 23, 2016)

banner for Vine & Wine Rossi Nativi hanging from romanesque double-arched window high on stone wall

Friday, November 18th: Last night I flew Lufthansa to Frankfurt with Roberto Martella, en route to Venice and then by bus to Cividale del Friuli, a ninety-minute drive. On the Toronto-Frankfurt flight I sat next to an Indian couple who had brought their own food. The smell of curry permeated the cabin. The flight was delayed, which meant our layover time in Frankfurt was cut from an hour and ten minutes to thirty minutes. A sweaty run to the gate but we made the flight.

Met up with five other members of our group who will be attending the three-day Collisioni Festival (tasting local indigenous red varieties and Piemonte whites). A 90-minute drive in the rain to Cividale del Friuli, a charming medieval town founded by Julius Caesar.

Checked in to Hotel Roma, slept for an hour and then rendezvoused with the entire group for a walking tour of Cividale del Friuli conducted by a local tourism guide. She led us to a Langobard church in a monastery with beautiful frescos, to St. Peter's Church and to Piazza Paolo Diacona that's known as the "Ladies Square" – the original marketplace of the town.

Langobard church door

Church of St. Peter, Cividale del Friuli

Ladies Square, Cividale del Friuli

There are some 30 of us – sommeliers and wine writers from all over Europe and North America, with a heavy Canadian contingent. At 7:30 pm we walked over to dinner at Al Monastero Restaurant di Pavan Giuseppe, Via Pistori 9.

Al Monastero Restaurant

Plate decoration at Al Monastero Restaurant

Al Monastero menu

Risotto with speck at Al Monastero

A quartet called "Wine Unplugged" performed songs that related to the dishes we were served – Neil Young's "Heart of Gold," Jeff Buckley's "Everybody Wants You" and Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight." 85% of Friuli wines are white and that's what we were served tonight.

  • Vencia & Vencia Ribolla Gialla 2015: straw colour; minerally, smoky, white peach nose with a floral note; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced with a mineral finish. (89)
  • Gradis'Ciutta Pinot Grigio 2015: straw colour; minerally, peach and apple bouquet with a suggestion of oak; medium-bodied, dry and firm with good length. (89)
  • Blazic Friulano 2015: bright straw colour; minerally, pear and lemon zest nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, spicy pear and lemon flavours with an aromatic floral note in mid-palate. Great balance. (91)

Blazic Collio Friulano 2015

Walked home in the rain.

Saturday, November 19th: Awoke to heavy rain at 6 am. 8:30 am walked to Castello Canussio for the first of our tastings. Today will be a crash course in Refosco. Ian d'Agata introduced the tasting. "Friuli Venezia Giulia is thought of as a white wine region but it also produces great red wines." There are, he said, five important red grapes in the region. "Refosco is a group of grapes with similar characteristics." Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso is the most common. "Any grape variety with lots of synonyms means it's been around for a long time... Already talked about in the nineteenth century. It's a noble, vigorous, thin-skinned grape, probably Teroldego, via Lagrein and Marzemino. Refosco is the father of Corvina and grandfather of Rondinella. An early-budding variety, it needs to be ripe or will give green flavours." 2015 vintage, "Splendid."

  • Cadibon Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2015 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13% alcohol): deep ruby colour; peppery cherry nose with a light floral note; light to medium-bodied, fruity, cherry with lively acidity, Beaujolais-like. Fresh and fruity with a spicy, floral finish. Good length (90)
  • Pitars Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2015 (Friuli Grave – 12.5%): deep ruby colour; cherry with an undergrowth note and a light oak note; medium-bodied, dry and lean with fresh acidity and just a suggestion of tannin. (87).
  • Tenuta Ca' Bolani Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2015 (Friuli Aquileia – 13%): deep ruby colour; spicy, savoury, plum and cherry bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, licorice, plum and prune flavours with evident grainy tannins (87.5).
  • Castello di Buttrio Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2014 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13%): deep ruby colour; spicy, cherry nose with a note of leather; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with a fine spine of acidity and evident tannins (88).
  • Perusini Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2014 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense ruby colour with a violet tint; cedary, black cherry nose with a note of new leather; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry flavour with lively acidity and good length. (88.5)
  • Aquila Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense purple-ruby colour; spicy, fruit cake nose with oak notes; richly extracted, medium-bodied, dry, savoury, bitter chocolate and sour cherry flavours with firm structure with gripping tannins (89). (90% in stainless steel.)

Aquila Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013

Second session:

  • Buiatti Livio & Claudio Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): deep ruby-purple colour; earthy, black cherry nose with a reductive note; medium-bodied, dry, cherry with a floral note; firmly structured, well-extracted fruit with a firm finish, warm alcoholic finish. (87)
  • Butussi Valentino Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): deep purple-ruby colour; black cherry, undergrowth nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, fruity, well-balanced with ripe tannins with lively acidity. Acetic note. (88)
  • Ca'Tullio Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Patriarca 2013 (Friuli Aquileia – 13%): deep ruby-purple colour; spicy, oaky, red flower note; medium-bodied, dry, floral red plum flavour with ripe tannins. (89.5)
  • Livon Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Riul 2013 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13%): deep ruby-purple colour; floral cherry, tobacco and pencil lead bouquet with a spicy oak note; medium-bodied, dry, floral black cherry flavour with lively acidity and firm grainy tannins. A keeper. (Aged in Hungarian oak.) (90)
  • Vitas 1907 – Roman Vitas & Co. Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Villa Vitas 2013 (Friuli Aquileia – 13%): purple-ruby with a violet note in colour; leafy, cherry-plum nose with an earthy note; medium-bodied, dry, lively acidity, firmly structured with a firm finish. (88.5)
  • Cabert-Cantina di Bertiolo Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Riserva 2012 (Friuli Grave – 13%): deep ruby colour; cedary, spicy, tobacco, red berry and rhubarb nose with oak nose; medium-bodied, dry, cranberry flavour with a milk chocolate note carried on lively acidity ending with a floral note. Firm finish. (89)

Refosco flight


A buffet lunch during which we could taste 18 wines, 4 from Piemonte and 14 from Friuli Venezia Giulia.

At 2pm a tasting of indigenous white wines from Piemonte. Arneis used to be called Nebbiolo Bianco and used to be blended with Nebbiolo.

  • Marchesi di Barolo Roero Arneis 2015 (13%): pale straw minerally, white peach nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, fresh with a bitter almond finish. (88)
  • Agricola Gaimpiero Marrone Roero Arneis Tre Fie 2015 (13.5%): light straw colour; minerally, white peach and lemon peel nose; medium-bodied, chalky, white peach and lemon flavours. Some ripeness with a peachy flavor and some bitterness on the finish. (88.5)
  • La Scolca Gavi dei Gavi Codice Gigi 2015 (13%): pale straw colour; minerally, grassy, citrus and green apple nose; crisply dry, green apple and green peach flavours with a touch of bitterness on the lemony finish. (89)
  • Broglia Gavi del Comune di Gavi La Meirana 2015 (13%): pale straw colour; minerally-graphite and citrus nose; medium-bodied, crisply dry, crab apple, firm with some bitterness on the finish. (88.5)
  • Rivetto Lange Nascetta Borea 2013 (13%): medium straw colour; hay, citrus, minty nose; medium-bodied, struck flint with a bitterness on the finish.

Piemonte white wines

A tasting of another flight of Refosco followed:

  • Pizzulin Denis Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 14%): deep purple-ruby colour; earthy, plum nose with spicy oak notes; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted, fruity and firm with evident but ripe tannins. Needs time. (89–90)
  • Valchiaro' Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): deep purple colour; rich, spicy, plum nose; full-bodied, dry, plum and blueberry flavours with lively acidity and a lovely floral note; beautifully balanced and firmly structured. Evident oak. (91) (Aged 30 months in barrique.)
  • Le Monde Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Inaco 2011 (Friuli Grave – 14%): dense purple-ruby colour; richly extracted plum and blackberry nose with vanilla oak; full-bodied, highly extracted plum and raisiny flavours with a coconut notes and a green, tannic finish. (87.5)
  • Marco Cecchini Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 14%): deep purple-ruby colour; vanilla, floral, black fruits on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, fruity, plum and blackberry with lively acidity and a firm tannic finish and a floral note. (89.5)
  • Petrucco Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Ronco del Balbo 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense purple colour; earthy, animal, leather nose; full-bodied, richly extracted, sweet black fruit flavours, chewy, dense and rich. Still youthful. (91)
  • Valpanera Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Riserva 2011 (Friuli Aquileia – 14.5%): dense purple-ruby colour; reductive, blackcurrant and black plum nose with an oaky note; full-bodied, dry, red plum flavour, firmly structured, lively acidity, evident tannins on the finish. (89)

At 5 pm a tasting of Refosco di Faedis wines from the Friuli Colli Orientali region. Refosco, a group of grapes rather than a family, was classified in 2005. The wines have a standardized label from that vintage. 12 producers in the association with six others. Entry-level wines have a white label (usually unoaked and from the plain); riservas, black label (oak-aged but not in barriques). Their symbol is the eagle, the bird of the region. All wines are sold at the same price. Average annual production of both labels is 15,000 bottles.

  • Macor Gianni Refosco di Faedis 2015 (12%): deep ruby colour; black raspberry nose with a cedary, smoked bacon note; medium-bodied, dry, lively acidity with a firm tannic finish. (88.5)
  • Graziano Refosco di Faedis 2013 (13%): deep ruby-purple colour; high-toned fruity-floral, creamy blackberry nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, fresh, easy drinking with a firm finish. (88)
  • Perabo' Maurizio Refosco di Faedis 2013 (13.5%): deep ruby with a violet tint; savoury, blackberry with an earthy-floral note; medium-bodied, dry, savoury, black cherry flavour with a chestnut skin note; firm finish with lively acidity. (89)
  • Ronc Dai Luchis Refosco di Faedis 2013 (14% alcohol; 8% air-dried grapes): deep purple-ruby colour; high-toned, pencil lead, vanilla and cedar notes on the nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum, rustic with firm tannins. (88.5)
  • Di Gaspero Flavio e Umberto Refosco di Faedis 2013 (13%): deep ruby colour; black raspberry nose with oak spice and light floral notes; medium-bodied, dry and savoury, lean and sinewy, firm tannic finish. (87.5)
  • Zani Elvio Refosco di Faedis 2012 (13%; 120-year-old vines) deep ruby colour; inky, spicy, cedary, blackberry nose with rose petal and white pepper notes; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, lovely mouth-feel, lively acidity beautifully balanced and long finish. (90)

Refosco di Faedis

8:00 pm: Rendez-vous at Hotel Roma hall and transfer to dinner. 8:30 pm: Dinner hosted by Associazione produttori Schioppettino di Prepotto at Azienda Agricola Vie d'Alt di Bruno Venica Winery in Prepotto. A buffet dinner with a table of 35 wines – Ribolla Gialla (3), Friulano (12), Verduzzo Friulano (2), Picolit (1), Schioppettino di Prepetto (13 – vintages from 2013 back to 2008), Schioppettino (2007 back to 2004).

Sunday, November 20th: The tastings today start at 9:30 am. Tazzelenghe translates as "tongue cutter" which speaks to its high acidity and tannin on a medium-bodied frame. It's "teetering on the verge of extinction," says Ian d'Agata. Only 6 producers of note; 6–7 hectares of Tazzelenghe left. Terrano (Refosco d'Istria), is "a hot-to-trot grape."

  • Colutta Gianpaolo Tazzelenghe 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 0.5 hectares of this variety; 50% air-dried grapes on the vine; 13.5% alc.): deep ruby colour; cherry, blackcurrant, pepper and rust on the nose with a note of oak; medium-bodied, dry, somewhat austere and rustic with lively acidity and evident tannins. (88) (Two years in oak.)
  • Jacuss Tazzelenghe 2012 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 0.4 hectares of Tazzelenghe; 13%): deep ruby colour; dusty, black plum nose with a light floral note; medium-bodied, dry, sour cherry buttressed by firm tannins. (88.5) (Two years in used barriques.)
  • La Viarte Tazzelenghe 2010 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 1.8 ha. of Tazze; 12.5%): dense purple-ruby colour, very youthful looking; fresh, floral, tobacco, minerally, plum nose; medium to full-boded, dry, well-extracted plum and blackcurrant flavours with a licorice note, lively acidity and a firm tannic finish. (90)
  • Bajta Terrano 2015 (Venezia Giulia – "the grapevines argue with the soil whether they can grow or not"; 3 – 4% air-dried; 12%): deep ruby colour; spicy, earthy, vanilla, pencil lead, black cherry nose with a green note; dry, medium-bodied, fruity with a touch of oxidation, highly acidic and tannic. (87) (Carbonic maceration aged in stainless steel.) Terrano was traditionally prescribed for women suffering from anemia (because of the iron content in the soil).
  • Castelvecchio Terrano senza solfiti 2015 (Carso – 4 ha.; 12.5%): deep purple-ruby colour; white pepper, spicy, plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, fresh and lively acidity with evident tannins, graphite and red plum flavours. Highly acidic. (87)
  • Skerk Terrano 2014 (Venzia Giulia – 1.5 ha.; 11%): deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, black fruit nose with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, acid-driven with sour cherry flavour with a mineral thread and firm tannic finish. (88) (Slavonian oak.)

Flight of Tazzelenghe

11:30 am: Tasting of Pignolo wines. "A rags-to-riches story (for the variety)." The name comes from "pine cone," compact berries, giving biggest, most tannic wines of Friuli's native varieties, "the noblest of Friuli's red grapes." A shy bearer. You have to push ripeness of Pignolo because of the tannins. For me, this was the most exciting discovery on the trip.

  • Borgosandaniele Pignolo Arbis Ros 2012 (Friuli Isonzo – 2 ha. of Pignolo; 14.5%): deep ruby-purple colour; floral, minerally, black fruit nose; medium-full-bodied, dry with black plum and blackberry flavours with lively acidity and grainy tannins. Good length. (89) (Aged two years in new barriques and Slavonian oak.)
  • Rocca Bernarda Pignolo Novecento 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 2ha.; 14.5%): deep ruby with a mature rim; cedary, spicy, vanilla, tobacco and plum nose; medium-bodied, dry, earthy and tannic. Closed in at the moment. (88–90) (Barrique aged for two years.)
  • Scarbolo Pignolo 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 13.5%): dense ruby colour; earthy, cedary, plum nose; medium to full-bodied, dry, plum and dark chocolate flavours with lively acidity and a sandalwood note. (88.5)
  • Specogna Pignolo 2011 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 14%): deep ruby colour; floral, cedary, blackcurrant and blackberry nose; full-bodied, well-extracted, sweet black fruit flavours, firmly structured but elegant, well-balanced with a fine spine of acidity. (90) (36–40 months oak aging.)
  • Giovanni Dri Il Roncat Pignolo Monte dei Carpini 2009 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 600 bottles; 14.5%): deep ruby with a mature rim; ripe, mature, claret-like nose of cedar and blackcurrant; medium-bodied, dry, firmly structured, elegant, well-balanced with a tannic lift on the finish. Needs several years. (91)
  • Livio Felluga Pignolo 2009 (Friuli Colli Orientali – 15%): dense purple-ruby, youthful-looking; spicy, oak-driven cedary-sandalwood nose of plum – New World style; full-bodied, dry, mouth-filling, tannic, somewhat closed, pencil lead note with chewy tannins. (88–90) (Barrique-aged.)

Giovanni Dri Il Roncat Pignolo Monte dei Carpini 2009
My top Pignolo

1 pm: Buffet lunch followed by a tasting of Schioppettino wines, all from Friuli Colli Orientali. ‘The most exciting of the native red grapes of Friuli, according to Ian d'Agata. Huge bunches big berries, with green peppercorn notes.

  • Ronchi San Giuseppe Schioppettino 2015 (13% alc.): deep ruby colour; spicy, cedary, red berry nose; medium-bodied, dry, fruity and fresh, red and blackcurrant flavours with supple tannins. (89.5)
  • Conte D'Attimis-Maniago Schioppettino 2013 (13% alc.): deep ruby colour; floral-minerally nose of red berries and leather; medium-bodied, dry, fruity and light on the palate with a firm finish. Easy drinking. (88)
  • La Tunella Schioppettino 2012 (14.5% alc.; air-dried grapes for 15 days): deep ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant with a spicy, cedary note on the nose; full-bodied, sweet currant flavours with a floral lift; dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, well-structured. Velvety mouth-feel. (91) (Aged in 500-litre tonneaux.)
  • Centa S. Anna Schioppettino 2011 (15% alc. – 50% air-dried): deep ruby colour; cedary, blackcurrant with a peppery note on the nose; medium-bodied, dry, blackcurrant with a cedary note; elegant and firm, silky mouth-feel with lively acidity. Tannic finish. (89)
  • Flaibani Schioppettino 2011 (13% alc. – 1400 bottles): deep ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant nose with a light cedar note; medium-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours with lively acidity and a firm finish. (90)
  • Gigante Schioppettino 2011 (13% alc.): deep ruby colour; floral, blackcurrant nose with a light peppery note; medium-bodied, dry, light and elegant, currant and red cherry flavours, lovely mouth-feel with a firm finish. (91)

Flaibani Schioppettino 2011
A delicious Schioppettino

4:00 pm: Tasting of Schioppettino di Prepotto wines from Friuli Colli Orientali. Schioppettino used to be called Ribolla Nera. 23 producers are members of the association. All 13.5% alcohol. The wines used to use air-dried grapes but have gotten away from appassimento to allow the grape to express itself.

  • Colli Di Poianis Schioppettino di Preppoto 2013: deep ruby colour with a maturing rim; minerally, red berry nose with a light floral and cedary note; light and medium-bodied, dry, redcurrant and cranberry flavours with evident but supple tannins. Good mouth-feel. (88.5)
  • Grillo Iole Schioppettino di Preppoto 2013: deep ruby colour; spicy-cedary nose of cherries with a floral note and a suggestion of leather; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, cherry and black raspberry flavours; well balanced and firm. Great mouth-feel with a fresh finish. Like a cru Beaujolais. (90) (Two years in oak.)
  • Vigna Lenuzza Schioppettino di Preppoto 2013: deep ruby colour; floral, cherry nose with a lifted note; medium-bodied, dry with lively acidity and a firm finish; elegant, beautifully balanced with evident but ripe tannins on the finish. (89.5) (American oak-aged.)
  • La Buse dal Lof Schioppettino di Preppoto 2012: deep ruby colour; a nose of violets and blackcurrants backed by cedary notes; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, savoury red berry flavours with a lively acidic spine. Finishes firmly on an apple peel note. (89)
  • Marinig Schioppettino di Preppoto 2012: deep ruby colour; leather and red berry and blackcurrant nose with floral and cedary notes; medium-bodied, dry, elegant, beautifully balanced, lively acidity and good length. Lovely mouth-feel, firm finish. (90)
  • Ronco dei Pini Schioppettino di Preppoto 2012: deep ruby colour; minerally–pencil-lead nose of red berries with vanilla oak and cedar notes; medium-bodied, dry, lean and sinewy, redcurrant flavour with evident but ripe tannins. (88.5)

7.30 pm: Dinner hosted by Associazione produttori Refosco di Faedis at Villa Accordini, Campeglio di Faedis.

Dinner set-up at Villa Accordini

Villa Accordini's menu

A glass of sparkling Ribolla Gialla, a quick tour of the cellar and then into the dining room for a 6-course dinner accompanied by various vintages of Villa Accordini Refosco di Faedis, ending with grappa. Back at the hotel by midnight, finished packing reading for an alarm call at 5:45 am.

Monday, November 21st: Arrived in rain, left in rain. Shared a taxi to Venice airport with Michael from New York and Elise, a sommelier at Mylos restaurant in Las Vegas. Bought a pair of cashmere gloves for Deborah in Duty Free. Flew to Frankfurt and then boarded the flight to Toronto. A mercifully uneventful flight back to Toronto. A very quick but intensive visit to Friuli and a new respect for the native red varieties grown there.




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