Wines of the Week
Sampling northeast Italy’s brilliant wines
By Wes Marshall,
10:00AM, Fri. Mar. 21, 2014
One of the best things that happens to wine lovers in spring is we start seeing the new vintages of Italy’s brilliant wines from the northeast quadrant. The specific areas in question are Friuli (free-OO-lee) and its subset Collio (COE-leo), and Alto Adige (al-toe ODD-eh-shay).
While Europeans prize these wines for their incredible freshness and their staunch loyalty to the classic flavors of the varietal, so far, Americans have been immune to their charms. I would love to encourage you to try some of these wines at your earliest convenience.
To make things simple, I’ll just stick to one varietal Sauvignon Blanc (or, as they call it in this part of Italy, Sauvignon) and three wineries. There are plenty of wineries in these viticultural areas that you can try, but the three wineries I have picked have the dual benefits of being fantastic wines and also pretty easy to find in our local fine wine shops. The makers are Venica, Marco Felluga, and Alois Lageder.
The first two are classic wines from Collio, an area that stretches around the Slovenian border above Trieste. Both Venica and Marco Felluga make multiple versions of the grape and they vary from everyday drinkers to exotically perfumed wines capable of aging for 25 years. The sweet spots for their collections are Felluga’s Russiz Superiore ($20) and Venica’s Ronco del Cerò ($25). If you are only used to the New Zealand style of Sauvignon Blanc, where the wine often smells like fermented grapefruit juice, Italy’s versions may come as something of a shock. These wines are more herbaceous and flinty with incredible depth and density. The Alto Adige area is higher in elevation, but the area is so sunny in the summer, the grapes don’t seem to mind the cool temperatures.