Wine of the Week
The Wines of Collio
Collio is in the northeast part of Italy and, like France's Alsace, is one of those areas that has been passed back and forth depending on which country won the latest war. It sits hard up against Slovenia and just below Austria and has been part of the Hapsburg Empire, Napoleon's France, a Slavic state, and part of the Venetian Republic, only becoming part of Italy after World War II. This mishmash of influences has left the region with a fascinating mix of cultures and cuisines, with wines to match.
The area is best known for white wines, and its hilly limestone terrain (think of the Texas Hill Country, only really green) is perfect for whites. Unfortunately for consumers, the best wines from Collio are popular throughout the world, and even in these rough economic times, the demand outstrips the area's supply. That's because for most of its varietals – Sauvignon, Friulano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio – Collio wines are such pure, delicate, and elegant examples that you may want to forsake others.
The bargain (quality/price) of Collio is Marco Felluga's Molamatta Collio Bianco ($20), a blend of Friulano, Pinot Bianco, and Ribolla Gialla. While still light and elegant, this is an unusually powerful wine for a Collio. It is very lightly oaked and a rich gold color, matching up nicely with a polenta topped with shellfish. Fratelli Pighin's Collio Pinot Grigio ($24) is a subtle wine with pear, peach, and hazelnut aromas and just enough acidity to make it ideal with lightly flavored white fish in a simple butter sauce.
The Rolls-Royce winery of the region is Venica a Venica. Its Pinot Grigio ($29) will make you rethink the whole classification. In fact, all of its wines – Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon, Friulano, and Pinto Grigio – show Collio at its finest. Unlike most winemakers, the Venicas allow their wines to age in the bottle to develop some character. There's no worry about overaging these wines. I've tasted some 20 years old that were still gorgeous. Rich and restrained at the same time, they are delightful with clams or oysters but glorious by themselves.
The Venica Pinot Grigio is available at Grape Vine Market and the Austin Wine Merchant. Felluga's wines are usually available at Central Market North. Fratelli Pighin's Pinot Grigio is at Avery Fine Wine and Spirits on West Parmer, Central Market North, and Steve's Liquor & Fine Wines on Exposition.
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