The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

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Looking Forward to Friuli

Posted on | May 28, 2010 | Written by Tida Lenoel | No Comments

Every few months, Italian Wine Merchants hosts a special trip to Italy for a small group of clients accompanied by a tour guide and an IWM Portfolio Manager. I was lucky enough to be chosen to go on the upcoming trip to Friuli in June. I’m beyond excited. I’ve been to Italy before, but I didn’t get the chance to explore any wine regions while I was there. Even more than the traveling, I’m excited about the people; some of my favorite moments at work are tastings with the wines’ producers. I love the way that I can feel their passion for their wines, and I love discovering how each producer’s personality translates into the wine. Thinking about how much I cherish these brief moments on IWM’s turf, I can only imagine what it’s going to be like at their vineyards in their home country.

Friuli is located in the northeastern part of Italy, and it is mostly known for its whites. Knowing this, I was surprised to find out that only about 60 percent of the wines produced in the region are white, while the remaining 40 percent are reds. The wines have Germanic and Slavic influences, because the region borders Austria and Slovenia. Friuli is home to more than 30 different varietals both indigenous and international, but the ones that I am particularly interested in are the native varietals—especially the really interesting varietals that I haven’t had the chance to try yet. I’m intrigued by the reds—Schioppettino, Refosco, Tazzelenghe, and Pignolo—as well as the whites like Verduzzo and Picolot.

I really like when the name of a grape has a specific meaning or tells you something about the variety itself. Schioppettino, for example, means “gunshot,” and one story claims the varietal was named because it made crackling sounds during fermentation. Though, it could also be describing the racing acidity of the wine. Tazzelenghe means “tongue cutting” and refers to the grape’s characteristic high tannins and acidity. Recently, Josh described the ecstatic Hong Kong reception of Refosco, and though I can’t find a direct translation for the name, it may be the next big varietal in Italy, in part, because of its great potential to age.

Verduzzo and Picolit are primarily crafted into dessert wines and are arguably among the best in the world. The most amazing thing about the Picolit grape is that it has a genetic mutation called acinellatura that allows less than half of the grapes in a bunch to fully ripen. This makes the fruit really concentrated and rich in flavor, but it also makes for an expensive dessert wine!

I’m excited for the chance to learn more about the region from the people who know it best, and I’m over the moon for the opportunity to try some very interesting wines that I wouldn’t normally have the chance to try. I’ll be sure to write about what I learn on my summer (not quite) vacation in Friuli.



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