Tags Posts tagged with "refosco"


Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson focus on sustainable agriculture in both vineyards, and farming more generally, while also making wine for their own Matthiasson label. We were lucky enough to taste with them, and hear more about their work in vineyards and with farmers. In the following photos the various plants shown are purposefully grown along grape vines for the support they provide to vineyard supporting insects, and birds. Write up to follow. In the meantime, here are some photos from the visit.

Matthiasson Wines

Thank you to Steve and Jill Klein Matthiasson.

Thank you to Abe Schoener.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com



Grapes of Colli Orientali del Friuli

The earth of appellation of Colli Orientali del Friuli, along the Slovenian border of Italy, hosts a mineral rich marl that is unique not only because of its blue color (all except in one part of the appellation where it is red), but also because of its high calcium content. The soil offers a rich minerality to the wines of the region that often shows as either a faintly salty quality, or a precise and dry slate.

Sitting along the intersection point of the Alps with the Balkans, just a few kilometers above the Adriatic, Colli Orientali del Friuli generally carries a mix of Mediterranean with Alpine climate–a cool, fairly mild and well-regulated temperature range with drying winds.

The combination of the soil and climate of the region intersect to produce unique characteristics for international grapes, and excellent growing conditions for grapes not seen any where else.

Indigenous Varieties

Tasting through Colli Orientali del Friuli hits all my love-for-obscure-grape buttons, as the region particularly celebrates its indigenous varieties. As Paolo Rapuzzi explained, the area once hosted over 150 grape types local to the region but after the phylloxera epidemic international varieties were planted instead replacing the original native plants.

In fact, Italian wine history includes the demand for focus on international varieties only into the 1970s when the Rapuzzi family helped fight the regulations to allow for grape farmers to grow indigenous vines without fine. Today, Colli Orientali has a huge focus on the local plants with a great pride in continuing to cultivate and bottle their wines.


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We were lucky enough to taste through a wealth of Schioppettino, one of the group’s favorites of the wine types explored during our week-long visit to the region. The grape is still today predominately grown only through Friuli, though some few wine makers have begun to experiment with growing the variety in California in small quantities.

The Colli Orientali Consortium celebrates an association of wine makers in Prepotto–the village where Schioppettino is believed to have originated–dedicated to cultivating the best in quality for the variety. The Association of Prepotto Schioppettino Producers¬†hosted a dinner for us during our trip where we tasted at least 15 different presentations of the varietal, and one Schioppettino-Refosco blend. To read more on the evening and the variety check out Do Bianchi’s post here: http://dobianchi.com/2012/04/10/schioppettino-the-next-big-thing-history-of-its-revival-and-fortune/

At its best, Schioppettino is a beautifully balanced, and elegant wine carrying a mix of fresh red and wild berries, alongside peppery notes, and light herbaceousness. It tends towards pleasing tannins with a smooth texture and bright acidity that cleans the mouth as you drink.

Refosco dal peduncolo rosso

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As Paolo Rapuzzi explained to us, while Schioppettino really is only grown through the Friuli region, Refosco extends slightly into the surrounding areas as well. Part of the large Refosco family, Refosco dal peduncolo originates in Friuli, showcasing its best characteristics thanks to the conditions of the area.

Refosco is a grape of impressive strength with the characteristics for a stunning wine of good acidity and strong tannin both. It has all of the structure for excellent aging, and admittedly its strength can sometimes work against drinking it too young. However, several wine makers throughout Colli Orientali del Friuli showed us wines that took the balance of Refosco’s strength with a younger approachability. The fruit of this variety shows a mix of dark and red berries, alongside primary herbaceous notes.


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Pignolo is a wine uncommon outside the Friuli region (though there is another variety from Lombardy that shares the same name but that most wine experts believe is not related (See 169 Oz Clark’s Encyclopedia of Grapes 2001)). I fell in love with its elegant intensity and nice balance of acidity with tannin. The flavors here are both fresh and rich showing red berries mixed with spice. The spice on these wines is known to develop greater sophistication with age.


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Least common of the indigenous varieties of Colli Orientali del Friuli, we were able to taste only one Tazzelenghe. The grape is so rare it is barely mentioned in even the most comprehensive of wine books. I count myself lucky to have tried an offering, and though uncommonly, there are some varietals of this grape imported to the United States, if you’re interested in trying one.

The primary characteristics of this grape are its herbaceous notes, which soften with age, showing as dominate to its ripe red stone and berry fruit. The wine gains greater balance as it ages, showcasing good structure and distinct tannin characteristics.

International Varieties

As dedicated to Indigenous varieties as the wine makers of Colli Orientali del Friuli are, they also produce several international varieties that develop their own profile unique to the region.


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Most common of the red international varieties to the area, Merlot bottles here as its own varietal, or as the anchor point for a number of the area’s red blends.

Cabernet Franc

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Cabernet Franc holds a key role in the red international grapes for the region. It is produced both under its own full moniker, and as a local wine called simply, Cabernet (t is pronounced here). When presented as Cabernet, however, the wine may be either a full Cabernet Franc, or blended with its offspring Cabernet Sauvignon.

The variety carries a complicated history through the region, however. As has occurred with various grape varieties around the world, Cabernet Franc was  widely planted through the region decades ago and then discovered to actually be Carmenere. Some believe that the wines of Friuli named Cabernet Franc are almost entirely Carmenere, showing the more vegetal qualities of that grape than what Cabernet Franc would tend to offer. Because of the history of naming and the establishment of the wine regulations through the area, however, the wine still appears under its original-to-the-region name, Cabernet Franc.

Cabernet Sauvignon

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Cabernet Sauvignon only occasionally appears on its own in Colli Orientali as many wine makers choose to use it in blend with either Merlot, or Cabernet Franc instead of on its own. Though it produces a pleasing, full bodied red in the hills of this appellation, it is not commonly grown in Italy in general.

Pinot Noir

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The least common of the international varieties in Friuli, Pinot Noir is also the hardest to grow due to dampness hugging in amongst the grape clusters. Still, some producers are dedicated to the variety and develop it at low levels out of love for the flavor and style it produces.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com


We were lucky enough to share dinner with the Specogna family. They were so generous as to pull two different wines right from the barrel for us–a Picolit we closed dinner with (something sweet for last), and a Pinot Grigio Ramato that had been on skins for a month (it is a wine “For Friends”, as Christian told us. How lucky to have such friends! I count myself truly blessed.).

With the meal we tasted through a good portion of the Specogna portfolio, including the father’s 1998 Chardonnay that showed incredible life and richness–flavors of almond, lime zest and light pepper. A real treat.

An interesting surprise was tasting how well the Ramato paired with the family’s Rovata–a bean soup made with fermented turnip that stole my heart. The Ramato had the pleasing tannin effect and overall almost crunchy texture of the long skin contact style with nutty, light date, lime zest and maple notes alongside the salt mineral notes common to the region, all shown through a vibrant strawberry-copper color.

Check out Whitney’s picture of the gorgeous wine–

I really am so grateful.


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Specogna wines carry a style much like their spokesman, Cristian–passionate, enlivened and enlivening, fresh, and richly expressive. I was impressed by the work he and his brother Michele are doing, and by their presence as well.


Michele Specogna has also ventured into a second wine making project with Paolo Duri. Together they are producing a portfolio of wonderful wines under the label Toblar. We were able to taste their Schioppettino during dinner with the Specogna family, and then to taste three more of their portfolio later during our visit in Colli Orientali del Friuli.

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The Schioppettino was one of the most elegant presentations of the varietal we tasted during the trip. The Refosco carried a great balance of Refosco’s signature strength in a more integrated and drinkable presentation. It was one of the most approachable, and at the same time distinctly Refosco varietals we tasted.

Thank you so much, again, to the Specogna family and Violetta Babina for your generosity, and warmth of spirit.


Keep an eye out! Specogna and Toblar wines are being imported to the UK, and are soon to be imported into the United States as well. I honestly can’t wait to have more wines from both labels!


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The History of Ronchi di Cialla

Beginning their winery in 1970, Paolo and Dina Rapuzzi dedicated their work to indigenous vines. Doing so was no easy task, however, as at that time many of the vines had been lost due to the introduction of Bordeaux varieties following the phylloxera epidemic. The Rapuzzis pursued their passion anyway and succeeded in not only establishing an indigenous variety-only winery, but also in saving some of the local grape types for the region.

As their son Ivan explains, Friuli is one of the places in Europe with the greatest biodiversity as it sits where the Alps intersect the Balkans and the Mediterranean via the Adriatic. As a result, the Eastern side of Friuli offers a blend of a Mediterranean and alpine climate. One grape in particular, Schioppettino does very well under such conditions, showing in its character the wild fruit of the mountains with the freshness of the sea. The Rapuzzis played a crucial role in establishing Schioppettino’s current strength in Friuli–the only area of the world where it has a foothold.

When the Rapuzzis established Ronchi di Cialla in 1970 Schioppettino was almost entirely gone from the region. Paolo and Dina responded by hunting through the surrounding hillsides for feral vines of indigenous grapes. They succeeded in locating about 60 such vines of Schioppettino from many different areas. They took cuttings and with those made many more plants.

According to Paolo, scientists have studied the genetic makeup of Schioppettino and found that there are so many clones within their one subzone that it would seem to originate there in Friuli within the Prepotto area.

We were lucky enough to taste a lot of Schioppettino during our visit to Colli Orientali, including those of the producers of the Schioppettino di Prepotto–an association dedicated to establishing and maintaining the quality of Schioppettino within the valley of Prepotto.

During our lunch with the Rapuzzis at Ronchi di Cialla we were also able to taste their famous white blend–Ciallabianco, made of the indigenous grapes Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo friulano, and Picolit; their Refosco; and finally their dessert wine Verduzzo. What a wonderful treat!

Thank you to the Rapuzzi family for hosting us during a wonderful lunch!

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To read more on Schioppettino and even see a video of how to properly pronounce the grape name, check out @dobianchi‘s post on the variety here: http://dobianchi.com/2012/04/10/schioppettino-the-next-big-thing-history-of-its-revival-and-fortune/

For comparisons to other Schioppettino, see my review of a vertical tasting of the varietal from Ronco del Gnemiz follow this link: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/04/06/ronco-del-gnemiz-schioppettino-vertical-1988-1989-1994-1996-1999-2006-2009-2010/

Photos of our lunch with the Rapuzzis can be seen here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/04/09/pictures-looking-back-a-7-day-tour-of-colli-orientali-del-friuli-days-1-3/

More on how Paolo and Dina began their winery can be read here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/04/02/lunch-at-ronchi-di-cialla-meeting-the-man-with-whom-it-began/

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Originally from the area where Italy intersects the Balkan states, the Bastianich family decided to return to its roots by purchasing land to make wines expressive of the region. The result of the project has been three varietals each indigenous to the homes in which they are grown and made–the Adriatico portfolio. With it you discover Malvasia from Istria, Ribolla Gially from Slovenia, and Friulano from Friuli.

The Bastianich portfolio is broader, however, than just these three wines. Within Colli Orientali del Friuli, for example, the Bastianich family also grows grapes known not only as native to the area but also those they find as most expressive of their terroir. That is, they seek to grow only those grapes that do best on their land.

In talking with wine people from the Friuli region there is a common refrain. Lydia Bastianich, with her grounding in U.S. restaurant and food culture, is an ambassador for Friuli. That is, she has built a bridge between the already established quality of Friulian wines, and the wine market of the United States. In talking with Lydia herself she concentrates on the roots of the region–what makes the area and also Italy at large unique. In both cases, the answer is the same. Italy, according to Lydia is an area of great diversity developed by the regionality and individuality of Italians. As she puts it, Italians from whatever region “focus first on family; then, if they feel like it, on their neighbors, and only then on city and then region.” That focus on home base that Italians have, as she describes it, helps to establish unique commitment in an area, out of which arises a mix of rich expressivity, and creativity.

Yesterday we shared lunch at the Bastianich home, with Lydia coordinating an impressive menu. After we were able to taste through their Adriatico line, and their regional portfolio. Following are two of the Bastianich wines that stood out in the collection.

Bastianich Plus 2008

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The Bastianich Plus is the family’s attempt to make a “super”-Friulano. They had tasted a range of well made but common versions of the indigeous-to-Friuli variety and decided it was time to do a focused and concentrated version of the event. The wine is made from 60-70 year old vines of the variety, all hand selected, with 10% of the clusters hung and dried for a month to add concentrated fruit elements. The result is a richer body and texture, with more grounded expression of the grape, showing an interesting presentation of its flavor profile.

The nose carries spice of citrus zest and touches of baking spices with minerals and almond. On the palate, the rich texture shows a subtle and grounded range of lime notes, with subtle touches of honey, baking spice, and nut.

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The Calabrone is an expression of the Bastianich love for Amarone style wines. It is made only in the best vintages, with so far 6 of the 12 vintages being made Calabrone. The 2007 blend carries a Refosco focus with half of those grapes being hung and dried before pressing. The remaining blend arises from 10% all dried Schioppettino, 10% Merlot, and 10% Pignollo.

The nose and palate of this wine give a nice balance of concentrated elements with lighter notes keeping the wine from being either heavy or cloying. There are touches of earth, hints of leather and mushroom, and hits of lavendar all alongside a body of raisin, date, fig, and dried red cherry.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com