Tasting Towards Friuli: La Viarta Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Schioppettino

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Wine in Friuli

The Friuli region of Italy, in the furthest Northeast of the country, produces some of the finest white wines of the nation. With the cooling influence of the Adriatic to the south, and the winds it produces as the air rushes from the coastal low lands to the Alps in the north, the area is perfect for developing cooler climate whites, and lighter bodied reds. 62% of the wines produced in the area garner DOC (regulated regional quality) status.

Wines of Friuli are generally grown on the hilly Eastern sides of the state. These foothills of the Alps, with their predominately clay and sandstone earth, offer mineral precision for the wines, while the cooling climate keeps the acidity of the wines crisp.

Proximity to Slovenia is seen in both the grape varieties, and some of the wine production techniques of Friuli. The region is known for developing some of the finest examples of the grape Friuliano (formerly named Tokai), as well as the whites Malvasia Istriana, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco. More recently Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc have also shown well. For reds, Schioppettino is well established in the area, and producers have begun experimenting with Bordeaux varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

La Viarte Pinot Grigio 2010, Pinot Bianco 2008, Schioppettino 2007

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In getting ready for travel to Friuli several of us got together to taste Kermit Lynch’s imports from the region. La Viarta is a family owned winery operating out of both Colli Orientali del Friuli, and a small DOC near Venice. The Ceschin family were the first to establish their particular vineyards along the Slovenian border, taking several decades to prepare the land and begin growing grapes for what is now seen as some of the best in the the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC.

Each of the three wines from La Viarta we tasted showed wonderful quality as varietals particular to the region.

Pinot Grigio tends to be under appreciated, with too many examples of it being either cloying or too approachable (that is, almost watery). The La Viarta version is unbelievably aromatic, with a rich mouth feel, showing refreshing minerals, white flowers, meyer lemon, and yellow apple skin. The medium plus acidity keeps your mouth watering as the scents pull you back to the glass repeatedly. This Pinot Grigio is an excellent apertif.

In North America, wine drinkers tend to be less experienced with Pinot Bianco. Its unusual mix of characteristics, often showing an evergreen quality with a richer body, works against how the general public often thinks of white wines. It can also be difficult around the world to find a varietal presentation of the grape that truly is produced from Pinot Bianco itself.

La Viarta’s presentation of Pinot Bianco is the best balanced example I’ve tasted. It’s a wonderful combination of crisp body with rich flavors. The wine brings together evergreen, and baking spices, with lime zest and apple skin. This was the most surprising of the three wines for the others tasting, but it was also the favorite of our Pinot Bianco/Blanc devotee. If you’re interested in trying this grape, I recommend La Viarta’s example.

Schioppettino is a wonderful red grown in few regions around the world. It offers the lighter side of a medium bodied wine, stepping away from a fruit focus, and instead showing earthier notes alongside hints of fruit. La Viarta’s varietal offers wonderful scents and flavors of re-soaked dark mushrooms, Christmas spices, hints of smoke, all balanced alongside cranberry and red plum elements. I’m very much looking forward to tasting more Schioppettino in Friuli.

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I’m mere moments from getting on the plane. Looking forward to catching you near the Slovenian border! I’ll be flying all day, all night, and then landing in Venice midday Sunday, Eastern-Italy time.

Cheers!

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