A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Verduzzo Friulano - Friuli, Italy

It seems like every time you turn around in Italy, there's an interesting grape with a complicated back story.  Today's grape is no different, though the complications surrounding it are much easier to sort through than some of the others we've dealt with here.

The grape in question is Verduzzo, and having said that, we're immediately in trouble.  It turns out that there are two grapes called Verduzzo which are not related to one another at all.  There's Verduzzo Trevigiano, a high yielding vine that is thought to have originated in Sardinia.  It's not generally well thought of, as the following quote from Nicolas Belfrage in his Barolo to Valpolicella indicates: "a variety of little character whose main virtue resides in the fact that it churns out regularly impressive volumes of plonk."  The grape is also known as Verduzzo Dorato and is mostly grown in the Lison Pramaggiore and Piave DOCs in the Veneto.

And then there's Verduzzo Friulano, which is also grown in the Veneto but which seems to be native to Friuli. We're not completely out of the woods yet, though, as there are also a few sub-varieties of Verduzzo Friulano.  Verduzzo Verde and Verduzzo Giallo are the two most common within Friuli.  The Verde subvariety (so named because of the greenish color of the berries) is the lesser of the two, while the Giallo (so named for the yellowish color of the berries) is the more highly esteemed.  The final member of the Verduzzo Friulano family is known as Verduzzo Rascie and it is differentiated from the others by its loose berry clusters which make it ideal for late harvest sweet wine production (the space between the berries allows air to circulate and reduces the chances that the grapes will develop rot or fungal diseases).  Verduzzo Rascie is grown almost exclusively in the Ramandolo DOCG within Friuli.

On the whole, the sweet wines made from late harvested Verduzzo grapes are held in higher esteem than the dry table wines, but since a dry table wine is all I've been able to find, that's what we'll be taking a look at today.  The winery who makes the bottle I was able to find is called I Clivi and they have 4 hectares of land in the Collio DOC and 8 hectares in the Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC areas of Friuli.  They bottled their first wine in 1996, but the vines that they tend are much older than that, averaging between 40 and 60 years old.  They bottle two "flagship" white wines called Brazan (from their Collio vineyards) and Galea (from their Colli Orientali del Friuli vineyards) which, until a few years ago, were blends of the local Tocai Friulano grape and Verduzzo (with some Malvasia).  They decided to pull the Verduzzo and Malvasia out of these wines and make them both 100% Tocai Friulano.  They also decided to bottle the Verduzzo as a varietal wine, naming it Bianco Degli Arzillari.  The estate farms organically and the yields are very small, at a scant 2-3 tons per hectare.  The white wines are fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel only using natural yeasts.  If malolactic fermentation happens, it happens, and if not, it doesn't.

I found my bottle of the 2007 Bianco Degli Arzillari at Curtis Liquors for about $13.  The 2007 was the most recent vintage available on the market, as the wines are aged sur lie for two years before bottling and are then aged in bottle for a few months after that.  The wines are released when they are at least three years old.  You may notice that this wine is bottled as an IGT and not as a DOC wine.  It is legal to make a 100% Verduzzo wine in either Collio or Colli Orientali del Friuli, but since the grapes come from both of those regions, then it can't be labeled as either.  In the glass, the wine was a medium lemon gold color.  The nose was reserved with some pear, lemon peel, white flowers and a noticeable leesy kind of aroma (which, to me, is a kind cheesy or slightly funky smell).  On the palate the wine was just slightly on the fuller side of medium with acidity just on the lower side of medium. There were flavors of white pear, ripe apple and apple skin with a clean, stony minerality on the finish.  The flavor profile was pretty neutral overall, though it picked up a little bit of that leesy funk as it approached room temperature.  It's well balanced and well made, but it's not the kind of white wine that gets me really excited, I guess.  It's certainly a very nice wine for the price, but when I try to think about the kinds of occasions where I'd reach for this wine, I come up blank.

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