Friday, 15 May 2009

A Collio evening at the Savile Club

Collio (an appellation of Friuli Venezia Giulia in the extreme North-East of Italy, right on the Slovenian border) boasts as good a variety of grapes as anywhere so we were able to compare and contrast 80 wines (all white) made from Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Malvasia, Sauvignon (never referred to as Sauvignon Blanc in Italy), even Verduzzo and of course blends. Surprisingly few of these wines are available abroad, let alone the UK.

The evening was exquisitely planned by Carla Capalbo and the Collio Wine Producers' Consortium with a dinner following the tasting. All the food had been shipped from Collio and chefs from the Trattoria 'Sal e Pepe' in Stregna somewhat outside Collio and 'La Subida' at Cormons within the Collio Hills were brought in to prepare a fascinating menu of local cuisine which not surprisingly was completely new to anyone who has never been to the area. There was even a delicious local ham from a local producer, D'Osvaldo: a kind of lightly smoked version of San Daniele prosciutto.
It transpired that his wonderful product was under threat from EU legislation to do with his no doubt traditional methods of curing the meat. The tasty cheeses were all from the producer Zoff who is local to the Collio.

As if the wine and food was not enough,a stellar cast of guests had been assembled with the place heaving with MWs (we has 2 on our table), various wine professionals and wine writers. We had the honour of meeting the great Nicolas Belfrage and equally great Carla Capalbo. The occasion had been cleverly organised to co-incide with London's Vinexpo and the publication of Carla's latest book "Collio. Fine wines and foods from Italy's North-East" a copy of which every guest received a copy on departure. There were members of the Collio Consorzio including their president, a real live Felluga (Patrizia of Vini Zuani) who gave a speech of welcome. Most imaginatively, a sizeable number of young producers had been brought all the way from Collio to sit on our tables so we each had the chance to sample their wines and discuss their work and production.

Guests were asked to choose their wines for the meal and by a complete fluke, Slotovino requested the very wine produced by the vigneron at our table: Dott. Roberto Manzocco and his brother whose 2007 extremely clean Pinot Bianco had stood out in the 20 or so different wines we had tried in the tasting.

We avoided the Chardonnays and Sauvignons and Pinot Grigios for the most part but perhaps foolishly because one of the greatest surprises was a wonderful if rather alcoholic and oaky Pinot Grigio 'Russiz Superiore'.

We have to admit also that some cuvees, including (not surprisingly) those from Felluga were highly successful.

Of particular interest was the 2004 Ribolla Gialla Anfora of Gravner,
presumably made in Amphorae and a bit rancio, the lone Verduzzo (Bressan Wines)
and the 2007 Malvasia from Borgo del Tiglio which were welcome experiences.

Although unfair to pick out particular names when only a minority of wines had been tried, we are happy to mention Livon, Picech,
Schiopetto, Keber and Fiegl as well as the above.

A tremendous and unforgettable evening; it was the place to be on May 12th but if you missed it don't despair, Carla's 'Collio' is available at all good websites and bookshops, published by Pallas Athene.

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