Friuli Venezia Giulia
Edi Keber, “Bianco”, Collio Goriziano/Collio DOC, 2012
Friuli Venezia Giulia occupies the north easternmost corner of Italy. The current geographical boundaries of the region were established in 1954, when a post-World War realignment ceded the port city of Trieste and a narrow strip of coastal territory on the Adriatic to Italy.
Bordered by Austria to the north, Slovenia to the east, the Adriatic to the south, and the Veneto to the west, Friuli Venezia Giulia has vestiges of Roman, Venetian, Hapsburg and Slavic culture that linger from the area’s pre-20th Century history of shifting allegiances. Those rich and varied qualities meld in a citizenry that are hardy, industrious, and known for their hospitality.
In the 20th Century, the region suffered the ravages of both World Wars firsthand, with much damage and loss of lives. After World War II, the region has shown an indefatigable ethos of growth and development that establishes Friuli Venezia Giulia in the 21st Century as the global capital of chair manufacture, producer and exporter of the artisanal San Daniele Proscuitto, and home to the vineyards and vintners of world-renown wine.
The wine producing lands of Friuli Venezia Giulia are concentrated in the south-east of the territory. The “sweet-spot” of what the region has to offer vintners—in terms of climate, elevation and soil type— lies in an area around the towns of Cormons and Gorizia, where Italian wine law has established the DOCs of Collio Orientali del Friuli and Collio Goriziano/Collio.
Winemaking in the Region:
Wine has been made in the region since Roman times. Historical papers document the fact that in the 1500’s the Archdeacon of the Collio village of Gorizia regularly sent barrels of Ribolla wine to the Patriarch of Aquileia. During the 18th century when the Hapsburgs of Austria laid claim to the region, Friulian winemakers would supply the Austrian vacationers—mostly nobility—with wine during their stay, as well as wine to be shipped back home with them.
Friuli Venezia Giulia produces fine red and white wines, but it is the whites that have in today’s marketplace, garnered a most elevated reputation as world class.
It was in the post World War climate of economic re-construction that wine-making practices swiftly evolved and drastically improved. Until the 1960’s white wines were made in an “old farmhouse” style. Super ripe grapes were thrown, skins and all, into uncovered wooden vessels, where the fermentation would proceed naturally. Wines made in this manner were sweet, thick, high in alcohol and heavily oxidized. The product was a far cry from the balanced, terroir-driven wine that we appreciate with food today. The white wine of that time was drunk as fortification for an afternoon of farm-work!
It is Mario Schiopetto, a winemaker from the hills of Capriva del Friuli, who introduced and championed technical advances to viticulture in Friuli in the 1960s. As a young man he travelled extensively through-out Europe where he took every opportunity to visit wineries. He took note of the fact that some vintners were employing stainless steel tanks, instead of wood, for wine fermentation. The tanks, which could be temperature controlled, were originally designed for milk production. Northern vintners had embraced the technology to great advantage. This equipment made possible a new style of white wine, by protecting the grapes and fermenting juice from the ravages of oxygen.
Fresh, bright white wines that clearly expressed the character of the grape varietal were born. It all happened in Friuli Venezia Giulia, there-by establishing the winemakers of the region as standard setters for white wine in Italy.
The Wine: Edi Keber, “Bianco”, Collio Goriziano/Collio DOC, 2012
Azienda Agricola Edi Keber is located less than a mile from the Slovenian border in the commune of Cormons, with-in the province of Gorizia. Their vineyards are on the Hills of Zegla which transcend the border into Slovenian territory.
The hills are roughly 350 – 500 feet above sea level and are comprised of chalky, limestone-rich soils. The vineyards are naturally “air conditioned” by cool breezes that come from the Alpine territory to the north, counterbalanced by warmer breezes that approach the area from the Adriatic which lies to the south. Grapes therefore are growing in a climate void of extreme temperatures and can mature slowly and evenly.
The “Bianco” is made with Tocai Friulano (70%), Malvasia Istriana (15%), and Ribolla Gialla (15%)—all three of which are native to the region. The grapes are hand-harvested in mid-September, and soft-pressed.The wine is fermented and matured in cement vats, on the yeasts, for six months; with the exception of twenty percent of the Tocai Friulano, which is fermented and matured in ten year old large wood vats.
Edi Keber’s “Bianco” is a noteworthy example of an expressive white wine with complexities that entertain with aroma and flavor. On the nose there are white flowers, pear and almond, followed by lively mineral notes on the palette. It is a weighty white, worthy of substantial seafood dishes.
As we approach the Christmas Eve tradition of The Feast of the Seven Fishes, this wine should be kept with-in reach.