Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Collio DOC

"Colli" are hills in Italy and in this case they are the hillsides around the town of Gorizea in the very northeasternmost wine appellation, Friuli-Venezia Giulia.  The Collio or Collio Goriziano DOC is a crescent-shaped 1,500 hectare vineyard expanse that hugs the Slovenian border about in the middle of that side of the eastern Italian land border.  To the north are the Italian Alps with Austria not far beyond them and to the south lies the Adriatic Sea.  Italy has owned this territory since the end of World War I in 1918.

The region has an ethnically rich populous composed of Latin, German, and Slavic cultures supported by an economy largely driven by farming, both grapes and vegetables, along with chemical, paper,and textile industries as part of the mix.  Cultural features and resorts are, of course, di rigueur there as in most any part of Italy.  If the region has one component which it can set out as its calling card though, it would be the wine industry which produces aromatically complex whites displaying a purity of fruit superior by most anyone's standards.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia received its DOC in 1968 and became known for Tocai Friulano, a fruity dry white which still reigns among the best of the region but now shares its status with a couple other DOCG wines and nine other DOCs within the Friuli borders.  Like everywhere else, the native grape varieties have ceded vineyard space to the commercially viable international varieties.  Collio is the fourth largest DOC in Friuli with vineyards located entirely on hillsides and it is this ideally unique terroir, particularly the climate and soil, that enables the delightful wines described above to come into fruition.

The alluvial soil of the region is called ponca and it's made up of calcareous marl, flysch sandstone, and microelements including fossils from its seabed origins fifty million years ago.  The climate is Mediterranean but uniquely so with the Alps providing both a barrier against the cold northern winds and allowing the warm moist air currents from the Adriatic Sea to become trapped there making  Collio one of the wettest of wine production regions.  Because we're talking about hillside vineyards though, much of the cloud cover and precipitation lies below the vineyards which, along with the warm sea breezes, serves to reduce any fungal damage to the vines.  The diurnal effect of drastic day/night temperature shifts also works in this terroir to intensify grape phenolics.  

Last night we tasted one of my favorite whites, Attems Pinot Grigio, an IGT out of Venezia Giulia.  The current vintage is 2013 and while the Attems estate is located in Collio and the label used to wear that appellation, it is now imported by Folio Fine Wine Partners and the Michael Mondavi Family of Napa, California.  As these things go, now the vineyard sourcing has been expanded with the resultant flavor profile being less intensified and somewhat more commercialized.  That said, the wine is still plenty good and the assembled tasting crowd received it well.  The Attems profiled with flavors of apricot and honeydew melon in a lean and clean format that would definitely lend itself to seafood of all stripes.

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