Unheard of

Considering I’ve always had a fascination with Sauvignon Blanc, it wouldn’t be too large a step to come to enjoy one of its relations going by the names Sauvignonasse or Sauvignon Vert. As a matter of fact, until as resent as the 80’s, “Sauvignon Blanc” in Chilean vineyards was actually largely Sauvignonasse/ Sauvignon Vert; winemakers and viticulturists not being the wiser, though the resulting wines were fairly uninspiring.

Some 12,000 km away, it was “positively” making a name for itself in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Northeast Italy where wine has been produced since before the Romans! Known here locally as Tocai Friulano, it produced easy forgettable wines to rich, almond and stone fruit flavoured master pieces. After a long battle, which they eventually lost, with Hungary over the resemblance of the name to their region Tokaj, and the remarkable wine Tokaji made there, they were forced to drop the forebearer and simply call it Friulano.

I only came to discover the grape variety’s existence earlier this year at a tasting hosted by Mauro and Anisa from Fantinel, and I was intrigued (well…. at least with their interpretations. I can in no way make a judgement on the grape variety as a whole with such a limited sample space, but I look forward to the journey of trying as many as I can get my hands on). They brought two expressions, both unoaked and of the 2013 vintage, only differing by the region they came from and finer production techniques.

Borgo Tesis
Borgo Tesis

The first, from their Borgo Tesis range, had its grapes sourced from Friuli Grave, which is a rather large expanse of land. It had (talking about the wine and not the region) a slight hint of honey aromatics, yellow fruit, like quince and a silky smooth lemon edge. To finish, it had that piercing characteristic acidity of Italy that leaned a little more towards bitterness. Definitely an interesting wine to have a few glass of, but not an entire night.

The next one we tasted was from the Tenuta Sant’Helena range. This was much richer and fuller; certainly a class above the last. Hailing from the hilly Collio region (how many times I initially referred to it as Coolio), it underwent some skin contact and possibly lees contact as well. It had a bold and upfront nose of tropical mango, passion and orange blossoms. Intertwined with it was that almond, honey and lemon character that certainly gets your saliva going. Given the nose, the palate was surprisingly fresh and crisp, with hints of cream and bready-toast suggesting the lees contact. Certainly a very smart wine that has captivated the hearts of all I’ve suggested it to.

Good enough for Helena
Good enough for Helena

Next to try is the La Roncaia, which just might be this weekend…


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