Villa Russiz Friulano 2008
Times and frontiers changed: after the First World War, Austria relinquished the region to victorious Italy, and the widowed Austrian comtesse donated the estate to the Italian government, returning to native Vienna.
Her generous gift was employed as an orphanage, and even today, the Villa Russiz orphans substantially benefit from the profits of Villa Russiz wines. In recent years, critical attention to these extraordinary Friulian varietals has snowballed to top-score proportions (like the coveted "Three Glasses" in the famous Gambero Rosso guide to top Italian producers). The quality is absolutely stunning: structure, richness, complexity, texture, elegance and balance; superlatives are de rigueur when tasting any of the winery's exquisite products.
Such fabulous results are due in part to this terroir's incredible quality; in part to the outstanding work and severe standards of the Villa Russiz technical manager: Gianni Menotti.
Collio is a crescent-shaped sub region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia that hugs right up against the Slovenian border. It is perfectly situated for growing wine grapes, especially of the white variety.
The Julian Alps to Collio’s north allow the influx of cool, nighttime breezes, while the Adriatic Sea to its south regulates the region’s temperatures. The area contains flysch soils, a layered, sedimentary rock that formed millions of years ago as continents collided under the sea. Today the flysch soils that dominate the hills of Collio provide an interesting substrate for vine roots, with measurable mineral variations within small areas. The fractured layers of flysch soils also facilitate drainage and deepening of vine roots.
The region boasts a unique set of indigenous white varieties including Friulano, Ribolla gialla, Malvasia and the rare, Picolit. International whites—Pinot grigio, Pinot bianco, Sauvignon (blanc) and Chardonnay—have also been in the area for well over 100 years. Today Collio is often associated with crisp, clean, floral and fruity whites. But in recent years, there has been a resurgence in popularity of the ancient Slovenian style of fermenting white grapes on their skins. This process retains additonal colors and phenols, producing a complex finished wine with an orange hue, warranting the term, "orange wines."
Reds are far less common but the indigenous Pignolo makes an age-worthy red, and the international varieties Merlot and Cabernet grow here as well.
Thriving in the NE Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia near the border of Slovenia, Friulano makes a uniquely high-pitched and vibrant white with a delicate perfume. Extensive in the area by the early 1930s, today Friulano grows in all of the best zones and is usually, but not always, bottled as a single-varietal wine. Somm Secret— The Friulano grown today, while named for its present home of Friuli, is actually the Sauvignonasse grape, a minor cultivar that came from Bordeaux.