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Villa Russiz Pinot Bianco 2015
Ideal for appetizers or a buffet; also fish and vegetable first courses.
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.
Approachable, aromatic and pleasantly plush on the palate, Pinot Blanc is a white grape variety born out of a mutation of pink-skinned Pinot gris (which was born out of a mutation of Pinot noir) and is perhaps most associated with the Alsace region of France. The variety is also is quite successful in Germany and Austria, where it is known as Weissburgunder. Although its heritage is Burgundian, today it is rarely found there and instead thrives throughout central Europe, especially in the mountainous Alto Adige region of Italy, where it is called Pinot bianco. Fine examples can also be found in Switzerland, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Oregon’s Willamette Valley boasts some wonderful examples of Pinot blanc, as do some cooler pockets of California.
In the Glass
Pinot Blanc is typically a full-bodied wine and expresses pleasing aromas of crisp pear, peach, lemon zest, crushed gravel and white flowers. The finest examples can possess a stony minerality and with age can develop intriguing notes of honey, vanilla and almond.
Delicate Pinot Blanc works well with lighter fare such as salads, seafood, chicken or turkey, but is truly at its best with Alsatian pairings like choucrout garnie, onion tarts or the region’s soft cheeses like Munster.
Pinot Blanc’s delicate aromatics, full body, and moderate acidity make it a great alternative to the world’s most popular white wine. Anyone experiencing Chardonnay fatigue and looking to try something new would benefit from giving Pinot Blanc a try.