For those of us living in the UK or Ireland it is rare to think of international borders moving. Yes, there’s the Northern Ireland border between the two sovereign states, but that hasn’t moved since its inception a century ago and is hopefully fading away. Because we live on islands even the concept of driving to another country seems a little strange for many, never mind that border moving over time.
The movement of borders has created some unusual situations for wine folk, such as the Becker family in Germany’s Pfalz – whose vineyards run into Alsace – and also the Gravner family – whose lands were in the Austro-Hungarian Empire at one point but now lie (just) in Italy.
This all came to mind as I was thinking about a pair of wines I tasted earlier in the year. They are based on the same geological set of hills (Gorizia Hills in English, Collio Goriziano in Italian or Goriška Brda in Slovene) but in different countries. The drive between them is less than an hour an a half:
So now for that pair of wines:
Gašper Rebula 2016
First things first: Gašper is the name of the producer (literally, as Gašper Čarman is the gentleman who own and runs the place) and Rebula is the grape variety. The latter is better known to most of us as Ribolla Gialla in Friuli but it is a major variety in Brda.
Gašper’s vines are planted in “opaka” soil (silica-calcite sedimentary rock) on terraces between 80 and 200 metres above sea level. Both altitude and proximity to the sea help to retain aromas and freshness in the wine.
This Rebula is made with 16 hours skin contact – far more than more white wines but nowhere near as long as orange / amber wines. Fermentation is in huge (4,000 litre) casks, temperature controlled to preserve fruit characters and freshness. Maturation takes place first in old French barriques (1 year) then in old, large big format Slavonian oak casks.
The time spent on skins adds a real depth of colour to the wine – it deserves the “Gialla” (yellow) descriptor in its Italian name. The nose shows bright citrus – lemon, grapefruit, orange – and mixed citrus peel. The palate is soft, not too shouty with great texture. The fresh and dried fruits are joined by a certain creaminess and they resolve in a clean, fresh finish.
Gašper himself told me that the wine has great ageing potential – and I have every reason to believe him.
- ABV: 13.0%
- RRP: €31.99
- Stockists: Blackrock Cellar; Cashel Wine Cellar; Redmonds of Ranelagh; wineonline.ie
Livio Felluga “Illivio” Pinot Bianco / Chardonnay / Picolit 2017
After two World Wars Friuli’s agriculture and viticulture was significantly diminished and almost abandoned by the flight from countryside to city. Livio Felluga was one who had a great vision of restoring Fruili’s proud tradition of winemaking. He bought up old vineyards planted new ones and over the course of decades reinvigorated the region. He has long been acknowledged as the driving force behind the restoration of Friuli and as an ambassador for its wines.
Illivio was created as by Livio’s children to celebrate his 85th birthday. It’s a blend of Pinot Bianco (60%), Chardonnay (30%) and indigenous variety Picolit (10%). Picolit was traditionally used for sweet wines as it has a good balance between sugar and acidity, with a flavour profile not too far form Viognier, and had a cult following in the 1960s and ’70s.
The wine is fermented in small oak casks then left on the lees in those barrels for 10 months. While oaked Chardonnay is of course very common internationally, oaked Pinot Blanc is mainly an Italian thing – but it can make for excellent wines.
Illivio pours yellow in the glass, though not from skin contact as the Gašper Rebula above, but rather from the influence of oak. The nose is intense, as floral and fruit notes compete with rich smoky notes from the oak. The palate is rich yet tangy, with buttered brioche and juicy fruit exquisitely mixed. This is a serious wine, but seriously nice!