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2010 Vitovska, Zidarich, Carso, Friuli
In the tiny village of Prepotto, Benjamin and his wife Marisa Zidarich tend 8ha of vines among the little known but emerging wine region of Carso in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, due south of Gorizia on the road to Trieste, in what was formerly Slovenia.
Here the vines grow on iron-rich red loamy topsoil over pure limestone bedrock, perched at 280 msl west facing, overlooking the Gulf of Trieste. When not licked by the salty sea breezes of the Mediterranean, the exposed yet stunningly beautiful area is battered by the cool, drying Bora wind from the Alps to the north. Extreme viticulture one might think, so occasionally facilitated by irrigation (on the back of a tractor for younger vines) when absolutely necessary.
Unsurprisingly local, autochthonous grape varieties are those that fare best and bring out the character of the terroir: notably Vitovska, Malvasia, Ribolla Gialla and red Teran. Needless to say a few Merlot vines were planted during the fashionable 1990s but now struggle. Sauvignon Blanc makes the whites more international.
Benjamin started farming 1ha of land in 1988, following his father. He doesn’t use chemicals. In 2004 he personally dug a new cantina out of the cool limestone rock, and is still digging!
His flagship wine is a ‘white’ made from the Vitovska grape; in fact it’s more lemon/orange in colour as Benjamin, like an increasing number of his native Slav-turned-Italians, vinify their white grapes as if they were red, extracting colour, flavours and tannins from the skin over a two week fermentation in large slavonian oak barrels, so reducing the amount of sulphur dioxide required to protect the wine (and in theory making them more digestible).
Benjamin adds sulphur prior to bottling but does not clarify nor filter the wines; wines that are released to the market after two years in bottle. The wines are fresh, pure and immensely palatable, especially with food.
David Berry Green, Italian Buyer
Vitovska is a white grape indigenous to little known but emerging region of Carso in Friulia-Venezia-Giulia, south of Gorizia on the road to Trieste, in what was formerly Slovenia.It is also known in Slovene as Vitovska Grganja or Garganja,
The wines are pale in colour, verging soft lemon/orange hues. The nose offers delicate, wispy scents of fresh mandarin flowers.
Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, a north-eastern province bordering Slovenia, with Trieste as its capital, is responsible for a mere 2% of Italys production but is significant qualitatively with over 50% of its wines credited as DOC. It has become famous over the last 20 years for relaunching the fortunes of Italian white wine via the Pinot Grigio grape.
Friuli enjoys an illustrious history stretching back to the Venetic and Celtic tribes of the 6th century BC who cultivated the vine here before fleeing the Hun to found Venice. However, the potential for making quality wines among the Friulian hills was first properly recognised by the Romans, from the area now better-known as Colli Orientali del Friuli and Collio. Thereafter Friuli was occupied by all manner of race and creed: Austrians, Slavs and Germans, each contributing grape varieties to the rich viticultural tapestry. Colli Orientali del Friuli, for example, now boasts 17 different varieties across its 2,000ha.
Until the 1980s the region was in the grip of the cooperatives, released by a new generation armed with stainless-steel tanks and ambitious ideas bent on transforming Italys white wine scene. They certainly succeeded not least in bringing Pinot Grigio to a world-wide audience - and their innovative efforts continue today.
Geographically the region is perfectly situated, with cooling air currents flowing between the Adriatic Sea and the Alpine foothills, while the nearby Carnic and Julian Alps that separate the region from Slovenia reveal an array of fine vineyard sites. The ancient alluvial river floodplains at the heart of the region are home to the DOCs of Friuli-Grave, Isonzo and Friuli-Aquileia. Famed for Pinot Grigio, they are also increasingly a source of some good reds.
Further north, the hillside viticulture and steeply sloping, low-yielding ponca calcareous marl soils of the Colli Orientali del Friuli and Collio DOCs is more challenging and rewarding. This area produces fuller structured, top quality whites from Sauvignon Blanc, Ribolla Gialla, Tocai Friulano and Malvasia Istriana and some impressive reds from Refosco, Pignolo and Merlot.
Recommended Producers: Lis Neris, Miani, Davino Meroi and Canus