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2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Saurint, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Miani
Enzo Pontoni is arguably Italy's finest white winemaker, responsible for the uncompromisingly taut, minerally precise wines of Miani.
Drawing on the famous 'ponca'/marl & limestone soils of the Colli Orientali del Friuli, a continental viticultural DOC sandwiched between Udine & the Slovenian border, north of Trieste, Enzo has tended 10 hillside hectares of high-density (6-7,000 plants/ha) organic vineyards near the village of Buttrio since 1985, producing a range of quivering whites & statuesque reds.
Yields are critically low at approx 20 hectolitres/hectare while vinification typically consists of barrel fermentation in 40% new french oak, no malolactic fermentation (for the whites, except for the Chardonnay) or temperature control. He also produces two reds: a rich but suave Merlot from fifteen separate parcels and the flagship of the estate, 'Calvari', made from 100% Refosco, densely packed with crunchy blackberry fruit & aged in 100% new oak. Recently he has begun consulting at the Az. Agr. Davino Meroi estate, also based in Buttrio.
An important white grape in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley that has now found fame in New Zealand and now Chile. It thrives on the gravelly soils of Bordeaux and is blended with Sémillon to produce fresh, dry, crisp Bordeaux Blancs, as well as more prestigious Cru Classé White Graves.
It is also blended with Sémillon, though in lower proportions, to produce the great sweet wines of Sauternes. It performs well in the Loire Valley and particularly on the well-drained chalky soils found in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé, where it produces bone dry, highly aromatic, racy wines, with grassy and sometimes smoky, gunflint-like nuances.
In New Zealand, Cloudy Bay in the 1980s began producing stunning Sauvignon Blanc wines with extraordinarily intense nettly, gooseberry, and asparagus fruit, that set Marlborough firmly on the world wine map. Today many producers are rivalling Cloudy Bay in terms of quality and Sauvignon Blanc is now New Zealand`s trademark grape.
It is now grown very successfully in Chile producing wines that are almost halfway between the Loire and New Zealand in terms of fruit character. After several false starts, many South African producers are now producing very good quality, rounded fruit-driven Sauvignon Blancs.
Along with Collio, Colli Orientali del Friuli is the finest DOC zone in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Situated in the Julian Alps on the border with Slovenia, much of its quality is down to its calcareous and sandstone landscape and 400m altitude. High planting densities, older vines, poor soils (especially compared to the flood plains below) and a challenging continental climate all assist in achieving lower yields and greater concentration in the wines.
Perhaps surprisingly, Sauvignon Blanc is the king of the whites here, producing fuller bodied but also taut and minerally examples. Indigenous varieties Ribolla Gialla and (Tocai) Friulano follow hot on its heels. The reds are led by the Refosco grape which achieves blackberry richness alongside a minerally poise. Next best is Pignolo, the regions answer to Nebbiolo, while Merlot runs a close third.
Recommended producers: Canus, Davino Meroi and Miani