If the wines of Collio are to be described and more specifically if we are to look at the white blends collectively known as Collio Bianco DOC, this is what we see. Collio Bianco are wines of performance without obstacles, fluid achievements free of interruption, representing the vital energy and élan of their territory. Unbeknownst to many they are filled with an unfamiliar blissfulness, for how all will be realized.
Enjoy Collio Experience 2019
I visited in late spring as days warmed and nights still played it cool. Collio sits one kilometre from the Adriatic coast and also Slovenia so it’s no wonder that its white wines are highly aromatic and unique to a shared concentration of mito and geography. They stand alone in European character from out of soils variegated by sand, clay and rock to give them their distinct personality. They are to be paid great attention. I for one have made new space for them.
Collio is in fact one of Europe’s most fascinating wine regions, a white wine specialist located in the Gorizia Hills of the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. The amphitheatre of Collio vineyards follow a line along the western border of Slovenia in the northeastern corner of Italy. It is here where centuries of a mélange of multicultural histories meet in a venn diagram of multifarious Italian, Slovenian and Austro-Hungarian mythology. For introspective, historical and prospective perspective one only needs to walk the vineyards with the area’s director of connectivity, the one, the only Matteo Bellotto.
My trip to Collio in the last days of May was indeed an experience of territory, vineyard, cellar and people. Though the autochthonous varietal triumvirate of ribolla gialla, friulano and malvasia are the bones of Collio’s body politic, international grape varieties like pinot bianco, sauvignon and chardonnay add much to act as representatives of the heart, head, mind, body and soul of the producers. Ultimately it is the Collio Bianco that have emerged as front runners for spokes-wines of the place. The appellative white blends unite and really tie the territorial room together.
Richard Baudains of the Wine Scholar Guild speaks to a group of foreign journalists during what is the culmination of the wettest month of May since 1973. He is THE master Collio educator.
Collio Bianco is both business card and calligram, a Field Blend that speaks to the idea of co-fermented grapes, working together, for complexity and the possibility of aging, like the music and the story of the area. “Go inside the area and the tradition and don’t worry so much about the grapes,” tells Richard Baudains. Cuvées or field blends can fall within the DOC, or not. There are a total of 1,500 ha planted, as opposed to 1,700 in Soave and 1,900 in Macon and a production of 6.5 million bottles, as opposed to 10 in Soave. This is an indication to lower yields and significantly so. In fact it represents 11 per cent of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia and three per cent of total Italian production. There are 16 DOC mono-varietals and two DOC blends. More than 95 per cent are white wines, made by 350 growers, 180 bottlers and one cooperative on an average 4.0 ha of planted space. The lead is pinot grigio at 26 per cent, followed by sauvignon (19) and friulano (15). The latter endemic grape declined dramatically and was in fact at 50 per cent just a couple of decades ago. The rest include ribolla gialla (7.5), chardonnay (9), pinot bianco (4) and malvasia (2.5).
In 1966 the English author and journalist Cyril Ray remarked upon the pre-DOC “white wine made from a mixture of Tocai Friulano, German and Italian Rieslings, and a number of other varieties grown in the hills that encircle Gorizia.” The DOC was then created in 1968 with the suggestion to “drink young when it has a fresh taste and floral bouquet.” A vino contadino. In 1968 the numbers were more like ribolla gialla (45-55 per cent), malvasia istriana (20-30) and tocai friulano (25). Wines of “pale straw, neutral aroma, lightly sparkling, not for ageing, alcohol around 11 per cent.” Whereas all the mono-varietals came in at 12-13 per cent. So the concentration at the time was on indeed on mono-varietals, eventually leading to the evolution of the Bianco in the 1990s.
A proposal was made by then Consorzio President Marco Felluga, the idea being that Collio Bianco shouldn’t be the second or even last wine but rather the flagship of the estate. The most representative wine, top of the quality pyramid and to condense the total number of wines made in the area. He had to liberalize the blend, by taking away all restrictions. A carte blanche stylistic. Your best grapes go into the Bianco.
Wine villages in Collio form a half-moon shape around Slovenia though with not a lot of variety in the soils. Climate is highly variable however and if a line is drawn from east to west you go from warmer to cooler. Chardonnay and sauvignon are grown to the west, ribolla gialla to the east. The overall territory encourages for a connectivity that allows for producing blends. Aromatic grapes defined; including traminer and muller thurgau, “The whole is more important than the sum of the parts,” is what Marco Felluga thought. “These are wines that will keep because they maintain their freshness and won’t oxidize. The question is this. Are they long aging whites worth keeping and will they develop interesting tertiary aromas?”
The following Collio Bianco DOC were tasted blind.
Livon Collio Bianco DOC Solarco 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
A blend of autochthonous varieties friulano and ribolla gialla, herbal, sweetly so and also dissolving lime tablet. Noses like white wine brought up in concrete with a wet stone character though somewhat grey and dullish. Simply rendered, fresh, quiet and quick. Improves with time and develops increased and variegated citrus notes. And he shall be Livon. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted blind, May 2019
Gathers friulano and malvasia and if at first seems just a touch musty the lingering turns to dissipating, more than enough to move forward. Also a wet concrete nose and then more expressive on the palate with white peach juicy flavour and a bit of lime. Good persistence and fresh as required. Well-shouldered, spalla as they say and certainly necessary to elevate the Bianco ideal. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Keber Collio Bianco DOC Edi 2017, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
The mix is friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla from stalwart producer Keber and a completely different stylistic. More extraction and if not a longer skin-contact time, at least a higher percentage of a grape variety that adds hue and flesh. A bit reductive with an uva-sulphury note and then again, more expressive on the palate. Perhaps a bit of wood here so a disjointed wine in youth, plus this petrol natural sensation in the oxymoronic way it just seems to want to be. I’d say the winemaker is perfectly happy with the result. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Muzic Collio Bianco DOC Stare Brajde 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
Made from friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla. Even just a year has aged this Bianco with some oxidative advancement, off of a warmer set of sites and one particular variety involved that moves forward quicker. Barrel certainly a catalyst, so malolactic too and all tolled acting like chardonnay, or a blend involving an endemic variety when subjected to barrel that turns out like chardonnay in that it acts this way. Terpenes in an apple motive, moving along pretty quick. Drink up. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted blind, May 2019
Tenuta Baroni Del Mestri Collio Bianco DOC Monte Quarin 2016, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
Lovely combinations here from the holy Collio triumvirate of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla, of white flowers and sweet herbs, advancement and next level complexities. Brings together flowers and petrol, likely an aromatic variety mixed with one that has its own fruit flesh and then something with shoulders. Broad and punchy, with good acidity though not aggressively so. White pepper and a pinch of salt so properly seasoned. Like grüner or better yet gemischten satz, revivalist, so very interesting, of grasso, ciccia and glycerine. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted blind, May 2019\
Autochthonous plus International Blends
Gradis’ciutta Collio Bianco Riserva DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
The traditional triad of friulano, malvasia and ribolla gialla are here in a good advancement for a blend that has aged the way and in the timing it should. Quite gaseous and preserved lemon, plus aromatics that indicate potpourri. Certainly seen some time in barrel and gone through at least a partial level of malolactic. White caramel, vanilla and more lemon though mild acidity and in then end, a touch pine resinous, mild tonic, pith and bitters. All the while an effect created by 24 months of Riserva-level aging. Essentially a lone wolf of a Collio. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Cociancig Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
A mix of endemic and expatriate varieties, of friulano, pinot grigio, sauvignon and traminer. Intensely fresh and fruit punchy, florals and fruit pectin up front and nigh gregarious. The presence of something gooseberry-passion fruit unctuous is very sauvignon blanc mixed with a lemon gelée sweetness that indicates malvasia mixed with pinot grigio. Very fresh and drinkable wine. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Colle Duga Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
Somewhat aromatically reserved or at least demurred, a touch of apple terpene and herbs in the basil world. A mix of friulano, malvasia, chardonnay and sauvignon that acts quite grigio and/or bianco by notation, ubiquitous, easy and properly dressed with grain acidity. Not overtly complicated or complex. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Raccaro Collio Bianco DOC 2018, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy (WineAlign)
The four-poster then and now gathering ying-yangs between friulano, sauvignon, ribolla gialla and pinot grigi. Reserved but indicative of something serious. Stone fruit on the nose with a minor addendum by mandarin though not overtly fruit sweet. A touch of petrol-alcohol but no advancement, just not fresh and spirited out of the gate. Great palate presence, fleshy and broad, unctuous and quite forward in mouthfeel clarity. Lingers and fleshes as it goes. This could get very interesting with a few years of age. A solid combination of richness and age. Drink 2020-2025. Tasted blind, May 2019
Renato Keber Collio Bianco DOC Beli Grici 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
A blend of autochtonous plus international grape varieties that includes friulano, pinot bianco, pinot grigio, ribolla gialla and sauvignon. My how things have changed in this aromatic ham. Lemon in every respect, squeezed, preserved and baking with hocks. Both earthy and candle-waxy. Uncanny note of beeswax really points to extended skin contact mixed with wood-aged Riserva character. Then a gas note mixed with grasso and glück on the palate and high acidity. This might be construed as a train wreck to some and still an amazing revelation for others. A wine that separates camps and instigates prejudices. Depth to be sure though wood is just a bit intrusive with or without enough terroir to back up the ambition. In a way reminds me of some alvarinho in the Minho. Drink 2019-2023. Tasted blind, May 2019
Korsic Collio Bianco DOC 2017, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
Combines friulano and ribolla gialla with chardonnay. Solid if certainly unassuming and zero risk taking production. Juicy and tart, fruity and ultra clean. Really travels the apple to pear to white peach spectrum on repeat and in replay. Hue, aroma, taste and bones are all cut from the same cloth. In thats sense it’s perfectly balanced, amenable and fine. Poster child and ambassador for the DOC. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Bracco Collio Bianco DOC La Mont Brach 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
The local friulano amd malvasia take on sauvignon with a slightly reserved nose and that’s seemingly unusual when you consider it is 2016 and has had time to come about. Terpenes and sweet herbs do emerge, along with a scrape of orange zest and then a gaseous note. Nicely complex within reason and seasoned with just a pinch of salt, pepper and fresh herbs. Pretty wine, field blend rich and exemplary. Very Collio. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019
Collavini Collio Bianco DOC Broy 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
Really pretty wine this modern combination of friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon, not so much aromatically floral but just enough to speak to elegance and balance. Some orchard fruit still quite fresh, with a high level of flesh, extract and unction. Almost crunchy and wealth simple in blended white wine defined. There may be a minor level of wood aging here. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Tenuta Di Angoris Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Giulio Locatelli 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)
The blend is friulano, malvasia and sauvignon.A chewy, fleshy and broad shouldered Bianco with all the expected and necessary components present and then some. Highly focused and accomplished white blend, full of white flowers, mild seasonings, orchard and stone fruit, pectin, glycerin, grasso and acidity. It’s all here, clean, simple and straightforward. That said it’s certainly more on the perfectly understandable and less on the risk assessment, task-taking spectrum. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019
Russiz Superiore Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Col Disore 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)
The Felluga friulano, pinot bianco, sauvignon and ribolla gialla show an advancement because of the notable petrol immediacy crossed with more than obvious barrel addendum. A malolactic creaminess pervades and yet good acidity gives it drive and ambition. Vanilla and spice, sweetness and tinned fruit. A well made wine in the force a square peg into a round whole kind of way. Finishes with some resinous notes, in pine and eucalyptus. More cellar blend than field in execution. Drink 2019-2021. Tasted blind, May 2019
Pascolo Collio Bianco Riserva DOC Agnul 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)
Agnul from friulano, pinot bianco and sauvignon is lifted by this herbal, minty, orange scrape expressive nose. Rich, wood-influenced unctuous palate with mild acidity and definite character so rich, pork belly fatty and rendered. Good grape spirit and extract. Proper for the style, pungent and leaning to sauvignon blanc. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019
Pascolo Collio Bianco DOC Studio Di Bianco 2016, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)
A different mix, of friulano, riesling and sauvignon. One of the more curious and complex aromatic profiles thus far. Perfunctory herbs and citrus rolls into perfectly sweet and and savoury profits, from chou pastry to profiterole. Gastronomic Collio blend at its best, with florals and gasses, fruit and acidity. Proper, focused, flinty, salty and fine. Will age with the best of them. Jumpy, spicy, gassy and in the riesling vein. Drink 2019-2026. Tasted blind, May 2019
Ronco Blanchis Collio Bianco DOC 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)
Four grape varieties contribute here, friulano, malvasia, sauvignon and chardonnay. Terpenes and metals meet dried herbs and alloys. Lemon and lime but more preserved than fresh. These grapes do Collio like riesling, traminer and pinot bianco do elsewhere. Strangely reminds more of Alsace than anything else. A bit sweet to near cloying as it accumulates to the honeyed, sweet tart finish. Seems there is some botrytis here though there is no residual sugar to speak of. Drink 2019. Tasted blind, May 2019
Venica Collio Bianco DOC Tre Vignis 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, (WineAlign)
Three vines, friulano, chardonnay and sauvignon from which a little bit of age goes a long way as witnessed by this richly hued, gregariously aromatic and notably metallic Bianco. It’s all here in this ambitious and gregarious example. Plenty of orchard fruit, wood-induced texture and an overall creamy impression that suggest a whole lot of battonage. Vanilla, crème frâiche and almond paste. Rich, rich blend. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019
Ca’Ronesca Collio Bianco DOC Marnà 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
Only pinot bianco and malvasia. Metallic in the way of aromatic grapes like riesling and yet there’s also an herbal quality. Quite verdant actually, a pesto, a green goddess dressing and a blanch of legumes. Really fine acidity keeps everything lit and elevated. Quite fresh for 2015 and with impressive length. Not overtly fleshy and the extract is dry, not unctuous. Might just develop some salted honey or caramel in a year or so. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted blind, May 2019
La Rajade Collio Bianco DOC Caprizi 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
The three varieties are malvasia, friulano and chardonnay in quite a developed white blend, in every respect, hue, flesh and structure. Deeply golden, some botrytis affectation and a floral-spicy spectrum breached. Apple custard, metals and all sorts of elemental activity, from pyrazines to thiols. Almost fresh, somewhat famous. In the end freshness without acidity. Curious. Drink 2019-2020. Tasted blind, May 2019
Marco Felluga Collio Bianco DOC Molamatta 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
The binding pinot bianco gets in between friulano and ribolla gialla in this blend of curiously reserved aromatics, especially for a twenty fifteen. Sweetly herbal though faintly so. Composed, confident, stoic and sure of a slow evolving self. A Bianco for bianco sake, as if pinot is elevated and the international addendum is just not that important, i.e. bianco without overtly necessary barrel time. The palate tells a different story and so the richness and ambition comes out. Tart, tangy and creamy, long and metal fine. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted blind, May 2019
Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2015, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
The blend in 2015 is the ideal autochthonous plus international mix, with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay and ribolla gialla. Rich, juicy and complex, with full fruit compliment, extraction and heft. Orchards of every respect offer layers and layers of fruit substance and unction. Moment’s notices of salt and surety add to the layers of pure fruit. Nectarines are part of the mix. Drink 2019-2024. Tasted blind, May 2019
Primosic Collio Bianco DOC Klin 2013, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (WineAlign)
Poured from magnum with friulano, sauvignon, chardonnay, and ribolla gialla. A metallic aromatic blend, namely friulano like, with glycerin, paraffin and now, a honeyed back half. Quite a special accumulation and a speciality of the whole Collio experience. Great spice on the tongue here, piqued and peppery, special in so many ways. Some botrytis like notation but the wood involved is either beautifully integrated or wasn’t that substantial in the first place. Drink 2019-2022. Tasted May 2019
Good to go!