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Collio, land of precious whites

A tour of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the Collio production area: discovering one of the region’s most important DOC wines and its best winegrowers

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a charming borderland, which preserves this cultural and enogastronomic imprint made of contaminations originating from the Mitteleuropean influence. White wines in particular are the real precious heritage of these lands, as in the case of Malvasia Istriana and Vitovska, the names of which evoke their historical closeness to the Istrian peninsula, as do Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia and Friulano (formerly Tocai) for the autochthonous, and Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon and Chardonnay for the international. In terms of cuisine, the oriental influence can be found in the use of pork, soups and intriguing sweet and savoury combinations. Among the region’s most important designations is Collio DOC, which encompasses the northern hills of the province of Gorizia.  

Exceptional winegrowers

The Collio DOC is home to some historic winegrowers.  One of these is Josko Gravner, who for the last 20 years or so has brought a real revolution to the area, with his amphora-macerated white wines, a technique that follows that of Georgia, where wine originated in 6000 BC. These are what are more commonly referred to as orange wines, wines made from white grapes that ferment and macerate for weeks, sometimes months, in contact with the skins, just like red wines are made. The concentration of pigments and polyphenols in the skins of white grapes, although infinitely lower than in reds, results in a wine that can range from deep gold to amber, marked by a certain degree of roughness on the palate, typical of tannin. This is the case with its Ribolla Gialla with a long maceration in Georgian amphorae and ageing in large wood, which can even be paired with white meats, or to stick to the territory with frico, a traditional dish of melted cheese, potatoes and onions. 

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Jermann is also among the area’s great producers, and with its 20 hectares on the Ruttars estate in Dolegna del Collio, has entered the legend with its Vintage Tunina. The wine is an amazing white made from Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia, plus other minor varieties, and was defined by Luigi Veronelli, the master of international wine critics, as the ‘Mennea of Italian wines’ for that snappy, powerful sip like the famous sprinter. A white wine suitable for the whole meal, excellent with fish dishes, but also with sweet-and-sour preparations, like the traditional Friulian ravioli, cjarson, with its unmistakable flavour. 

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An itinerary to discover Collio

To discover these and other winemakers in the area, we suggest following the Wine and Cherry Route that winds its way through thirteen locations marked by 1600 hectares of vineyards. Wineries not to be missed, in addition to those already mentioned, include Castello di Spessa, Marco Felluga-Russiz and Gradis’ciutta where you can explore small villages, taste great wines (including reds, don’t forget the Schioppettino and Tazzelenghe!) and wander these rolling hills. Enjoy your visit!

For more info: The wine and cherry route of Collio

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