Long before Sicily, there was Friuli
Friuli is special. It’s where the old Austrian empire ran into Italy, and where the Eastern Bloc of the Cold War met the West.
It’s also where the earth enjoys an unusually dense patch of limestone, and a climate ideal for producing fresh white wines and late-ripening red varieties. No wonder that—since long before Sicily emerged on the world stage—Friuli has been a center for experimenting, for natural wine-making, and for simply making lots of delicious wines.
Everybody associates all this with Gravner, and his bold, frankly tannic orange wines that shocked the wine world when they first appeared. But others have followed in his direction, with variations on the theme. Neal Rosenthal—importer of Cappellano, Bea and other great nature-focused Italian wines—has discovered a new one and just brought him to market.
Gravner-light: Zidarich’s lovely orange Malvazia
Benjamin Zidarich is definitely nature-focused. He farms biodynamically and expects to receive certification this year. In the winery he makes his white wines naturally and a touch orange—he leaves the juice on the skins for a bit to extract color, flavor and all the goodness skins and their polythenols have to give. But he takes a much gentler approach than you find at Gravner.
You see this in the color. The orange hue is obvious only when you hold the glass up to the light. And you get it in the taste. While many orange wines emphasize fruit peel and tannic power, that stuff is just an afterthought in Zidarich’s wines, which are really focused on minerality and the flavor of the grape variety.
In this case, the grape variety is lovely Malvasia. You can think of it as the Viognier of Italy—or spell it with a Z instead of S and call it the Viognier of Slovenia. The Malva(z/s)ia of Zidarich is in particular like Condrieu, with captivating florality—white flowers, jasmine—weaved together with tense fruit flavors. The limestone soils seem to float to the surface, lifting the wine with a light layer of minerals. The skin contact rounds out the wine, giving it presence and—we understand from the Rosenthals, who tasted a 12-year-old example—good aging capacity.
It’s a lovely dance between playful and serious, and also an excellent pairing for summer vegetables! This week only (through Sunday 6/17), we have a special price for blog readers. To take advantage, just use the code – ZIDARICH – once you add the wine to your cart.
Benjamin Zidarich, Malvasia/Malvazia, 2015 – $42.99 $36.99
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