Vitovska: Italian Grape Name and Appellation Project

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This week’s episode of the Italian grape name and appellation pronunciation project is devoted to a variety that I simply cannot drink enough of, Vitovska, a grape grown primarily in the Carso (Eastern Friuli) and Slovenia, a grape that produces bright white-fruit wines with low alcohol and high acidity, and a variety that has become a flagship for orange-wine (skin-contact) producers like Vodopivec and Zidarich — two of my all-time favorite wineries and wines.

Above: The Zidarich winery is one of the most amazing sites I’ve ever seen in all of my vinous travels. It was constructed using only locally found materials, like “Carso Onyx,” the red limestone of the Carso in Eastern Friuli.

Above, you can hear and see Benjamino Zidarich (BEHN-yah-MEE-noh ZEE-dah-reech) speaking the ampelonym Vitovska, with the rapid rhythm very commonly found among speakers in the Carso (the dialectal inflection of nearby Trieste is famous for this signature of its prosody). I visited Benjamino and his amazing winery back in September of 2010. Even though we’d never met, we share some very close friends (the uncle of a very good friend of mine is the architect who designed his incredible facility). We both remarked about the fact that he and I both have Old Testament names: his family has a long-standing tradition of giving its children names from the Hebrew Bible.

Above: Every element — including the artistic — in the Zidarich cellar is an expression of Benjamino’s respect for nature and his deep sense of spirituality inspired by her, like the four bas-reliefs on the columns supporting the ceiling, each of them representing one of the four seasons.

One of the things that impressed me the most about Benjamino and his winery was his deep sense of spirituality, expressed not only in the way he spoke about his wines but also in the cellar itself. The facility was built using only materials found locally in the Carso and it includes many artistic elements that depict nature and its balance. I don’t think Benjamino would disagree with my observation that he has built a temple consecrated to nature and Natural wine.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how the biodynamic movement in America rarely includes its spirituality — one of the very foundations upon which it rests. However much they may disagree, the one thing that ties nearly all of the European producers of Natural wine together is their spirituality and quasi-religious devotion to what they do and how they speak about their wines and nature. Benjamino is one of the most deeply spiritual I know.

Above: In the U.S., we almost only see Vitovska vinified with skin contact as an orange wine. And the wines are DELICIOUS! But when I visited Benjamino, I got to taste his entry-level Vitovska, vinified as a lighter-style white wine. Man, I could drink that wine every day…

Eric the Red wrote a wonderful however short piece about Vitovska last year and Alder over at Vinography is a huge fan as well.

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