Bobby Stuckey & Lachlan Patterson in Austin (Georgia’s first wine tasting!)

Bobby and Lachlan were in town yesterday hosting a luncheon at Vino Vino for their line of wines, Scarpetta, including their new Barbera del Monferrato, which we loved.

We’ve become friends after we traveled to Friuli together a few years ago and then Tracie P and I had one of our all-time favorite meals at their restaurant last year before Georgia P arrived.

Master Sommelier Bobby is the apotheosis of cool and the sweetest guy…

Chef Lachlan is the Indiana Jones of Italian restaurateurship in the U.S. His focus is intense but it never blurs his passion. The soulfulness of his cooking is never eclipsed by his celebrity. And yes, ladies, he’s single!

His riso adriatico was stunning. They had been in Dallas the day before and Alfonso posted on the lunch here. “One of the best meals of 2012,” Alfonso told me a voce.

Our good friend April Collins, their Texas broker and one of the most beloved wine professionals in the state, did a superb job orchestrating the event.

Georgia went to her first fancy wine tasting and luncheon! She was SO good and a lot of friends got to meet her for the first time.

All of the top Austin wine professionals were there. We’re lucky to be part of such a close-knit wine community.

Schioppettino, the next big thing? (history of its revival and fortune)

Above: The folks at Ronco del Gnemiz hosted a vertical tasting of Schioppettino — stretching back to to 1989 — for the COF2012 bloggers last week. The township of San Giovanni al Natisone (where their property is located) is not the historical epicenter of the variety. But when current owner Serena’s father bought the estate in the 1950s, there were Schioppettino vines growing there — an indication of its popularity in another era. They still make one botte (large cask) of Schioppettino every year.

Anglophones love to say Schioppettino (here’s the entry for Schioppettino in the Italian Grape Name and Appellation Pronunciation Project). Perhaps it’s because of the variety’s purported onomatopoeic properties: some speculate that the name derives from the fact that the thick-skinned grape pops in the mouth when you bite into it; others believe that commonly encountered secondary fermentation and the resulting fizziness gave rise to its name (an early printed mention — 1823 — of the ampelonym is Scopp, according to Calò et alia).

As for the majority of Italian grape names, we’ll probably never know the etymon. But this lacuna doesn’t diminish our pleasure in saying Schioppettino (try it).

Above: In a tasting of roughly 15 Schioppettino producers from the township of Prepotto (the village where the grape is cultivated most famously), Pizzulin and Due Terre were standouts for me (the Due Terre entry was a blend of Schioppettino and Refosco). I also liked Petrussa and La Viarte. Here’s a link to a list of all the members of the Association of Prepotto Schioppettino Producers. The tasting was hosted by the Stanig winery in its restaurant/agriturismo and there is also an Enoteca dello Schioppettino worth visiting in Prepotto.

In many ways, Schioppettino and its revival in the late 1970s were precursors to the current renaissance of indigenous Italian grape varieties.

In 1976, the Rapuzzi family won the first-ever Nonino Prize — the Risit d’Âur or Golden Rootstock award — for its success in cultivating the forgotten grape. (Sadly, the wine they made from the 1975 vintage was never tasted because it was lost in the 1976 earthquake in Friuli, one of the many catastrophic events that shaped and defined the Friulian ethos in the twentieth century.)

In era when the great architects of the revival of “real wines,” Luigi Veronelli and Mario Soldati, were pioneering a new vinography that championed the indigenous over the international, Schioppettino was one of the earliest rallying cries. At the time, it was not authorized by the official “album” of government-sanctioned grape varieties and the Rapuzzi family risked a stiff fine and forced grubbing up. Lobbying by the Nonino family, combined with Veronelli’s patronage, helped to convince authorities to stand down. Today, the canonical rootstock for Schioppettino sold by the Rauscedo nursery is named “Rapuzzi”.

Above: In Prepotto, they pair Schioppettino with herb frittata, frico, and polenta. I think it could go with just about any type of comfort food. Photo by JC Reid.

Of all the tastings we attended in the Colli Orientali del Friuli last week, Schioppettino seemed to be the grape that excited the bloggers the most.

Was it because so little Schioppettino makes the Atlantic crossing?

Was it because the grape makes for juicy wines, with bright acidity and balanced alcohol?

Was it because of the grape’s signature spice, teetering somewhere between white pepper and cinnamon?

Maybe it’s because it’s just so fun to say Schioppettino

Intro to the wines of Friuli: taste with me Thurs. in Austin

Above: I photographed this wasp sucking on some freshly picked Ribolla at my friend Giampaolo Venica’s winery in Collio (Friuli) last September.

Last fall, Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey asked me to accompany him on a fantastic food and wine trip to Friuli and then in February of this year, I led a group of wine bloggers to the Colli Orientali del Friuli (Eastern Hills of Friuli) for a week of tasting, eating, and winery visits.

On Thursday of this week, I’ll be leading a seminar on the wines of Friuli at The Red Room in downtown Austin.

Here’s the details. Hope to see you there!

Love at first sight: the bloggers arrive in Friuli

Picked up the COF2011 blogging team yesterday at the Venice airport (after a teary goodbye to Tracie P). For the next five days, I’ll be acting as their interpreter and liaison as they taste wines produced in the Colli Orientali del Friuli (the Eastern Hills of Friuli) and meet winemakers and visit wineries.

It’s a great group of folks.

I’ll be posting my impressions of the trip here at Do Bianchi and I’ll be reposting my blogger colleagues’s posts over at our aggregate blog

Buona lettura, ya’ll!

Tocai Friulano: the story behind the EU decision to change the name

In her 1913 poem “Sacred Emily,” Gertrude Stein wrote famously that a rose is a rose is a rose.

The best English-language account (that I could find) of the EU litigation that led to Tocai’s name change was posted by DiWineTaste here.

The bullet points are as follows:

In 1993, Hungary filed a complaint with the EU, petitioning the legislative branch of the European government to block Italy from labeling wines as “Tocai.” The Hungarians’s complaint was based on a common precept of trademark law: the Hungarians were the first to use the name Tokaji (a toponym and enonym and homonym of the Friulians’s Tocai) in commerce.

A protracted legal battle ended with a 2005 EU decision that the Italians could use the designation “Tocai” only on bottles sold in Italy (and not abroad).

The decision went into effect in March 2007, so technically the 2007 vintage was the first to fall under the restrictions created by the ruling.

Surprisingly, as Mr. Franco Ziliani and I reported at VinoWire, sales of bottles labeled with the new designation “Friulano” increased in Germany and the U.S. after the new labeling restrictions went into effect.

Maybe Stein and Shakespeare were both wrong: What’s in a name? that which we call a rose Tocai / By any other name would smell as sweet sweeter!

Tocai Friulano Bianco: the basics

Above: “This is a 45-year-old Tocai Friulano vine that I have kept so that I could try to make a late harvest wine. We picked this vineyard in October. As you can see, there is some botrytis.” Sent to me this morning by my friend and Friulian winemaker Giampaolo Venica (Collio).

The following post is my abridged translation of the entry on “Tocai Friulano Bianco” in Vitigni d’Italia, le varietà tradizionali per la produzione di vini moderni (Grape Varieties of Italy, the traditional varieties for the production of modern wines) by Antonio Calò et alia, Bologna, Calderini, 2006. This is the first in an educational series on the grape varieties of the Colli Orientali del Friuli, posted in conjunction with the COF 2011 aggregate blog. Tomorrow, I’ll post an appendix to the present post on the EU litigation and resolution that led to the grape variety’s official name change (today, it can only be labeled as “Friulano” when shipped outside Italy’s borders).

Synonyms (documented and/or otherwise plausible): Cinquien, Malaga, Tocai bianco, Tocai italiano, Trebbianello, Blanc doux, Sauvignon à gros grains, Sauvignon de la Corrèze, Sauvignon vert, Sauvingonasse.

Erroneous: Sauvignon, Tocai, Tokai, Tokay, Tokaj, Furmint, Pinot grigio.

Origins (Historical Notes): grape variety cultivated in the Veneto and Friuli, principally in the provinces of Gorizia, Udine, and Venice. Professor Dalmasso was the first to propose the attributive Friulano to distinguish it from other possible synonyms. How it arrived in the Veneto is not known for certain. It’s possible that it was imported from Hungary (Perusini, 1935), although it bears no resemblance to the grape varieties of that region. According to documents cited by Dalmasso (1937), a grape called Tocai was cultivated in the Veneto as early as 1771. Tocai Friulano Bianco has recently been identified as Sauvignonasse, a variety that has all but disappeared in France but is widely cultivated in Chile (see Calò et alia, 1992).

Environment and cultivation: variety with high and constant production levels, susceptible to humidity but relatively tolerant of lack of water. It thrives in calcareous subsoils with median fertility and with training systems that offer greater exposure (Guyot, Casarsa, Cordone Speronato [i.e., cordon-trained, spur-pruned]).

Sensitivity to Disease and Other Issues: the bunches are particularly susceptible to rot, Esca, Peronospora, and powdery mildew. While the vines are not particularly sensitive to leafhoppers, they are sensitive to mites and moths.

Alcohol Content: 9.5-14.5%
pH: 2.8-3.8
Acidity: 4.30-7.40 grams per liter

Tocai Friulano Bianco produces a wine that is yellow and straw-yellow in color with greenish hints. Delicate, pleasant aroma, dry, fresh, softy, and velvety, typically with a slightly bitter note of almond and hay. It can be low in acidity and therefore is often blended with Ribolla.

The variety is used exclusively for vinification, for the production of wines intended for consumption within one year or with short aging times. The principal appellation for which Tocai Friulano Bianco is used are as follows: Bagnoli Bianco, Rosato e Spumante, Bianco di Custoza, Breganze Bianco, Colli Berini-Tocai Friulano, Colli Euganei Bianco, Colli Euganei-Tocai Friulano, Colli Euganie Fior d’Arancio, Gambellara, Garda Orientale Trebbianello, Lison Promaggiore-Tocai Friulano, Lugana, Piave-Tocai Friulano, Valdadige, Corti Benedettine del Padovano, Riviera del Brenta.

Translator’s Note: Oddly, Calò et alia omit the Colli Orientali del Friuli as one of the principal appellations where Tocai Friulano is used (an oversight?).

Friuli, here you come again…

Friuli, here you come again
Lookin’ better than a body has a right to
And shakin’ me up so that all I really know
Is here you come again …
And here I go…

The Colli Orientali del Friuli producers association has asked me to lead a group of bloggers to visit their appellation, taste, blog, eat, and taste some more.

Read all about how it came together and the bloggers we’ve selected here.

We arrive in Friuli a month from today, but we’ve already begun posting about COF, its grapes and wines, and its foods and folks.

Do you have a story about COF that you’d like me to repost at the #cof2011 blog? Just drop me a line by clicking here.

Buona lettura, ya’ll!

Here you come again
Just when I’ve begun to get myself together
You waltz right in the door
Just like you’ve done before
And wrap my heart ’round your little finger

Here you come again
Just when I’m about to make it work without you
You look into my eyes
And lie those pretty lies
And pretty soon I’m wonderin’ how I came to doubt you

All you have to do is smile that smile
And there go all my defenses
Just leave it up to you and in a little while
You’re messin’ up my mind and fillin’ up my senses

Here you come again
Lookin’ better than a body has a right to
And shakin’ me up so that all I really know
Is here you come again …
And here I go

Vogliatevi bene… Love one another…

My friend Marisa from Friuli, who recently celebrated her 70th birthday, wrote me the sweetest holiday message the other day.

“Auguro a te e alla tua Signora,” she wrote, “tanta felicità per ogni giorno della vostra vita! Vogliatevi bene!!!! Buone Feste!!!”

I wish you and your wife every happiness for every day of your lives! Love one another! Happy holidays!

I asked Marisa if I could borrow the above photos from her Facebook: on the left, her parents on their honeymoon at the Colosseum in 1937; on the right, her mother, with their family’s vineyards behind her.

Her parents returned to Rome for their 25th wedding anniversary, she wrote me. Just think of all that happened in Europe between 1937 and 1962!

Marisa’s words reminded me of our great fortune to live in a time of relative peace and prosperity. Even with the financial struggles so many of us are facing, we still have a lot to be thankful for.

During the holiday season, I can’t think of better way to honor the generations that have come before us than by loving one another… vogliatevi benelove one another… That’s what the holidays are for, aren’t they?

Veronelli’s olive oil manifesto

Posts from my September Friuli trip continue…

Friuli isn’t the first region that comes to mind when you think of great Italian-raised extra-virgin olive oil. In fact, very little olive oil is produced there (later in this series I will be posting on the tiny subzone of Friuli where higher winter temperatures make the cultivation of olive trees for fine olive oil possible).

“It’s just too cold here during the winter,” said the lovely Ornella Venica when we sat down for lunch at her family’s estate. Winter freezes, not uncommon in this most northeastern region of Italy, can kill the trees, she explained, making it virtually impossible for her family’s estate to produce fine olive oil there.

Determined to make great olive oil, her husband Gianni and one of his business partners launched the estate’s Terre di Balbia program in 2001 in Calabria, where they grow olives for their family’s olive oil and bottle estate-grown Magliocco and Gaglioppo.

The Venica family became early undersigners of Luigi’s Veronelli’s 2001 “Olive Oil Manifesto” (you can download a PDF version of the manifesto at the movement’s official website).

Publisher, writer, editor, and gourmet Luigi Veronelli, for those of you unfamiliar with his legacy, was the architect of Italy’s current food and wine renaissance. His early catalogs of the wines of Italy (first published in the early 1980s) and his restaurant and food guides reshaped the map of Italian food and wine, domestically and abroad (Veronelli appears often here at Do Bianchi, most recently in this post).

The manifesto is extensive and meticulous, but the basic concepts of l’olio secondo Veronelli (“oil according to Veronelli,” i.e., Veronelli’s “vision” of olive oil) can be distilled as follows: 1) no-chemical farming; 2) quick pressing of the fruit in situ 3) depittting of the olive oil before pressing; 4) exclusive pressing and bottling of individual cultivars, i.e., olive varieties (the section on how to clean the press to avoid cultivar contamination is impressive); 5) detailed labeling, including the mono-cultivar, “vintage,” and provenance; 6) exclusive packaging in glass bottles. There’s a lot more to it, but the basic concepts are these.

The oil? FANTASTIC… Venica & Venica is not the only producer-member of the Veronelli movement but I have been unable to find a comprehensive list of all the members.

In case you were wondering what we ate for lunch that day: roast pork shank with kren and fresh greens.

And we drank a 2005 Venica & Venica Refosco, which I had never had the opportunity to taste. Chewy and earthy and sooooooo good…

Venica and its current generation Giampaolo Venica will be appearing in an upcoming post in this series. Giampaolo was one of the most fascinating persons I met on the trip and we became fast friends. Stay tuned…