The Wine: Ribolla Gialla Orange 2013
Gravner Ribolla Gialla is a skin-contact natural wine made from 100% Ribolla Gialla native grapes, fermented in Georgian amphorae buried underground; long maceration with wild yeasts and no temperature control. After fermentation, the wine rests again in amphorae for five more months and then is aged in large oak barrels for an additional six years; bottled without fining or filtering. (source: Rosenthal)
The vineyards of the Domaine curl over the hills passing seamlessly across the border of Italy into the slopes of Slovenia. Meticulously maintained, the rows of grapevines settle into terraces that are dotted throughout with trees and bodies of water designed to attract wildlife and assure biodiversity. Gravner is steadily replanting to assure the primacy of the autochthonous grape varieties of Ribolla and Pignolo.
After determining that stainless steel was not a proper marriage for his wines in the 1990s, Josko Gravner decided to follow the ancient wine-producing techniques used in the Caucasus and has begun fermenting his wines in huge amphorae buried in the ground in his cellars in 2001, with a full conversion for all wines as of 2004. The whites, which make up about 85% of the estate’s production, spend about 10 months total in amphorae, with the reds a shorter 1 to 2 months. He insists on aging his wines in large barrels for many years so release dates for most wines are from 7 to 10 years and more from the date of harvest. (source: Rosenthal)
The Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli Venezia Giulia has become in recent years one of the most important wine-producing regions in the world. Winemaking and viticulture have reached levels comparable to that of major European wine regions such as the Mosel in Germany and the Loire Valley in France.
Friuli Venezia Giulia's wine landscape is a mosaic of international and native grape varietals. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot are counterpointed by local heroes Pinot Grigio, Picolit, Friulano, Verduzzo, Ribolla Gialla, and Schioppettino.
Diversity is indeed the quintessential character of Friuli Venezia Giulia: a border region which throughout history has seen a commingling of peoples, cultures, and languages. Friuli Venezia Giulia's Italian, Austrian, and Slovenian influences are evident in architecture, literature, and of course winemaking and viticulture.
Friuli Venezia Giulia borders with Trentino-Alto Adige (north-west), Veneto (south-west), Austria (north), Slovenia (west) and gets its name from the merger of Friuli region and Venezia Giulia, a region encompassing parts of Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia. The capital of Friuli Venezia Giulia is the seaport city of Trieste, located near the border with Slovenia.
The Terroir of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia displays a variety of microclimates, from the cold pre-alpine climate in the eastern part of the region, following the Julian Alps, to the Mediterranean climate characterizing the southern flatlands.
Wines from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are heavily influenced by the region's position, squeezed as it is between the Alps and the Adriatic sea. Freshness, good acidity, and finesse are some of their main characteristics.
Soil composition varies depending on the sub-region, but perhaps the most typical is represented by Marl and sandstone - also known as "flysch" or with the local term "Ponca", which is found in the Collio area.
The Red Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia red wine production is often obfuscated by its world-class white wine production. However, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, along with native varietals such as Ribolla Nera and Schioppettino, we can find some of the best Italian expressions of red wines made from international varietals.
In recent years, more and more producers have been experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and also Pinot Noir. The quality of Friuli-Venezia Giulia winemaking is so consistent across the board that international varietals give some of the best red wines made in the region.
The White Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is regarded as one of the top wine producing regions for white wines not only in Italy but also worldwide. All three DOCGs are white wines - Ramandolo DOCG, Picolit DOCG, Rosazzo DOCG. Some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world is produced in the Collio wine region, near the city of Gorizia, on the border with Slovenia, and the Grave DOC appellation.
Furthermore, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, together with neighboring Slovenia, is the mecca for orange wine lovers. Some of the techniques pioneered by winemakers from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are extended maceration on the skins and the use of amphorae.