Friday, September 29, 2023

Great Whites of Collio with Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon

For part 3 of my tour of the Collio wine region I’m highlighting the Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon grapes from this region.  My last day of touring the Collio region started at Borgo Conventi in Farra d’Isonzo with a focus tasting on the Pinot Grigio Collio DOC.   

Borgo Conventi Winery 

Borgo Conventi was established back in 1975In 2001 it was bought by Ruffino and then in 2019 Giancarlo Moretti Polegato bought it, whom is owner of the known Villa Sandi estate of the Veneto regionWe were given a tour by winemaker, Paolo Corso, whom has been making wines at Borgo Conventi since 1989He explained the different terraces and the way in which they make 3 harvests due to the location of the vineyards on those terraces with different expositions with Ribolla Gialla on top and Friulano all around.    They start on the lower terraces due to humidity in the rocks working their way to the top of the terraces.   

Paolo Corso winemaker at Borgo Conventi
Paolo Corso

Borgo Conventi winery in Collio

Pinot Grigio in Collio 

Pinot Grigio is the most planted grape of Collio, but has been losing acreage as it has been replaced slowly by Malvasia and Ribolla GiallaOur guide, Richard Baudains, through the tasting explained that Pinot Grigio is less sensitive to soils than it is to climateI really enjoyed this tasting as it showed the many styles in which Pinot Grigio can be producedIt’s more than many of the simple, quaffable Pinot Grigio on the marketNot only does Collio show a high quality standard in their wines, but also a stylistic approach in their wines and Pinot Grigio is another one of those grapes to explore in this region.   

I’ll start with my favorite wines from the Pinot Grigio Collio DOC tasting and highlight some tidbits on the wineries I have yet to share in this series. 

The 2022 Fruscalzo Pinot Grigio Collio DOC comes from a cooler site in Ruttars at the bottom of the valley heading north in CollioThis Pinot Grigio is a ramato style where the juice is in contact with the skins showing a deeper straw color with copper highlightsAn aromatic nose of orange and spiceLight-bodied, but textured with with rounder fruit than a typical Pinot Grigio showing more citrus, orange notes and a touch of tannin, I’m assuming from the skin contactI typically enjoy sipping on a Pinot Grigio, but this wine I would pair with some food. 

The Pighin winery is a known winery in Friuli located in Capriva within Collio with vineyards both in Collio, but primarily in Friuli Grave with southern exposure hillsidesThis winery has been family run since 1963 when the brothers Luigi, Fernando and Ercole bought 500 acres in the Grace del Friuli DOC from a wealthy familyThe land they acquired was originally farmed by 25 familiesPighin likes to lower their yields than what is required by the DOC in order to increase quality and character in their winesThe 2022 Pighin Pinot Grigio Collio DOC is fermented and matured in stainless steel with the fine lees for at least 4 monthsAromas of green appleDelicate in body with a nice balance of fruit and acidity on the palateA fresh, clean wine with notes of pears and apples persistent through the lingering finishA nicely done Pinot Grigio, more typical in style. 

The Muzic winery started when the great grandparents originally settled in 1927 in San FlorianoToday the winery is run by the 4th generation with Ivan and his wife Orieta along with their two sons, Elija and Fabijan run the wineryThe winery has 44 acres in the Collio DOC with about 5 acres in the Isonzo DOC.  They’re working with native vineyards and no external clones so that when they do replant vineyards they keep the same vineyards that have been growing on the land since the beginningThe 2022 Muszic Pinot Grigio Collio DOC comes from a warm site in San FlorianoA more textured Pinot Grigio and roundness of the fruit showing notes of baked pears and nutmegTingling acidity with a touch of spice on the finishNot your average Pinot Grigio, but that’s what I’ve enjoyed about the style of Collio’s wines.   

Pinot Grigio wine tasting in Collio

Collio Pinot Grigio wines
Look at the color in these wines!

The 2021 Tenuta Borgo Conventi Pinot Grigio Collio DOC had an enticing floral nose with pears and rose petalsNice structure on this wine with notes of baked pear and spice with a considerable amount of salinity. 

The 2021 Castello di Spesssa Pinot Grigio “Joy” Collio DOC was another ramato style Pinot Grigio whose juice also shows some skin contactAnother warmer site produced Pinot Grigio with some complexity showing notes of pears and apple with spice and custard. 

Here are the rest of the Pinot Grigio that were all enjoyable depending on the style you prefer. 

  • 2022 Tenuta Villanova Pinot Grigio Collio DOC 
  • 2022 Ascevi Luwa Pinot Grigio “GrappoliCollio DOC 
  • 2022 Gradis’ciutta Pinot Grigio Collio DOC 
  • 2022 Sturm Pinot Grigio Collio DOC 
  • 2020 Primosic Pinot Grigio “Skin” Collio DOC 
Collio Pinot Grigio wines
Food pairing with Collio Pinot Grigio 

When we think of food and wine pairings many look towards the main course, but what about the appetizers? At Ristorante Trattoria Al Cacciatore in Cormons our first dish was an egg from a local farm, Fattoria Sant’Eliseo, that was fried and crispy with bacon and a zucchini cream. We paired this particular dish delightfully with the 2020 Gradis’ciutta Bio Pinot Grigio Collio DOC. Think outside the box! 

Fried egg paired with Pinot Grigio

Pascolo Winery 

My last focus tasting was on the Sauvignon grape hosted at the Pascolo Winery in the town of Ruttars in the Dolegna del Collio municipalI was hoping I could catch a shot of the stunning, eyecatching vineyards as we were driving and low and behold we were there at the Pascolo wineryLucky me!   

Pascolo winery in Ruttars Collio
We were taken on a tour by Alessandro Pascolo, the winemaker and 3rd generation of the Pascolo family that runs the winery todayLocated in a very sunny part of Collio, Pascolo occupies 17 acres with great southern exposureThey take pride in their white wines and it showed in the quality tasted a number of times throughout my journey and the passion that Alessandro displayed from our meeting with himThey believe in producing white wines that have the potential to be aged and I think with their “Riserva” that I’m sharing today I too see the potential in their wines.   
Winemaker Alessandro Pascolo
Alessandro Pascolo showing us his Sauvignon vineyards

Sauvignon in Collio 

Sauvignon is the second most planted grape in Collio holding about 23% of the share.   This grape does well in Collio because of the diurnal swings that is perfect for aromatic wines like SauvignonOne of the challenges with Sauvignon is picking it on just the right day for that perfect balanceA common clone of Sauvignon you will find in Collio is clone R3, which results in wines that are aromatic and peppery.   

My favorite Sauvignon wines from the tasting were the following shared below. 

The 2022 Humar Sauvignon Collio DOC carried citrus aromas with a dry, light to medium-bodyA well-balanced wine with a nice mouthfeel of lemon rind notes.   

The 2021 Castello di Spessa Sauvignon “Segre” Collio DOC wasn’t heavy on the aromatics, but had mouthwatering acidity with tangy citrus notesI picked up a little heat on this one with nice minerality and was juicy through to the lasting finishRichard Baudains claimed that this wine was a benchmark of the region. 

When it came to the Pascolo Sauvignon wines I enjoyed both of them in their own right, but had a slight preference towards their “Anteprima” Sauvignon.  The 2021 Pascolo Sauvignon Collio DOC is a blend of two  of Pascolo’s vineyard sitesThis wine does not see any oak and spends 3 months in the bottleA refreshing light bodied wine, nicely balanced with bright acidity and citrus flavors with a touch of minerality on the finish  

On the other hand is the 2021 Pascolo Sauvignon “AnteprimaCollio DOC that is Pascolo’s small project that they’re experimenting withOnly a few hundred bottles have been madeI regret not scooping one up to take homeThe wine is fermented and aged in wood until June after harvest and spends 2 years in the bottleThis is considered their riservaGreat juicy acidity on this one with citrus notesWith 15.3% alcohol I was surprised I didn’t pick up the heat on this onePascolo is experimenting aging some of these wines for 10 years and aren’t seeing any lack of freshness on these wines with ageIt’s fascinating to see the longevity of these white wines in Collio. 

The 2020 Colmello di Grotta Sauvignon Collio DOC was different than most from the tasting, partially because it was the only 2020 sampled, which was a warm vintageDifferent is ok if it’s your styleThere was a hint of vanilla on the aromaticsOn the palate this wine had a creamy texture with some citrus, orange notes showing nice fruit definition with a softer acidity.   

Collio Sauvignon wines

Here are the rest of the Sauvignon also found enjoyable during the tasting. 

  • 2022 Ascevi Luwa Sauvignon “Rondo dei Sassi” Collio DOC 
  • 2022 Tenuta Villanova Sauvignon Collio DOC 
  • 2022 Conti Formentini Sauvignon Collio DOC 
  • 2022 Bolzicco Sauvignon Collio DOC 
  • 2022 Skok Sauvignon Collio DOC 

Food pairings with Collio Sauvignon 

My last evening we dined at Locanda all’Orologio in Cormons and enjoyed sea bream in crazy water with vegetables caponata. Crazy water was a new one for me, but learned that in Italian it translates to “acqua pazza”, which is used in cooking Italian cuisine for poaching fish. This was paired with the 2020 Colmello di Grotta Sauvignon DOC. I’m many times a proponent of white wine with fish, but what matters is the way in which it is prepared along with any types of sauces or seasonings used.  

Sea bream in acqua pazza

I hope you enjoyed my three part series of my visit to the Collio wine region of Friuli in Italy and I urge you to venture there for yourself and to experience the high quality of white wines coming from this region. If you missed the first two parts I hope you find the time to check them out. 

My deepest gratitude and thanks to the Collio Consorzio, the producers that took their time to share their wines and expertise, and Federica for organizing everything.  I look forward to my next Italian adventure left to be determined. 

*This was a sponsored trip, but opinions are always my own.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Cantina Tramin: One of Italy's Oldest Wine Cooperatives

This week we explore the Alto Adige region of northern Italy featuring one of the established cooperatives found in Italy, Cantina TraminI had the opportunity to ask some questions of Cantina Tramin that I’m sharing today along with a few of their wonderful white winesI wish I ventured to this winery the last time I visited Verona some years ago as it’s about 100 miles to the northThe architecture of this winery is eye catching as you'll see below.  It was was architected onto the original wine cellar by Werner Tscholl in 2010 for energy efficiency.

Cantina Tramin Alto Adige

The Winery – Cantina Tramin 


Cantina Tramin is located in the Alto Adige wine region of northern Italy also known as SüdtirolThe winery is situated on the south side of the Alps named after the town in which it is located, Termeno, which in German translates to TraminWith many of these bordering regions in Italy, as we have seen time and time again, that there are many cultural influences as it relates to their history, food, wine and overall cultural traditionsCantina Tramin is only 60 miles from Austria.


The winery sits in a glacial valley that helps traps sun and also block the vineyards from the cold northern winds as well as the winds from Lake Garda.  This area sees large fluctuations in temperature between day and night that contributes to the wines structure and elegance. 

Cantina Tramin vineyards

Today Cantina Tramin consists of about 170 families that stay true to the philosophy of “accuracy, commitment, trust and creativity” and to produce wines that reflect their landscapeTheir acreage totals about 620 acres in the areas of Tramin, Neumarkt, Aver and MontanThey produce about 1.9 million bottles with about 30% of their production exported globallyThey are 3rd oldest cooperative in the southern Tyrol.   


Interview with Cantina Tramin 

I had the opportunity to ask some questions to winemaker Willi Stürz and the sales director Wolfgang Klotz. I hope you enjoy their insight!


How was the idea of the coop created? 

Cantina Tramin was founded in 1898. The end of the 19th century were difficult years for local agriculture. The sale of the grapes was difficult, and the winegrowers were completely dependent on the private traders and the privately owned wineries. With the establishment of a cooperative, the freedom, security and dignity of small winegrowers was secured. Established by Christian Schrott, parish priest of Tramin and later member of the Austrian Parliament, Cantina Tramin is one of the oldest growers’ cooperative in Northern Italy.


What is it about the terroir that makes Gewurztraminer so successful there? 

The Alto Adige/Südtirol Gewürztraminer, and especially that of Tramin, differs from that of other places in the world for its elegance and freshness, deriving from the fact that its maturation takes place on gravel and clay soils, at particularly high altitudes with strong temperature variations between day and night. Gewürztraminer depends on warm days to develop its unique aromas, on the other hand cold nights to preserve freshness. More than 30 years ago, we began to plant only those grape varieties in each of our microzones that have the climatic and soil-specific conditions to exploit their full potential. That's why our Gewürztraminer grow at an altitude of 350 - 500 m above sea level. Here it offers extraordinary aromas, a wine rich in silky, mineral, and structured texture, with elegant and intense aroma of nutmeg, rose petals, cinnamon, spices and oriental fruits. 

 How do you manage such a large amount of growers and what are some of the main requirements of being a partner/grower with Cantina Tramin?   

Today’s situation is the result of the proceedings that began 50 years ago. Much of what was unthinkable decades ago has become "culture" today. Much of what started as an innovation and used to be a huge challenge has long since become the standard today. The strength of the cooperative is its networked structure. Our member families are small landowners. Despite its size, the company has the opportunity to operate like a small winery, which allows high flexibility and quick decisions. As needed, the vines and grapes are given individual care throughout the year until they are harvested quickly in autumn at the best time. The large number of co-owners guarantees individual, intensive vineyard work and precise harvesting with optimal physiological ripeness. An agronomist supervises and advises the member families throughout the year, and there are also regular training courses for the winegrowing families. Scientific findings also play an important role. With the rich experience and the prudent and clear specifications/instructions of winemaker Willi Stürz provide the basis for the consistently high quality of the wines. The detailed cooperation and the effort to continuously improve quality are deeply rooted in the minds. Further details for quality improvement are continuously being worked out and implemented.  

Willi Stürz winemaker for Cantina Tramin
Willi Stürz, winemaker for Cantina Tramin

What does the winery pride themselves on? 

The families are co-owners and producers of the cooperative of the village of Termeno, they have lived in Alto Adige/Südtirol for centuries. They are literally rooted in their land and the nature that prevails here. They see themselves as part of the landscape. The structure of Cantina Tramin has therefore grown organically, the formerly small mountain farmers have joined forces to work more efficiently and ensure its preservation. This gave rise to today's Cantina Tramin, which sees itself as a kind of big family that sticks together and passionately pursues its goals together. The winery has become one of Italy's leading white wine producers, and the wines also enjoy the greatest international recognition. An example of this is Wine Advocate's 100 points for Epokale Gewürztraminer. It is the first time that Robert Parker has given maximum recognition to a white wine in Italy.


What do you feel are the unique qualities of the wines produced at Cantina Tramin in comparison to other producers of the region? 

Our wines are intensely fruity, fresh, complex and have an extremely elegant structure. In every bottle, our territory is recognizable. The same applies to the grape variety, the style, the attitude of the Cantina and the peculiarities of the vintage. 

Any current project or future plans for Cantina Tramin at this time 

After the success with Gewürztraminer, in recent years we have placed Chardonnay at the center of our perception. We have dedicated many studies to it and thoroughly studied the great potential of this vine in the Alpine region and continuously expanded it as part of a comprehensive oenological project. The calcareous soils and the prevailing climate offer endless possibilities for the development of this grape variety. Our Chardonnay should be characterized by the unmistakable expression of the alpine area, should speak the language of the alpine valleys. In this project we have also penetrated to unusual altitudes (500 – 550 meters) with the variety, because complex Chardonnays from high altitudes are a rarity, but that's exactly the appeal for us. 

The Cantina Tramin Wines 

I sampled a few of the white wines of Cantina Tramin that I wanted to share today with their Nussbaumer Gewurztraminer and Pinot Bianco being my top picks.


The 2022 Cantina TraminMoriz” Pinot Bianco Alto Adige DOCThis wine is made from 100% Pinot Bianco grapes with low yieldsThe name Moriz for this wine is named after the patron saint, St. Mauritius of the village of Sella, which is situated in the hills above Cantina Tramin where these grapes are grown at about 820-1,640 feet on clay and gravelly soilsThis wine spends time on the lees and is aged in small stainless steels and 20% in big oak casks for 6 monthsThe wine was pale straw, almost clear with green huesPretty aromatics of white peach and citrusLight-bodied and dry on the palate and crisp with mouthwatering acidity showing more notes of citrusABV 13.5% SRP $23

2022 Cantina Tramin “Moriz” Pinot Bianco Alto Adige DOC

The 2021 Cantina Tramin Unterebner Pinot Grigio Alto Adige DOC is named after the Unterebner vineyard where the grapes are grownIt is fermented partially in oak barrel and partially in tonneaux with malolactic fermentationIt is then aged in large oak barrel with a smaller part aged in tonneaux on the leesIt spends 3 months in the bottle with a total of 14 months aging.  Pale straw colored this wine had fresh aromas of some citrus, apples and pears that carried through to the palate. Light-bodied with crisp acidity with a hint of vanilla and salinity. I was expecting more body and a different profile with the wood contact, but it was barely noticeable, which I think in a Pinot Grigio is a good thing. ABV 14.5% SRP $39

2021 Cantina Tramin Unterebner Pinot Grigio Alto Adige DOC

I was thrilled to try the 2021 Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer Alto Adige DOC for a couple reasonsThe first is that I’m a big fan of the Gewurztraminer grape from my days of touring the Finger Lakes wine region of upstate NYNussbaumer is made from 100% GewurztraminerThe other reason is that this wine is the most awarded Gewurztraminer in the Gambero Rosso, the organization that prides itself on being in the know for Italian food and wine, and also has received 20 consecutive Tre Bicchieri awards from Gambero Rosso, their highest honorCantina Tramin is well known for their quality Gewurztraminer that they produce including their Epokale, which is the first Italian white to receive 100 points from the Wine Advocate.   

Gewurztraminer, also known as Traminer locally, is one of the oldest grapes in the world and grows particularly well in the area surrounding Cantina TraminThe Nussbaumer is fermented in stainless steel and ages in small steel tanks with lees contact with 3 months in the bottle also totaling 14 months of aging.  This wine was straw colored. The aromas and texture of this wine along with it’s complexity is what stood out the most. Such exotic aromas, floral with spice and lychee. It had a silky, textured body a silkiness with lots of ginger and spice. Quite an interesting Gewurztraminer! ABV 14.5% SRP $43

2021 Cantina Tramin Nussbaumer Alto Adige DOC

Have any of my readers been able to visit Cantina Tramin or the Alto Adige region? 

*These wines were provided as samples, but opinions are always my own.