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.

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