When one thinks of wines from Friuli, white wine is typically the first thing that comes to mind. On my recent trip tip Friuli-Venezie Giulia, I had opportunity to dive into the indigenous red grapes of the region and taste some truly unique (and delicious) wines.
With nine tasting sessions, I came away with definite favourites, and the grapes Tazzelenghe and Terrano were part of that group.
Bound for extinction, Tazzelenghe was saved from disappearance thanks to a regulation in 1978 that added this species to others authorized for cultivation in the province of Udine. With only 6-7 ha left, it’s only found here in Friuli, and it certainly is not the bread and butter for the 6 producers that still make it. If they relied on only sales of Tazzelenghe, they would indeed go bankrupt! They continue to make small amounts of it simply because they believe in it.
Many Italian grapes get their names from either their colour, where they’re grown, or characteristics of the variety itself. Tazzelenghe is no different, as the name comes from the Friulian dialect word tacelenghe, which literally means “tongue cutter”, due to the high acid and high tannin on a medium body frame.
Terrano on the other hand is on the upswing. It is often associated with the Carso denomination and can also be found across the border in Slovenia. It can also be called Terrano del Carso, and because of this, the Slovenians want the Italians to use a different name for this grape: Refosco del Penduncolo Verde. Yes, it is undoubtedly a member of the Refosco group of grapes. And like Tazzelenghe, its name tells us a little about the grape. Terr = tar which refers to the colour of the bunch – dark, almost black. The wines are characterized by a distinct fragrant raspberry scent with high acid and tannin, that are balanced in harmony.
We tasted three Tazzelenghe and three Terrano in the flight, and my favourites, interestingly enough were the ones lowest in alcohol. There was nothing burning between me and the flavours of these wines, which was perhaps the appeal. If I had to pick a clear winner though, it was likely Tazzelenghe, which of course I would, because I always pick either the most expensive, or the geekiest!
- 2012 Tazzelenghe DOC Friul Colli Orientali – COLUTTA GIANPAOLO – a very old estate founded centuries ago, there is only 0.5 ha planted, making 1400 bottles. The wine was full of raspberry, red plum and a hint of cherry nibs on the nose. Tart cranberry and gooseberry on the palate with high acid and chalky tannins that stuck to the roof of my mouth. Some grapes are air-dried, and it IS allowed here (up to 50% and in some years up to 75% air-dried, in order to cut the high acid and tannin). There is a definite oak presence on this wine with half being aged in new barrique and half in older barrel.
- 2012 Tazzelenghe DOC Friuli Colli Orientali – JACUSS– Unlike wine one, this was more herbaceous and earthy with a red beet characteristic. Softer in the mouth with flavour of red raspberry and cherry with softer acids and tannins. After second taste, I felt the tannins a little more. Surprisingly, this wine exports to MANITOBA, here in Canada! Who knew?
- 2010 Tazzelenghe DOC Friuli Colli Orientali – LA VIARTE – Only 2000 bottles are made of this wine, it was more fuchsia in the glass and around the rim. Beautiful floral/spice nose of violet, lavender, cardamom spice and talcum powder. Perception of sweetness on the tongue with more floral and spice on the palate. Nice balanced alcohol with rose spice cardamom and lavender. Medium acid and medium tannins. Really pleasing and lovely; by far my favourite Tazzelenghe.
- 2015 Terrano IGT Venezia Giulia – BAJTA – Moving into the Terrano wines, this estate was originally a country hotel, now run by two brothers who started bottling and selling in 2011. With 5000 bottles of Terrano being made, this estate is looking to expand and plant more of this grape. This a cool wine. Some Carbonic maceration used, as well as air-dried grapes, giving it a beautiful ruby colour. It had a very earthy nose with beets, turnips and a vegetal quality. Floral, pepper, savoury spice and beef bouillon on the palate underneath the herbaceousness.
- 2015 Terrano Terrano senza solfiti DOC Carso – CASTELVECCHIO – Made entirely without sulphites, this was completely different from the first Terrano. Ruby with fuchsia tinge, my first thought was there must be Carbonic Maceration on this wine. Sure enough, there was, and meant a fruity nose with raspberry, cherry and floral notes, with a mineral undertone. Tart cranberry, raspberry with lavender and minerality on the palate.
- 2014 Terrano IGT Venezia Giulia – SKERK – Even though this was only an IGT, it had a beautiful balance, and freshness about it that I really enjoyed. The lowest alcohol content of all the Terrano, it was fresh and aromatic, and according to the producer, meant to be drunk young! Lots of cherry, raspberry and blueberry, with a really cool apricot aroma underneath! The palate, along with the fruit, had cinnamon spice and a slight smoky undertone. The tannins and acid balanced each other out well, and despite only having 11% abv, had a lovely finish
This is only a snapshot of some of the indigenous reds tasted at Collisioni Progetto Vini. What a fabulous experience to not only taste these, but hear from the producers of these wines. It’s always amazing to me to see the passion of the producer for these indigenous grapes, and to see them not give up in making wine from them, and not allowing them to go extinct. Stay tuned for information on Refosco di Faedis and Pignolo, and later, I will be writing about some of the fabulous white wines of Friuli I got to taste! Salute!