An 18th century cult wine’s revival

An Italian wine competition held in December was designed to encourage local producers to keep growing traditional grapes.

Consorzio delle D.O.C. – F.V.G held ‘Friulano & Friends - The sweet wines of the Friuli Venezia Giulia’ competition on December 14, 2012

Consorzio delle D.O.C. – F.V.G held ‘Friulano & Friends – The sweet wines of the Friuli Venezia Giulia’ competition on December 14, 2012

In the 18th century Picolit, a little-known white Italian wine grape grown predominately in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of north-east Italy, once enjoyed a worldwide reputation among the royal courts from the UK to the Russian Empire.

It got its name from the extremely small (piccolo) yields, but as these were generally economically disappointing the grape gradually faded out of fashion. Its mate Verduzzo, used predominantly to make sweet wine Ramandolo DOC within Colli Orientali del Friuli, is another well-hidden gem.

Led by Italian wine critic Ian D’Agata, the competition’s judging panel comprised wine consultants and journalists: Decanter contributing writer Richard Baudains from Italy, Merano Wine Festival winelife columnist Young Shi from London, wine journalist Ann Fogelberg from Sweden and local Consorzio judge members.

With the wines samples presented having already gone through a rigorous pre-selection, the general quality felt consistently satisfying. The president of the judge panel Ian D’Agata set “typicity” as the judging criterion, which means Picolit wines should be characterised by a soft floral smell reminiscent of peach and apricot. Post-fermentation aging in oak barrels brings up subtle hazelnutty aromas. Its elegant balance between acidity and medium sweetness lends it to a refreshing and youthful palate, with no intension to mimic the complexity or luscious sweetness commonly found in Sauternes.

White wine with tannins? Yes, Verduzzo is the surprise for you. The medium-bodied dessert wine usually comes with a deep golden or amber colour, much more intense than Picolit. Noble rot and the passito method impart a highly perfumed nose layered with honeysuckle, caramelized figs, orange peel, mingled with treacle and dried apricot aromas. Subtle astringency of the tannin is more noticeable in drier styles.

These wines are definitely intriguing and worth trying if you can. The best samples were crowned the winners of the competition:

Picolit category: Picolit DOCG 2008 Dell’Azienda Aquila del Torre
Verduzzo category: Verduzzo Friulano Cratis 2009 Dell’Azienda Scubla Roberto;
Verduzzo blend category: Tal Lùc 2008 Dell’azienda Lis Neris

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