City slicker embraces wine adventures
After sacking in my life as a lawyer to embrace the world of wine, I could barely contain my excitement when I received an invitation to my first press trip to Friuli in Italy.
The thought of having someone pay for me to go abroad to quaff vino and mingle with wine producers had me as excited as a schoolboy on Cup final day.
Now, I am sure that veterans of the industry will be quick to inform me that such trips are par for the course but the simple fact remains that being invited to a beautiful part of Italy to drink great wines and eat memorable food beats the pants off most jobs.
Prior to the trip I knew very little about Friuli so in the event that you are in the same boat, let me give you a quick intro to the region. Friuli is located in the north-east corner of Italy bordering Slovenia and Austria. It has gained a reputation for producing some of Italy’s finest white wines from a diverse range of indigenous and international grape varieties. It also produces some impressive red wines, in particular from the Pinot Nero, Merlot and Refosco grape varieties.
As for the trip, I have to say that it was an absolute blast.
After enduring the wettest June in the UK for 100 years, the gods blessed us with wall-to-wall sunshine, as we scoured the region in search of wines with character and integrity.
And we were not disappointed. One of the real highlights for me came in the unlikely form of the Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grape varieties. Having drunk far too many unimaginative examples of these varieties as of late, it was a delight to slurp a few that showed character and a sense of place. The Chardonnays – which were largely without oak – impressed me in particular. I think that this style is much underrepresented in the UK and I would love to see more of them arrive on our shores.
It was also a pleasure to discover the joys of Friuli’s flagship white grape, Tocai Friulano. Friulano produces wines with a full body, bright acidity and a floral, almond-like flavour. Although I feel that the region’s producers must be careful not to over-oak or allow alcohol levels to get too high, I really think that this versatile grape variety has the potential to take on Grüner Veltliner status in terms of its food friendliness.
Among various visits to wineries and tasty dinners, we were also taken on a tour of a prosciutto factory in San Daniele, which produces some of the most expensive and renowned ham in Italy. I actually quite enjoyed seeing how this regional delicacy goes through its life cycle but the thousands of swinging ham legs were inevitably too much for some of the group.
But to be fair, it could have easily passed as a set from one of Quentin Tarantino’s films.
Finally, I could not write about this trip without tipping my hat to the companions who joined me on this latest wine adventure of mine. They were a great bunch of wine lovers – passionate and knowledgeable about their subject and happy to share their views and opinions. It was a welcome reminder of how bright and active the wine community is here in Europe. I recommend you check out their stuff – here they are in no particular order:
– Simon Woolf of The Morning Claret (www.themorningclaret.com)
– Onneca Guelbenzu of We are Wine Defender (www.winedefender.org)
– Anne-Victoire Jocteur Monrozier of Miss Vicky Wine (www.missvickywine.com)
– Gloria Chang (http://gloriachang.diandian.com)
– Donna Jackson of Wisequeen (www.wisequeens.squarespace.com)
– Caroline Henry of Missinwine (www.missinwine.com)
So, all in all I was most impressed by the wines of Friuli. The thing that makes wine so magical for me is its diversity, its character and its ability to make me appreciate all that is great in life. To my mind, Friuli has all of these things and I don’t think it will be long until these wines become more prominent here in the UK.
Watch this space…