Wine Blogging Wednesday #41 (hosted this month over at Fork & Bottle) has us pondering the mountainous Northeast corner of Italy, as the wine blogging community explores the white wines of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Too bad we’re not exploring their reds too, since this region grows some totally kick-ass Cabernet blends, having almost completely re-worked its approach to quality winemaking and viticulture since its vineyards were wiped out in the 19th Century by that nasty pet phylloxera (more history available in the excellent Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia).
The wine I chose for WBW (see inset pic from my kitchen counter) was Conte Brandolini D’ADDA Tocai Friulano 2005, from the Grave DOC in Fruili. Surprisingly, I found a decent selection of Friuli whites at the local wine shop here in the Communist-wealth of Pennsylvania. And I got it for $14 (sah-weeeeet! – Wire Chicken NOT included, of course).
But before I review this wine, I need to give you a quick bit of insight into why I can’t stand reviewing wines sometimes…
Outside of contributions to WBW, I don’t normally review wines at this blog. That’s because when I do decide to review a wine, someone with wine street cred that kicks the crap outta mine goes and reviews the exact same wine! In this case, it was the awesome Mary Ewing-Mulligan. I know what you might be asking yourself: “Self, I wonder if that’s the same Mary Ewing Mulligan who co-wrote the hugely successful Wine For Dummies, is president of the International Wine Center, and was the first woman in the U.S. to become a Master of Wine?“
Yeah, that Mary Ewing Mulligan. She also happened to discuss this wine in person with the Italian Count who produces it. So I’m not sure how I’m gonna top that.
Mary, if you ever read this post, I formally challenge you to an arm-wrestling contest for a bottle of `82 Mouton Rothschild. But since I know your brother and he’s a great guy, I might let it slide and settle for a lesser vintage…
Anyway, back to Friuli – this is a region of great diversity in its winemaking, and subsequently great diversity – and confusion – in the flavor profiles for its wines. Tocai Friulano is no exception. Depending on who you talk to and what wine books you read, it’s a light-bodied wine and full-bodied wine. It’s a nutty wine. It’s a spicy wine. Or it’s a fruity wine.
The flavor profile isn’t the only thing nutty or fruity about TF. According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, TF’s name is also the stuff of total confusion: It’s known as Sauvigonasse, but many speculate that it has no relation whatsoever to Sauvignon Blanc. “Tocai” suggests some relationship to the famous Tokay of Hungary (made from Furmint grapes), but that connection is so specious that the Italians have agreed with Hungary to eventually drop Tocai from the TF name altogether. And TF bears no relationship at all to Tokay d’Alsace (which is better known as Pinot Grigio, also made in the Friuli region). Confused yet?
One thing that isn’t in dispute is TF’s popularity – it is practically the BudLite of northeast Italy; in other words, it’s ubiquitously planted and consumed in that region.
What’s my take on this wine?
It has a gorgeous pale lemon color. Fairly aromatic, though I was less beguiled by the aroma than Mary was in her review. Citrus and hint of pineapple on the nose. Lots of minerality on the palate (must be the gravelly soil), and some almond there as well. Good body (a bit more than I would have expected at 12.5% alcohol), and very decent, crisp acidity. I enjoyed it a bit more on the second day when it opened up just a tad.
The BudLite of Northeast Italy…? Undeserved, totally, if you’re talking taste. Those who appreciate a nice guilty pleasures will find something to like in this one. Enjoy it with fish – the lighter and whiter, the better – with some mild mango salsa.
Your mileage, as they say, may vary.
If you’re interested in learning more about Italian wines, check out the book Vino Italiano.