A historic day for OLD WHITE WINE in Friuli with Gianni Menotti

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Folks, I have to say that Wednesday June 1st, 2011 was a historic day for Old White Wine, especially for the great whites of Friuli Venezia Giulia.

I had the pleasure of tasting through some glorious old whites, all from my home of Friuli, and some (not all) from the winery where I work: Bastianich. Especially significant was the fact that I shared this experience with one of the greats in Friulian winemaking, sig. Gianni Menotti, ex-winemaker of Villa Russiz and current consultant for such producers as Scubla and Castelvecchio.

I’m not going to tell you about EVERYTHING we tasted right away… oh no, you have to wait for it! But, if you look close at the photo of Gianni above, you can see what we had the pleasure of sampling…

Today I’ll tell you about one of the wines, something near and dear to my heart… The 1999 Bastianich Pinot Plus.

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1999 was my second harvest in the cellar, and while the vintage can only be described as fantastic, the harvest itself damn-near killed me. In 1998, my first experience in the cellar, I worked like a slave. Nothing had prepared me for the 16-hour days, the cramped hands and the soggy feet. 1999 found me more prepared with proper footwear, but the brutal schedule… sometimes 20-22 hour shifts… was one of the toughest experiences I have ever had.

So tasting the fruits of that laborious harvest a decade later is a pleasure, and a trip back in time.

Pinot Plus is labeled Pinot Grigio, something we only made for those first couple of vintages, but if I remember well, there was a small amount of Pinot Bianco in the mix, and possibly a bit of late-harvest juice (at that time referred to as “piccolo bambino”, as it had to be coddled like an infant child).

Wednesday the wine showed lean and mean for a hot vintage like ’99. Clean, with no apparent oxidation. Very minerally and stony – almost tannic on the palate. Not lots of fruit or weight, not much of that silky sexiness that comes with age on Friulian whites, but the dryness and mature stoniness makes this a very appealing food wine at 12 years old. Hints of apple and pear on the finish evolve with air to include a lively white pepper element. Heat of the ’99 vintage peeks out in some warmth at the end. Remarkable.

Gianni and I both agreed that we would GLADLY drink this wine on a regular basis, even with 10 years of bottle age.

Stay tuned… more goodies to come!

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