Posted by: tomciocco | January 5, 2012

A (GREAT) RED FROM FRIULI COPS AN ALIAS

If you were born Ralph Lifschitz, and your aspirations were, let’s say, fashion oriented, dropping the “Lifschitz” for the conjured name “Lauren” would not be a difficult decision to make, I’d think…In the world of grapes, such clarity is not always found so readily at hand – is Malbec clearly better than Cot, or Tempranillo inherently “sexier” or easy to remember than Tinto Fino? Maybe, and depends…

So we jump abruptly to northeastern Italy, and land in the Friuli region. This is a region that speaks its own Romance language (Friulano) and embodies a fascinating stew of Latin, Slavic, and Germanic culture, and a cuisine that cleverly combines these traditions to produce an exotic but earthy table. The 1990s brought mostly deserved fame to this very beautiful region via the broad praise for its clean and intense white wines made from both native and “international” varieties. But as strong as Friulian whites are, the red wines (made from Friulano and foreign grapes alike) equal if not better the region’s celebrated whites.

One of these fascinating Friulano red varieties is (on its way to “was’?) called Schioppettino (skyo-peh-TEE-no) – which now that I think of it, for a grape, might be as rough as Lifschitz – is also known as “Ribolla Nera”, and by other names as well. Schioppettino/Ribolla Nera’s white-skinned cousin Ribolla Gialla (gialla means “yellow”) is one of the lesser known of the aforementioned celebrated Friulano whites, and the two kindred vines share at least one family trait, and that is a certain vivacious, savory acidity, which make them both quite versatile at the table. Ribolla Nera’s beautifully balanced and complex spicy/berry medium-weight body is ultimately really tough to compare to any other single wine…and it’s one of Jen’s  all time favorite wines to top it all off…

As potentially versatile as this wine might be, to separate this special liquid from its solid, comestible countryfolk seems a shame, so I made a very traditional though exotic cherry, chive, and marjoram orzotto (essentially a barley risotto) with Montasio cheese, and then another odd though thoroughly traditional dish called persut col asedo which is “prosciutto with vinegar” in Friulano. The dish is little more than its name: thick slices of San Daniele (GOTTA be San Daniele ham from Friuli – Parma ham is too salty for this dish) very gently fried in butter and then cooked again a vinegar roux of sorts…The side dish was smothered red cabbage with garlic and cumin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Nera Colli Orientali del Friuli 2009

Sultry, opaque crimson/purple color with rose at the rim. Ethereal but still “grounded” nose of wild blackberry, sweet brown spices, sun-baked earth, pretzel, aromatic wood, and wild sage. The medium body is lively, complex, and smooth, with a wonderfully austere tart/peppery spine, and elegant, feminine flavors of cranberry, strawberry and myrtle compote, black grape fruit leather, and a “charcoal” minerality. The finish is warm and nuanced with notes of mushroom and juniper.

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