Awareness of the great French & Hungarian sweet wines somehow didn’t click. Possibly the Chateau d’Yquem price point had something to do with it. And so it continued until my epiphany, a first tasting of the prestigious golden nectar from Friuli’s very own native grape PICOLIT.
It was an absolute case where ‘first impressions’ not only last, they actively persist. For many of you perhaps this Friulian white grape variety will come as something new. Yet three centuries ago, especially during the latter half of the 18th and 19th centuries, PICOLIT was both noteworthy and highly desired. Indeed it was its absolute rarity in the market, coupled with the grand acclaim and demand from Europe’s royal palaces, which underpinned its status.
PICOLIT is a vigourous growing vine. Yet contrary to such vigour, when we speak of its fruit bearing capacity, its yields of translucent golden, often bronzed berries [bronzed where the grapes get more exposure to the sun], are notoriously low.
The scarcity of crop is largely due to physiological issues with the vines flower. As is the case with all domesticated vitis vinfera vines, the PICOLIT flower is hermaphroditic, meaning it contains both male and female parts, making it a self-pollinator. However the PICOLIT flower appears to display a specific problem where the stamen (the male part) is often shorter than the stigma (the female part). Commonly it can be seen bent away and downward towards the base of the flower, making self-pollination/fertilisation extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Adding to this significant drawback is the fact that the flower is known to produce sterile pollen. And that’s not all. Even if it successfully pollinates, there remains the possibility of both spontaneous ‘partial’ floral abortion and uneven fruit set. With such a physiological profile you can easily find bunches that result in no fruit at all. Considering that most average bunches of grapes might yield 150 berries, for producers who find Picolit clusters of just 15-30 small sweet grapes the joy is nevertheless rewarding because it’s these surviving grapes which make this variety a gem of exceptional rarity.
By no means has it been a smooth road for PICOLIT. Indeed like many other native varieties in Friuli Venezia Giulia, the destructive effects of ‘phylloxera’ in the late 1890’s and early 1900’s, almost put paid to its regal existence.
Identity is everything in Friuli and the PICOLIT grape is uniquely representative of the winemakers and their endeavours. Indeed such endeavour was rewarded in 2006, when PICOLIT earned its DOCG classification, the highest quality standard in Italian winemaking. Once again ranked amongst the most prestigious and prized Italian wines, it’s an absolute symphony of taste.
In appearance PICOLIT is truly golden, often with rich amber and/or red copper tones.
Intense, complex and elegant with pronounced notes of honey, dried apricots, dried figs, orange peel, raisins, chesnuts and floral blossom, particularly acacia.
A gorgeous sophisticated sweetness, it possesses a bright acidic seam cutting majestically through a luxuriant medium-to-full body. The aromas are swift to amplify and persist, rising and rotating from sweet toward a remarkably memorable ‘dry styled’ finish. With such unique powers, PICOLIT can truly be symphonic.
A fitting description given to me by a passionate friulano that sums up the variety’s all-encompassing nature. Pretty much the same feeling l get watching Neil Youngs first priceless live performance of ‘Heart of Gold’.
As they say, GOLD, whether it be yellow, red, white, antique or just plain old, is always GOLD. You’re search can momentarily rest a while here. Enjoy PICOLIT and NEIL YOUNG responsibly….in the company of friends or mediatively on your own.