In the realm of the ‘Cenatori-a-vita’, the supreme ruler is TIME.

In what seems like the blink of an eye, 12 months have passed since our last rendezvous at Vigne dal Leon. Climbing the hills just above Ipplis village, our little 500 enjoys the curves and bends that lead us to arguably the most eclectic #BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle) in Friuli-Venezia Giulia… RED+10 as I like to call it.

A band of brothers like few others…

The ‘Cenatori-a-vita’ are pillars of experience and local wisdom. Enogastronauts one and all, they proudly hold FVG’s ageing REDS close to their hearts. Orchestrated by the irrepressible ‘Champions of Slow’, Giulio Colomba and Ugo Ongaretto and hosted by the effervescent charm of MC Pier Luigi Zamo’, the gathering was another unique ‘Back to The Future’ opportunity for the 20+ Cenatori.

Amongst the table toppers were agronomist and historian Claudio Fabbro, Friuli’s ever-youthful fountain of all things oenologically historical. There too were stellar cellarmen Franco Toros, Dario Raccaro, Valneo Livon, Loretto Pali and Alberto Toso. The ever smiling Josko Sirk of La Subida dropped by with his fantastic Formaggio di Fossa and Aceto.
As did Alessandro Faganel with his deliciously intriguing ‘Gelato Millesimato’ dessert. More about that in a future post.

As for my Passport on this occasion?
Well, I opted for a MAG of Rodaro ROMAIN MERLOT 2008.

The rules for #RED+10 are straightforward. All mono-varietals and blends are accepted, whether they be produced from native or international varieties. Naturally the colour stipulation is RED, the wine must also be from the FVG region and most importantly it has to have at least 10 years on its shoulders. The current year being 2019, we are therefore talking about Vintage 2009 and older.

Convivial and relaxed as the atmosphere is, the focus is nevertheless intense. With 15 ROSSI on the deck, there was a good days work ahead… #TGIF (thank G it was a Friday)

Standing ovation for Pier Luigi Zamo’ and the culinary team at Vigne dal Leon for such a splendid spread. Notable on arrival was the welcoming selection of home-cured meats and the “Fuori Classe” Rocche dei Manzoni Metodo Classico Valentino Brut Zero Riserva 2004. A sensational traditional method sparkling Chardonnay from Monforte d’Alba in Piemonte, aged 120 months on its lees (i.e. 10 years before degorgement). 15 years on and what sublime finesse.

Hat’s off too for the magnifico Risotto alla Beccaccia, which provided ottimo company for what was afterall, the main business of the day… il Vino Rosso !

On the #RED+10 Tasting Table were:

  • Dario Raccaro MERLOT DOC Collio 2009 – MAGNUM
  • Ronco Severo Artiul ‘Chiara’ MERLOT DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli 2009 – MAGNUM
  • Aldo Polencic Unico MERLOT DOC Collio 2009 – MAGNUM
  • Le Vigne di Zamo’ RONCO DEI ROSETI DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli 2009 (Bordeaux blend) – MAGNUM
  • Jermann Pignacolusse PIGNOLO IGT 2009 – Standard Bottle Screw Cap x 2
  • Le Vigne di Zamo’ PIGNOLO DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli 2009 – MAGNUM
  • Rodaro ROMAIN MERLOT DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli 2008 – MAGNUM
  • Rodaro ROMAIN REFOSCO DAL PEDUNCOLO ROSSO DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli 2007 – Standard Bottle x 2
  • Castello di Spessa Conte di Spessa MERLOT DOC Collio 2003 – MAGNUM
  • Toros MERLOT DOC Collio 2002 – MAGNUM
  • Castello di Spessa Torriani MERLOT DOC Collio 2000 – MAGNUM
  • Moschioni SCHIOPPETTINO DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli 2000 – MAGNUM
  • Dorigo MONTSCLAPADE Vino Rosso da Tavola 1996 (Bordeaux blend) – Standard Bottle x 2
  • Roncus Val di Galus MERLOT Vino da Tavola Rosso Friuli-Venezia Giulia 1994 – MAGNUM
  • Abbazia di Rosazzo PIGNOLO Vino da Tavola Rosso Friuli-Venezia Giulia 1988 – Standard Bottle
  • Le Vigne di Zamo’ PICOLIT DOCG Colli Orientali del Friuli 2007 – 500ml Bottle x 2 [Though not part of the tasting, it brought the afternoon review to an aptly majestic close].

Stepping back 10 years, 2009 was a pretty good ‘red’ vintage for Friuli.

Infact it capped off a pretty decent decade for Friuli’s reds, which included 2007, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2001 & 2000 as vintages with positive notes. A little insight is a helpful aid, so let’s recall some of what happened in ’09. Weather patterns were close to the 10 year median. During the early vegetative stages, from budding / flowering through to bunch set, if anything, growth was slightly ahead. May was a good, relatively dry month, where flowering saw the benefit. June by contrast was the rainiest of the entire vintage. Fortunately though no significant events were reported. In particular neither Powdery nor Downey Mildew presented themselves to any worrying extent. So with all early growth stages occurring under favourable conditions, the vintage was subsequently well set.

When the alarm bell did rang, it was mid summer (late July-mid August ’09), when temperatures steadily rose. This accelerated grape maturation activity. Fortunately the major heat subsided in time to avoid any stunting to growth and ripening. Rolling into September saw rain in the first half of the month, while the 2nd half was marked by the return to a warmer spell. Again, clearly suiting the red varieties, by the months end, a healthy red harvest was delivered. The ’09 vintage registered 2.6 on the Consorzio Colli Orientali’s ‘Torrid Index’, which gives us some feel for it. Between 2.0 and 3.0 on the index is considered the benchmark for a good vintage. Anthocyanin levels were also noted as good.

And so today, 10 years on, 2009 is in pretty good shape. Of course one must always allow for variances in Friuli’s treasured turf & terrain. Whether by choice, terroir or a combination of both, naturally some producers fare marginally better than others. Yet across the board, the results testify that the V09 promise has come good. Most encouraging is how well the wines are still maturing with both assured balance and enduring vigor, which will surely continue to dispense evolutionary joy for at least another 10.

While I’m a fanatic when it comes Friuli’s untold wealth of native red grapes, the tasting was noteworthy for the predominance of MERLOT.

I mean, even I myself brought one. Historical events, married to commercial motives, have a lot to do with Merlot’s prevalence in Friuli. And with each passing year, I’m happy to admit, I love how Friuli’s Merlot continues to soften my ‘native’ cough. In this part of the world it makes a very fine wine, genuinely deserving of recognition. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, FRIULI-VENEZIA GIULIA is a MERLOT Centre of Excellence.

In terms of the tasting etiquette, while the Cenatori taste and discuss, no points are conferred on the wines. That said, if any of you were to ask me what I thought about the MERLOT, well, from youngest to oldest, I’d give an extra nod to Ronco Severo ’09, Aldo Polencic ’09, Castello di Spessa ’03, Toros ’02, Castello di Spessa Torriani ’00 and Dorigo’s outstanding Montsclapade ’96 blend, which after all does contain a splash of Merlot.

What grabbed most about this tasting selection is simply this – the consistently high quality of all wines. FVG has been producing age-worthy reds for some time now. Indeed, just thinking about my old pal PIGNOLO, Abbazia di Rosazzo 1988… +30 years and still rockin’.

Red wine and Friuli-Venezia Giulia is an age-old fantasy being reborn. There’s so much to be learned, understood and shared with the world. More so now than ever before, especially with the evident impact of climate change.

Assuming time is on our side,…

I can’t help wondering how the coming decade will appear gazing back from 2029?
Sure, by then, RED+10 will be tasting Vintage 2019… which brings us neatly back to the future.

Aaah yes, in the realm of the Cenatori-a-vita, the supreme ruler is Time.


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