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Two Italian Estates 03/10/2003 TNB

Raeburn Fine Wines held a tasting of wines from two of their Italian growers recently. First was Ronco delle Betulle who are based in the highly regarded Colli Orientale area in Friuli. What one hopes for from Friuli whites is elegance and purity and the wines on show certainly delivered. We tasted excellent Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon blanc from the 2002 vintage - both with very precise varietal character - and a slightly more mysterious wine from the same vintage: the Tocai Friulano, from the traditional grape variety whose name will soon have to be changed to avoid confusion with Hungarian Tokaji. I thought these were all strong ** wines although I can see its being argued that they are fairly simple for their ten-pound plus price tag. But this sort of under-stated elegance appeals to me a lot these days and it never comes cheap.

Burton Anderson in his useful Wines Of Italy remarks that some Friuli producers are using more modern techniques including new oak to give the "depth and complexity that some critics regard as essential". I agree with his implied message here but it was interesting to taste the Ribolla Gialla 2001 from this estate because the producers feel that this traditional variety does need a little help and so have treated it to a deft touch of barrique. It makes an excellent wine too, although not to my mind particularly better than the other three. The estate's Franconia Rosso 1996 was also a pleasant drink, somewhere between Loire and Burgundy I thought, and very fine and fresh for its age.

And so to Fattoria Casaloste in Chianti, an estate that several authorities believe is on the up. They make a juicy Chianti Classico, a substantial Riserva and a special bottling called Don Vincenzo in a fairly modern style that is particularly apparent in the new oak on the last of these wines - I feel they would like to be making wines like Fonterutoli, to name one of the top exponents of this game. Casaloste's top wines from 1999 were very good as you would expect from this excellent vintage and the basic Chianti from 2001 is also going to be very drinkable once it has been in bottle for another year or so. Their top wine is the Don Vincenzo which was pretty serious and interesting in 1999 - surely at least *** in time - the 1995 however was a bit dried out, but this was a very early effort of the estate. I can see the Don V doing well - people are paying quite a lot for the more ambitious Chiantis these days - but I could worry a bit that this estate pays too much attention to oenolgists: the owners seem very pleased with their introduction of micro-oxygenation, etc, and I wonder if they are not in danger of being overly influenced by the international fashion for accessible wines. A good estate, but beyond that I will reserve judgement until I have tasted a few more vintages.

added to Fine Wine Diary 03/10/2003   Return to top