Let’s begin with a quick sketch of Collio, the commune in Northeast Italy of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region, an oasis of lavish green valleys and bountiful agriculture. This haven is simply an accent to the statuesque Julian pre-Alps mountains, creating layers of beautiful composition. The peaks of the Alps are delicately snow-capped and the crevices in between are interspersed with charming lakes, wooded areas, and vineyards. Nearby are the Austrian and Slovenian borders, and Adriatic Sea, creating an intriguing collab of Alpine and Mediterranean climates. This is where we find Venica & Venica, our protagonist.
Daniele Venica purchased the plot Ronco del Ceró where he first planted Sauvignon in 1930. Three generations later, great grandson Giampaolo has taken over the estate, a true testimony to the tradition of keeping winemaking in the family. Venica now has 40 hectares all within the DOC—Denomination of Controlled Origin—of Collio. Varieties grown here are an eclectic bunch; Chardonnay, Traminer, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia, Friulano, and the more internationally known—Pinot Grigio. A small number of reds are planted—Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and the lesser known Refosco. Venica is known for their textural and highly aromatic whites that see little or no wood. Sons Gianni (agronomist), Giorgio (cellar master), and grandson Giampaolo oversees operations supplemented by help from several family members. They believe their traditions must be enhanced through continuous research and innovation, but a relationship with nature is of utmost importance.
The estate operates a bed and breakfast— they call it the Wine Resort. The Venica family will charm you by pouring their wines, as is only natural, with local cheeses, cured meats, and seasonal bountiful produce. They say “the perfume of the wines will lead you to the pleasure of drinking.” You are welcome to enjoy the vineyards and nearby woods, all situated on the rolling collio—or hillsides, which is how the region came by its name.
Friuli is a hodgepodge of extreme influence. While touting the Italian flag, the region has been divided amongst empires for nearly 2000 years—the French, Huns, Lombards, Romans, Austrians, etc—each leaving its own mark. Internationally, Friuli is considered the best white wine region in Italy, though it produces many red and orange wines just as remarkable. The varieties are products of the ponka soil—marl and sandstone with marine fossils—originating at the bottom of the Adriatic Sea. Ponka was brought to the surface by the same tectonic movement that created the Alps, the downside being its susceptibility to landslides. The winemakers prize this difficult soil type—it produces a wine unique to the region, powerfully textured, concentrated and pure, albeit higher in alcohol, yet balanced by racy acidity.
Like most any European culture, wine goes hand in hand with its regional cuisine. The white wines of Friuli have the ability to complement rich foods like cured meats and smoked fish making these wines absurdly unique. Other dishes here include the sought after Prosciutto San Daniele, the frico—a fried and shredded cheese, often accompanying stews, muset e brovada—a peasant dish with rustic sausage and fermented turnips, and cherry gnocchi—a seasonal sweet or savory version of the dumplings filled with pitted cherries, served with brown butter sauce. Never far away is a glass of still white wine, more often than not made by the iconic Venica & Venica.
by Brittany Marsh - the Cru - HART & CRU
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