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Zuani: White Wines from Italy’s Prominent Felluga Family

2 Feb

By Sharon Kapnick

I often wish I’d been born into a winemaking family, perhaps a family like Italy’s Fellugas. Maybe that’ll happen in another lifetime. For now I’ll have to settle for meeting winemakers, which is always a great pleasure, and trying their wines.

In the fall I lunched with Patrizia Felluga, who learned well from her father, Marco, one of the best winemakers in Italy’s best white wine region, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. The Felluga family has been making wine since the late 1800s. Fifth-generation Patrizia currently works with her children, Antonio and Caterina, at their 30-acre vineyard.  Her brother Roberto, sister Alessandra and uncle Livio all make wine too. You could say wine is in their DNA.

Patrizia started to make her own Zuani wines just 12 years ago, when she at last found the vineyard site she’d been seeking, the site in northeastern Italy between Austria and Slovenia that offered the terroir she sought. It’s in the Collio DOC zone, which produces some of Friuli’s best white wines. The Fellugas believe that “the soul of the wine is created from the soil that gives it life, the light that shines on it and the air that gives it fragrance.” That’s why location is so very important to them.

Patrizia’s goal is to make wines characteristic of the region, which is renowned for wines produced by small wineries and estates. The crisp acidity, minerality and ripe fruit aromas and flavors of her wines are enhanced by cool breezes between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea and lots of sunshine. Significant differences in day and night temperatures result in a long ripening season. The mineral-rich but poor soil–vines do best where they have to work the hardest–contributes to the appealing character of the wines.

Keeping things simple, the family concentrates on only two white wines, Zuani Vigne and Zuani Zuani (so nice they named it twice?). In case you’re wondering, and I was, the word Zuani is a geographic name found on an ancient map of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Both wines are a blend of two indigenous Friulian grapes–Pinot Grigio, Friulano– and two international varieties–Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. All excel in the region. The Vigne wines are fermented in stainless steel to foster their fresh, fruity personality; the grapes for Zuani Zuani are picked two weeks later, when riper, and then aged in small French oak barriques. The Zuani Vigne wines are soft, with good fruit, mineral notes and good acidity; they’re more versatile than the ZZs. The Zuani Zuani wines are richer, more complex, fuller bodied and capable of aging well. They have more concentrated flavors and a full, long finish.

RECOMMENDED WINES

Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco 2011 (SRP* $24): Floral and fruity–especially citrusy– aromas and flavors. Aromatic, crisp, with good acidity. It won 5 Grappoli (the highest award) from the Italian Sommelier Association (Associazione Italiana Sommelier). And it was given a Slow Wine award for excellent terroir-driven wines by the global, grassroots Slow Food organization.

Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco 2010: Aromas and flavors of grapefruit, lemon, lime, peach, melon; undertone of minerality; excellent balance; good acidity. It earned a Tre Bicchieri rating from Gambero Rosso for their 2012 guide. It also received a Slow Wine award. Antonio considers this their red wine, and he ordered a chicken dish to accompany it.

Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco 2007: Aromas and flavors of peach, apricot and some almond. Mouth-filling fruit. Medium to full bodied, well balanced, mineral intensity, long fruity finish. Also recognized by Tre Bicchieri.

Zuani Zuani Collio Bianco Riserva 2010 (SRP $37): Aromatic, citrus–especially orange–floral, a hint of vanilla and toastiness from the oak. Round and full.

*Wines can usually be found for less–sometimes considerably less–than the SRP (suggested retail price). Check out wine-searcher.com to get an idea of actual prices.

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