Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d’Italia 2017. Stage 19: San Candido/Innichen — Piancavallo

In my opinion, it was a well deserved vicotry to Tejay van Garderen yesterday. It was his first grand tour victory. Now I am hoping that Mikel Landa will win either today or tomorrow. After having been beaten almost on the finish line twice, it would be nice if he could win.

When Nairo Quitana could not win time on Tom Dumoulin yesterday, when will he be able to do it? Quitana has the stronges team, but still they were not able to take time on an isolated Dumoulin. Tom Dumoulin does not have the strongest team. Then it is important to be smart, and Tom Dumoulin has been riding smart.

Today’s stage is 191 km. It starts high, goes up, then more down, up again, even more down, before a final 15 km climb, with 9-14% gradient. It is almost flat, with some ups and downs, for 50 km before the final climb. And there are many long descents. I do not think this is a stage where Quitana will win much time.

We start in Veneto, but far from the vineyards that have made Veneto famous. The riders have not been cycling very long, before they enter Friuli — Venezia Giulia. The name of the province may be a bit confusing to some of us, but maybe not as much for the English speaking people. Venezia is in many languages, including Italian and Norwegian, the city called Venice in English. But Venice is in Veneto, not in Friuli — Venezia Giulia. The name of the province is from the time of the Republic Venezia. The part in Friuli got the name Venezia-Giulia after Julius Caesar. The part in Trentino was called Venice-Tridentina. Friuli, as we will call the province for the sake om simplicity, is an interesting wine region. They produce a lot of red wine, but is first and foremost a white wine region.

According to the book Vino Ita­li­ano is Fri­uli the region that was the development of quality wine in Italy. Friuli is close to Austria. It was a recreational area for the Austrian royalty and aristochracy, and delivered wine to these demanding customers. For this reason, Friuli did become a supplier of quality wine quite early. The region is influenced by France, and they grow a lot of “French” grapes.

As some may have noticed, I wind topography and geology interesting. Through the history, borders have been drawn rather arbitrary, and have changed many times. Mountains and valleys are more stable, and are often natural borders. And they are important for the local climate. Together they have a large influence on wine production. I include this topographical map of Italy and surrounding areas.

We see how the Po plain is protected by mountains on many sides. We will be in te Po area in the final into Milan. But I think we are done with Po for this year. We are going further east.

Italy is in the collision zone between the African and the Euro-Asian continental plates. It is difficult not to associate the geology and the current refugee situation. Africa is pushing Italy towards the rest of Europe. Where the African and the Euro-Asian continental plates collide, the Alps rises. In geologiacal terms, the Alps are relatively young mountains. They are still growing, but errosio tears it down som that it is not getting any higher.

100 mill years ago, the lower parts of Friuli was under the sea. The land has risen in the collision zone between the continenal plates, and has been filled up by deposits after the ice age, and deposits from the rivers. The Alps protect the area against cold winds from the north. If we take another look at the topographical map, we see an opening between the Alps and the Carpathian Mountains to the north-east. One of the cold wind systems form north, passes through this. Another wind system passes to the west of the Alps, and goes down the Rhône valley, and gives the well known Mistral wind.

The south-eastern part of the Alps, the Julian Alps, protect Friuli aginst this cold wind. It hits the Balkans further south.

We come to Friuli in the mountains in north-west. We are not comming into a wine area before we are near the end of the stage. And then, we are entering one of the least interesting wine districts in Friuli: Friuli Grave. This is the dark blue area in the map below. Friuli Grave means something like Friuli Gravel, the same word as has given the name to the Graves district in Bordeaux. About half of Friulis wines are produce in Friuli Grave. It should come as no surprise that there are large producers, and that the production to a large extent is industrialised. But also in this area, some producers are working to improve the quality.

Now, they can also produce prosecco in large areas in Friuli. But we will come back to prosecco tomorrow, and will leave the bubbles in the bottles until then. But Friuli is an interesting wine region, and I will include som other wine districts int the region. The more intersing districts are in the east, in the foothills of the Julian Alps, close to the Slovenian border.

We start in the north-eastern part of the wine disticts, in Colli Orientali del Friuli (orange on the map). The name means Friuli’s eastern hills. In this district, they produce more red than white wine. There are ten white and ten red classified single varietal wines, in addition to a white and a red blended from several grapes, and a sweet wine made from various grapes. Te dominateing red grape is merlot. The most important white grape is friulano. It used to be called tocai friulano. But EU decided that only Hungary can use the name tocai. In addition to friolano, the produce a lot of pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

The local varietals are growing in popularity, the whites ribolla gialla, verduzzo friuliano and picolit, as well as the reds refosco and schioppettino. I like the trend of developing wines from local varietals. It is more interesting when they get local character, and not only use “international” grapes, which are produced in many parts of the world. But I accept tha this is an outsider’s, and somewhat toursitique perspecitve. I understand that the locals will have their locally produces Chardonnay, Merlot etc.

Up in the north-western end is Ramandolo. Here they have produced sweet wines from Verduzzo Friulano since tha antiquity. There are two types: Amabile which is semi dry, and the sweet passito. I am no fan of semi dry wines, but they may go well with spicy and Asian food. Passito is a dessert wine. The grapes are harvested late, and dried.

Picolit is a grape that is difficult to grow, and give small yield.
It has been made sweet wine from this varietal for hundreds of years. As was the case in so many areas, the production declined in the 1970, when the emphasis was more on quantity and volume, than on quality. Det har vært laget søt vin av denne druen i flere hundre år. But the renewed inerest in local character and sweet dessert wines, have lead good producers to make these wines again.

We then come to Collio Goriziano (light green on the map, that only says Collio). The climate is influenced by cold winds from the mountains, and milder air from the Adriatic sea. The best wines are produced from grapes growing 100-250 meters above sea level. Among the classified wines are 12 white and five red single varital wines, and a bianco and a rosso. The most common white grapes are pniot grigio, sauvignon blanc and friulano. Friulano is the regions local, and best grape. Many of the best wines are blended wines, sold as Collio Bianco DOC.

Of reds, they grow cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc.

Further south, the landscape gets flatter, and we come to Friuli Isonzo DOC (dark green on the map). Most of the wine produced here, is consumed locally.

The area down to Trieste is a rather small strip of land between Slovenia and the Adriatic sea. I have several times mentioned that Italy is a young country. Trieste is some kind of a cross road between Latin, Slavic and Germanic culture. It should come as no surprise that there have been several conflicts in this area. After the Second World War, Trieste was established as an independent city state. It was divided into two zones. One, zone A, was goverened by the allied forces. The other zone, zone B, was governed by what was then Yugoslavia. In 1954, zone A became part of Italy. It was not before 1975 that the parties signed a treaty that drew the border and regulated the minorities conditions in the area. This border from 1975 is now the border between Italy and Slovenia.

The wine district is called Carso. There are three local grapes, two whites, malvasia istraina and vitovska, and the red terrano. Wines from further north are in general more interesting.

Italian Wines 2016

Italian Wines is published yearly by Gambero Rosso. This is a detailed guide to Italian Wines. 22 000 wines from 2 400 producers are listed in the book. If you want to fine the best wines from the various regions of Italy, this is your guide. This is a type of book I usually use when I am visiting producers, to find the producers to visit.

The book is available in a paper edition and a Kindle edition. One year, I bought the Kindle edition. But for this kind of book, I prefer the paper version. It is available from Amazon UK on paper and for Kindle. And from Amazon US in paperback and as Kindle edition.

Wines (and some other drinks) of Giro d'Italia 2017

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