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Pinot Grigio and Refosco Show Their True Colors in Friuli

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Colli Orientali del Friuli is a wine region that is situated right in the northeastern corner of Friuli Venezia Giulia, where Cividale is the main town. It is an area that includes the overarching DOC Friuli Colli Orientali denomination as well as DOCG Ramandolo, DOCG Rosazzo, and DOCG Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit. In this corner of Italy, we find Butussi winery in Corno di Rosazzo. The theme in the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group is Explore Friuli and Trentino Alto Adige this month, therefore, I decided to focus on Butussi winery.

September with the #ItalianFWT

On Saturday, 2 September the Italian Food, Wine, and Travel group are focusing on the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige. I will look closer at Butussi Winery in Corno di Rosazzo.

Butussi, A Historical Winery in the Colli Orientali Area

Some time ago, a group of wine professionals was invited to learn more about Butussi’s wines at Il Santo Bevitore in Florence, a well-known restaurant between the picturesque Santo Spirito and San Frediano neighborhoods. In this Florentine environment, Filippo Butussi told us about his winery and the Colli Orientali area in Friuli.

The winery was founded in 1910 by Filippo’s great-grandfather – Valentino Butussi – who decided to leverage the great potential of the local terroir. Today, it is the four siblings Filippo, Tobia, Mattia, and Erika who together run the estate that is mainly focused on organically grown native grapes that give an expression of the unique local Friuli terroir.

“We are in the lower part of the hills, in the valley, that is a sort of a funnel, between Colle di Rosazzo and Monte San Biagio,” says Filippo Butussi. This is an area where the soil consists of alternating layers of marl and sandstone as well as alluvial limestone at the bottom of the valley; all sediments originating from the Eocene period.

In this area, which dates to ancient times and where the Celtic people followed by the Romans later on developed the vine growing and winemaking techniques, Butussi winery comprises 30 hectares of vineyard plots. In the subareas of Godia, Madonna d’Aiuto, Dolegnano, Lucchitta, Gramogliano, and Braida, they are growing grapes such as Friulano, Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Ribolla Gialla, Picolit, Cabernet Sauvignon, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and Pignolo, and more.

Pinot Grigio and Refosco, Two Native Grapes to Friuli

Refosco dal peduncolo rosso

Refosco is one of those red grapes that has started to fascinate me more and more. It is a grape variety giving often austere wines that it takes a bit of effort to decode and understand. Filippo Butussi says that Refosco dal peduncolo rosso is “one of the most beautiful grape varieties that we have in Friuli, or even in all of Italy.” He continues to underline that if Refosco dal peduncolo rosso is cultivated in the right manner, in the right soil, and vinified in the correct way, it can be a wine that gives great satisfaction.

Refosco is a grape variety that is native to Friuli Venezia Giulia but it is also grown in Veneto. According to Ian D’Agatha, later DNA research has shown that Teroldego is the great-grandfather of Refosco and Marzemino one of the parents. In the past, Teroldego was spontaneously crossed with an unknown grape giving rise to Marzemino which in turn crossed with another unknown grape resulting in Refosco dal peduncolo rosso.

It is a grape that needs to mature and ripen well to not produce wines with green or vegetal aromas and flavors. Refosco dal peduncolo rosso gives very complex wines that can be ferrous and sanguine in character, typically with fruity, herbal, and floral (such as lavender, and violet) notes. See more in the previous article An Oasis in Friuli Focused on Local Identity and Innovation.

The Godje Refosco dal peduncolo rosso 2016 is one of my favorites with its grip and beautiful substance and complexity. It undergoes wild fermentation, the must then mature in 300-liter oak barrels for 24 months, after which it ages for 6 months in cement tanks to smoothen out.

The freshness and its lovely notes of red and dark fruit such as blackberry and cherry, forest floor, tobacco, and a ferrous and slight sanguine touch together with a full-bodied, earthy, and powerful taste contribute to the complexity. The tannins are very well-integrated, and all in all, it is a fascinating wine.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot grigio, ie. Pinot Gris is a grape that is most commonly grown in Northern Italy. It has its genetic origin in Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Grigio is a wine that in the past has mainly been mass-produced internationally as a light and crisp white wine giving it a very commercial reputation. In the last few decades, there has been a return to valorize the unique traits of Pinot Grigio and to produce it also in a more artisanal manner that is true to its local territory.

When the Pinot Grigio ripens it gets a copperish (can vary from blue-grey to pink-brown) colored hue and when it is produced with a slight maceration the wine also gets this color. Many producers are today producing Pinot Grigio Ramato again. It is said that Pinot Grigio was referred to as “ramato” during the era of Repubblica di Venezia, which has been found in old commercial documents.

The Pinot Grigio Ramato 2020 is a wine where 25% of the grapes are vinified as white wine, 40% does cold maceration for 36 hours, and the remaining 35% of the grapes macerate normally on the skins until the wild fermentation sets off. Then, 50% of the juice matures in stainless steel tanks, and the other 50% in oak barrels for 6-8 months.

This mineral Pinot Grigio Ramato with its coppery hue has notes of smaller red wild berries, flowers, and a fresh, smooth, and structured taste with a touch of tannins. A Pinot Grigio Ramato that makes you want to treasure the entire bottle.

Did you know that Butussi Winery uses locally-made barrels from 100% Friulano oak for their wines? Well, they do. The Friuli oak barrels are not heavily toasted therefore the wood does not influence or overpower the characteristics of the grape variety.

See the articles from the other wine writers:

Jennifer Gentile Martin shares An Exploration of Collio: Part 1 / Vino Travels Italy / 

Robin Bell Renkin explores Trentino-Alto Adige – Trento, Bolzano and Wines of the Dolomites / Crushed Grape Chronicles 

Katarina Andersson explains how Pinot Grigio and Refosco Show Their True Colors in Friuli / Grapevine Adventures 

Mike Madaio is “Finding Friulano: an International Journey / Life At Table

Camilla Mann is discovering A Small Sample from the Alto Adige: Whitefish Saltimbocca, Strangolapreti, and a Couple of Schiava / Culinary Cam

Wendy Klik is cooking up Italian Marinated Steaks with Angoris Schioppettino/ A Day in the Life on the Farm

Andrea Lemieux is savoring Elena Walch Schiava with the Flavors of Thailand / The Quirky Cork

Katarina Andersson

Seen often at wine events streaming live, Katarina is a wine writer, wine educator, social media strategist, and translator. She is the founder of WinesOfItaly LiveStream. She has been a guest at The Cellar, hosted by Richard Glover, at Wine Two Five, a podcast hosted by Stephanie Davis and Valerie Caruso, and at the Twitter chat #WiningHourChat founded by Li Valentine.

4 thoughts on “Pinot Grigio and Refosco Show Their True Colors in Friuli”

  1. I’ve had a few Refosco wines before and loved them. I wonder if Butussi Winery is in the US? I’ll have to see if I can’t find a bottle or two later this month when I’m there.

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