Italian wine: The Wines of Friuli with Anna Muzzolini of Azienda Agricola Grillo
- WTI Magazine #91 May 14, 2017
I had the opportunity to meet owner and winemaker, Anna Muzzolini, of the Azienda Agricola Grillo winery of Friuli at a local wine shop. I was excited about the opportunity because Friuli is a region that isn’t talked about as much as some of the others nor visited as a top tourist destination adding to it's uniqueness. If you’re not familiar with the region of Friuli it’s tucked up in the far northeast corner of Italy bordering Slovania and Austria. It’s also one of the regions that make up what’s known as the Tre Venezie that include Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and the Veneto.
One of the things I love about visiting the different regions of Italy are meeting the people and getting a sense of place and traditions. Anna had so much pride in where she is from and it was evident in her presentation of the wines and how they play a part of everyday life.
Anna’s family has been making wines since the 1970's starting with her father, Sergio. They didn't present their first bottle to the public until 1992. Prior, the wine had been kept for personal consumption. In 1999 Anna transferred over from her career in biology in Ferrara to the wine life to take over and manage, as well as serve as the winemaker, at Azienda Agricola Grillo.
Azienda Agricola Grillo is situated in the town of Albana di Prepotto, which is located rather close to Cividale del Friuli in the Udine. The winery overlooks the hills of the Colli Orientali del Friuli with views of Slovania in the distance. Anna owns 9 hectares and produces 40,000 bottles annually.
The wines that you find in the Friuli consist of many single varietals including sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, cabernet franc, merlot, chardonnay, etc. but you'll also find indigenous grapes of the area include friulano, verduzzo, ribolla gialla, refosco dal peduncolo and schioppettino. I had the opportunity to sample 5 Azienda Agricola's wines. Unfortunately only 2 of them are sold in the US and of course the ones I liked are the ones not sold in the US. The other wines Anna brought along with her with the potential to be brought into the US.
Here are the 5 wines I tasted:
2015 Azienda Agricola Grillo Friulano
2014 Azienda Agricola Grillo Cabernet Franc
2013 Azienda Agricola Grillo Schioppettino di Prepotto
2013 Azienda Agricola Grillo Refosco dal Peduncolo
Due Donne Rosso (didn't catch the vintage)
It's been awhile since I've had some wines from Friuli, but if you follow my journey you know that I very much enjoy the whites of Friuli. The wines of this region differ from the south due to the differences in climate. Obviously in Friuli you're in the northern Alps so it's much more cold climate than the south where it's warmer and the wines are heavier. These wines are lighter in body so if you're one for big bold wines with lots of complexity they probably wouldn't top the list. I think the reds are great if you're looking for lighter summer time reds.
My top 2 picks for their whites and reds were the 2015 Azienda Agricola Friulano and the 2013 Azienda Agricola Refosco del Pedancolo Rosso.
I loved the aromatics of the Friulano. It's a dry wine with slight spice and almond notes. It comes from the oldest part of their vineyards which have 45 year old vines located on a hill. The quantity of production is low. Surprisingly, Anna stated that she has tasted some of these friulano wines with 8-10 years of age and they were still in great shape. This grape, friulano, was once known as tocai friulano until 2007 when there was a problem with Hungary. Hungary felt that the grape was being confused with their wine known as tokaji. Ever since Friuli has only been able to call their grape friulano, leaving out the tocai.
The Refosco del Pedancolo Rosso was the boldest of all the reds I tasted that day. As Anna described this wine, “it's good for a warm fire and hearty fare”. It's a dry, fruit forward wine with rather moderate tannins and deep color. It's aged 18 months in oak.
Anna also pulled out on the side her Due Donne Rosso wine that she produces with a friend, Susanna, whom owns a winery in Tuscany. Due Donne, meaning 2 women, explains it all. It's a blend of Anna's schioppettino and Susanna's sangiovese. My question before trying it was whether the sangiovese would dominate the schioppettino, but Susanna's sangiovese is grown 400-600 meters high altitude so it's a little lighter in style than some of your other typical sangiovese. The tannins were well integrated and the wine showed expressive cherry and pepper notes.