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Friuli – Arguably The Best Place To Grow White Wines In Italy

Friuli – Arguably The Best Place To Grow White Wines In Italy

The views from Zorzettig Winery

If I could paint a picture of dramatic vineyards in Italy, I would base it on the landscape of the Zorzettig properties. Located in Friuli Venezia Giulia the landscape is influenced by the Adriatic Sea and equally the dramatic mountaintops of the Eastern Dolomites. The province is home to a  convergence of multiple civilizations and a complex, tangled history as intricate and striking as the diversity of the terrain.Friuli is most renowned for white wines.  Its borders are adjacent to Slovenia at its west side, Austria to the north, the Adriatic Sea to the south and Veneto to the east. It is Friuli where the most fragrant and vibrant white wines in Italy growalmost effortlessly.

The name MYÒ is a word that can be found in the oldest poem in Friulano dialect, wrote in Cividale del Friuli in the first half of the XIV century. “In the four stanzas the main character compares his beloved woman to his land, both loved beyond all other things.”

It is fitting that this historic part of winemaking in Italy thrives here.  With the magnificence of landscape and the luxury of spaciousness, the Zorzettig Winery is perched high atop the slopes of Spessa di Cividale. This is the epicenter of DOC, Friuli Colli Orientali.  Its particular microclimate is derived from the cooler currents of mountain air from the Alps and the cool pure sea breezes of the Adriatic.

Zorzettig has a luminous role with over 100 years of winegrowing, family tradition, all complemented by the stunning beauty of Friuli. With over 70 years of winemaking, the winery today has culminated in a company run by four generations of infallible women of the Zorzettig family. For the last 10 years, the determined and driven Annalisa Zorzettig has been the newest generation at the helm steering the brand into modernized winemaking with a focus on sustainability.

The property consists of 100 hectares of vineyards which include both indigenous and international varieties. It is complemented by an ancient cellar dating back from 1780.

Just a few miles away, a retreat of the Zorzettig’s known as Relais La Collina. A perfect home base for relaxing and recharging between exploring the riches of Friuli and winetasting. You can relax poolside or explore on bicycles they provide. The perfect way to get some rest and relaxation in!

I asked Analisa Zorzettig for her insights into what makes this region and the wine so special.

Annalisa Zorzettig, head of Zorzettig

Kelly Mitchell (KM): What were your earliest memories of growing up on this property?

Analisa Zorzettig (AZ): I remember our grandparents encouraging us to fill up big demijohns containing up to 54 liters. I must have been about 6 or 8 years old. It was a funny way to spend some time with my siblings and cousins. I do clearly recollect also that sometimes we tasted the wine from the big casks before bottling it and we ended up lying down under the casks. 

The Farmhouse of Zorzettig

KM: In your eyes, what makes the land of Zorzettig unique?

AZ: Soil and geographical configuration of our hilly vineyards. All our vineyards are located on the hills, namely on four distinct hills located one next to each other on a windy channelthat runs North-South between Alpi Giulie (Julian Mountains) as are called the local Alps. Alpi Giulie stops humid winds from running away, thus providing us with a sufficient amount of rain. At the same time, winds prevent molds. The natural inclination of the hills allows drainage too. Over the years, we have carried out a time-consuming hard work aimed at building terraces on the hills. It turns out that all this work helps us fighting the increasing amount of challenges climate change put on us. Soil is a key element too. It is a mixture of ponca (the local name for flysch) and sandstone. This soil composition provides the vine with a lot of mineral elements along with water – soil keeps it even if it has not been raining for a while.

The stunning Friuli Vineyards of Zorzettig

KM: What are the particulars of the terroir that determine the varietals that thrive? (ie., Macro, microclimate, soil types and any unique aspects of the land that contribute to a unique aspect in the wine).

AZ: A unique soil composition, what we called ponca, rich in minerals; a microclimate with sudden changes in humidity and wind regimes; finally, an inclination of our hills that grants a perfect exposure.

KM: This property with over 100 years of history and a cellar from the 18th century is pretty remarkable. What is the history of the property?

AZ: The history of Zorzettig winery stretches out on over 100 years, with these lands resulting from a stubborn manual work local farmers have been carried out for centuries, as it is described in the MYO ballad from 1380.

This region was first dominated by the Romans, then the Longobards, the Republic of Venice and finally the Austro-Hungarians. They all came here looking for fruit, cereals, and wine grown on the border of their empires. The turning point of Zorzettig winery was the takeover of the lands previously belonging to the local hospital that we were already cultivating. It was a special place with a little church on the top of the hill surrounded by the pines. It was December 1969 when we finally took over.

KM: MYOs is a very special line of wine. How did you come up with the name and what does this line mean to you?

AZ: For us, Zorzettig’s MYOs line represents the soul of Friuli. The name MYO comes from an old ballad of 1380, which portrays a special harvest through a love story. MYO embodies a new and at the same time old philosophy belonging to the farmers, a philosophy that the global crisis in 2007-2008 has relived: let’s produce less but in a better and sustainable way.

KM: What is your favorite part of the process of winegrowing and why? 

AZ: Vine flowering and veraison, which both represent the moment vineyards come back to life again.

KM: Share your earliest memory of growing up on a vineyard and when you knew this was going to be your life…

AZ: There has not been a real decision point. I was born and raised in the vineyard, as we say. And this has become a part of my DNA. I was used to be fed with a baby bottle in the morning while the family was in the vineyard, at lunch a plate of spaghetti in the wine cellar, and for dinner some minestrone soup while clients were around.

KM: What are your favorite varietals?  Any new ones on the horizon you might plant?

AZ: Friulano and Pignolo are the varieties I love more.  They represent an interpretation of the Friuli region which is not replicable and is full of history. Lately, we have also planted a small vineyard of Soreli, a fungus-resistant variety of Tocal Friulano which allows us to move a step forward in sustainability without having to dismiss our Friuli flagship variety. 

The wine cellar at Zorzettig

KM: The property is mesmerizing. How many generations are involved in the winery?  

AZ: At the moment there are 4 different generations involved, my mum Antonietta, me, my daughter Veronica and my granddaughter Leonie. A female team, a fantastic experience!  

KM: If there was one thing you wanted people to take away from the experience of drinking your wine, what would that be?

AZ: A positive approach to life, pleasure, conviviality, health, and energy, and a smile-on mood.  More than one thing! 🙂

KM: What are some of the biggest challenges you face winemaking or wine-growing because of your location/terroir?

AZ: The biggest challenge has always been the weather. I can say that in the last ten years, it has definitely changed, making it even more difficult to foresee it. As mentioned above, the hard work we have done in terracing the hills is paying back and helped us facing a very humid vintage such as 2014 with a lot of rain and not much sun. But of course it gets very difficult when the weather changes very fast such as in 2017: on April 6th it almost 20 degrees Celsius, on April 21st we went below zero, which means huge risks as far as frosts. 

KM: Are there opportunities to wine taste at your location?  

AZ: Of course! For us, hospitality is a way of being. We encourage both our friends and clients to come alongfor a visit and a tasting. We have also a country house where people can stop overnight. We prefer to pair our wine with local food, such as Prosciutto di San Danieleor the local salami, or thestrucchi, a local dessert when it comes to pairing our sweet wine.

KM: What significant aspects of history played a role in the winery? 

AZ: In 1945, when WWII was on verge of bursting out, in order to save our winery my grandfather buried the cases of wine and hid the big wooden casks beneath the hay. This was because Slovenians were coming around and taking all they could find. We actually preferred to give wine to the US Allies, who usually gave us chocolate and cigarettes.

KM: What type of farming practices do you practice?

AZ: We use integrated pest control, which uses good insects to fight against bad ones. 

KM: Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

AZ: From my team of collaborators, my granddaughter, friends, and clients. It is a way to keep renovating on a daily basis our passion for wine.

KM: What aspects of the winery are you involved in?  

AZ: I try to be present, involved and informed in all aspects of the winery, contributing as much as possible and conveying our own style in every moment of winemaking. 

Wine Recommendation

MYO Friulano

I had an opportunity to taste the wines and was particularly enamored with the MYO Friulano. But of course! 

Light citrus notes, a full bouquet of perfume and a zing of something different likely from the “ponca” within the soil.  Interesting, lively and elegant. The aromatics are of white flowers and citrus. On the palate a vibrant seductive mouthfeel.  Lingering and long-lasting on the finish.

Not only a great winery to buy wine from but an incredible destination to visit. Adding Zorzettig to my bucket list!