Located in Friuli, Scarbolo is outside of Gorizia in the area called Spessa, which has a long tradition of winegrape cultivation, where vineyards cover the hillsides and dominate the landscape. In 1928, Antonio Scarboro moved to the area and worked as a tenant farmer. In the 1970s, his son Attilio bought a wine estate, which successive generations have continued to improve. Today, Valter Scarbolo runs the company and manages 25 hectares of vineyards. The vines face the southwest, and blown by sweet winds, make excellent wines, typical of the Colli Orientali (the eastern hills) appellation, such as the whites Tocai, Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Verduzzo, and Picolit, and the reds Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Refosco, and Franconia.
Simcic vineyards are located in Friuli in the Collio zone and across the Slovenia border in the Goriska Brda region, an hour and a half by car from Venezia. Two thousand years ago, the Romans were cultivating vines there on both sides of what is now the border between the two countries. The Simcic family has farmed grapes and made wine since 1860, and Marjan Simcic is the sixth generation to run the family business. The family cultivates 18 hectares of vineyards, some older than 55 years, on the rolling hills of Brda, just 20-odd kilometers from the Adriatic Sea on one side and the Julian Alps and the Trnovska Plateau on the other, which protect the vineyards from the influence of the colder mountain climate. The vineyards include mainly the whites Sauvignon, Ribola, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio, but also the reds Pinot Noir and Merlot. Marjan Simcic is in charge of wine production and sales. Valerija Simcic does marketing, and Salko Simic oversees the vineyards.
Mariano Buglioni and his father Alfredo have been producing wine in the heart of the Valpolicella Classico area at the foot of the hills in Corrubbio di San Pietro in Cariano since 1993. Visitors can enjoy the Locanda del Bugardo, the family bed and breakfast, as well as their renowned restaurant, which features Mariano’s wines along with the bounty of local food and regional dishes. Buglioni is one of the smaller producers in San Pietro in Cariano, possessing only three hectares of vineyards. The family has since expanded with new vineyards in Sant’Ambrogio and Lake Garda and focus on the local varieties of Corvina, Corvinone, Rondinella, and Molinara.
Italian Wines of the Month
Scarbolo – 2009 Merlot
The Merlot grapes for this wine were harvested from the Scarbolo vineyard in the town of Tissano, two kilometers from the winery in Lauzacco. Ruby red with violet hues, the wine exhibits fragrant aromas of wild fruit and herbs. Aged for 10 months in French oak barrels, the palate is medium bodied with soft, sweet tannins that balance its structure. The wine is versatile and can be served with spinach-ricotta ravioli or roasted meats.
Marjan Simcic – 2009 Sauvignonasse
Sauvignonasse, or Tokai Friulano as it is known on the Italian side of the border with Slovenia, is well known for its full-bodied and rich aromas and flavors. The Simcic Sauvignonasse is a complex wine with peachy, herbal flavors and an almond finish. Aged only in stainless steel tanks, the wine will develop in the bottle for up to ten years. Serve chilled.
Buglioni – 2008 Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, Il Bugiardo
Il Bugiardo or in English “The Liar” honors the promise of the Classico Superiore. This classic blend of 65% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara has been passed over (ripasso) the solids of Amarone in order to cull extra complexity and power. This process extracts color and body and enhances the aroma, taste, and longevity of the wine. The singular characteristic of this delicious wine is its combination of fruit and spice. Serve at cool room temperature with roasted red meats, wild game, and winter stews.
Scarbolo – 2007 Campo del Viotto Merlot
This delicious wine is 100% Merlot, harvested from Scarbolo’s Campo del Viotto vineyard in Lauzacco. Made only in select years with the finest fruit from the harvest, the wine is made with the appasito method, which is to say that, for this particular wine, 40% of the fruit was dried for approximately one month. Drying the fruit concentrates flavors and sugars to make a richer wine. When you pour the wine, you’ll immediately notice dramatic aromas of wild summer berries and observe darkly intense color in the glass. Aged in French oak barrels for 24 months, flavors will match the depth of color and aroma. Serve with roasted and stewed meats and other highly flavored dishes, including aged cheeses.
Buglioni – 2005 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
This classic blend of 65% Corvina, 20% Corvinone, 10% Rondinella, and 5% Molinara may be 16% alcohol, but in addition to its amazingly rich fruity and spicy flavors, it is structured with bright acid and smooth tannin texture so that the alcohol is seamlessly balanced in the totality of the wine. Aromas jump from the glass into warm plum-cherry fruit on the palate, followed by leather and spice. The wine was aged for 2.5 years in French oak barrels and for 12 months in bottle before release from the winery. Sip even after the main course with an aged grana padana and dried fruit course. Decant and serve at cool room temperature.
Marjan Simcic – 2008 Pinot Noir
This wine is made from hand-harvested grapes that have been carefully selected for this wine, which has the beautifully translucent color that is typical of Pinot Noir. The bouquet conveys cherry liquor and orange peel while the taste shows ripe cherries with a fresh and lovely tartness and a peppermint finish. Flavors are complex and pronounced but at the same time delicate. So serve with rabbit, quail, squab, or other more delicately flavored meats and with wild mushroom risotto. Serve at cool room temperature.
Italian Regions of the Month
Friuli and Giulia both refer to Julius Caesar, who conquered the area after a long struggle with the native inhabitants. Friuli, a contraction of the Latin for Forum Julii, includes the large provinces of Udine and Pordenone between the Adriatic and Austria, while the smaller Venezia Giulia in the southeast was part of the Venetian empire. Before joining Italy in 1866, the region belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire. Today, the region borders Austria, Slovenia, and Croatia and has a sizable Slovenian minority.
The Carnic and Julian Alps cover 43% of the region and open onto the Adriatic basin. Friuli’s most exceptional DOC zones are in the higher areas of Collio and Collio Orientale on terraced slopes called ronchi and in the hills above the seaport and regional capital of Trieste. The other four DOC zones cover the low hills or plains.
Friuli has built a reputation for white wines like Tocai Friulano, Malvasia, Ribolla, and Verduzzo, which are native to the area, but it has a long tradition with Chardonnay, Sauvignon, the Pinots, Traminer, and Riesling. The Friulians have also rediscovered certain neglected varieties, such as Picolit, one of Europe’s finest sweet whites around 1800. Verduzzo also makes an exquisite light dessert wine. And Ribolla Gialla has benefited from new wine making methods and is now produced as a dry white.
But the Friulians are also making attractive reds as well. Refosco can be either light and fruity or a more substantial wine, which can age. Franconia and Tazzeieghe make distinctive reds, but the Schioppettino grape may have the greatest quality potential.
Venezia, a city built into the sea, is like no other, haunted by the princes and poets of its noble past and by centuries of tourists. The cities of Padova, Vicenza, and Verona, originally frontier posts on the Roman trade route between Venezia and Genova, grew into Renaissance splendor and are marvels in their own right. In the 16th Century, the region’s great architect Andrea Palladio worked throughout the area and his buildings are everywhere, in the cities and in the countryside. Nature exhibits its own marvels in the region, the spectacular Dolomite Mountains in the north, the rolling Euganean hills in the south, vast Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, on the eastern border, and to the west, the Adriatic with its beaches and ports.
Today, Veneto is a thriving agricultural center, a lush land of vines, ranking third after Apulia and Sicily in wine volume but the first with classified DOC wines. There are three general areas of premium production: the western province of Verona in the hills between Lake Garda and the town of Soave, the central hills in the provinces of Vincenza, Padova, and Treviso, and the eastern plains of the Piave and Tagliamento river basins along the Adriatic coast northeast of Venezia.
Verona is the leader in classified DOC wines and the site of Vinitaly, the largest wine trade fair in the world. A major part of the DOC wines in the region are Soave, Bardolino, and Valpolicella, a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara. When young, Valpolicella is a full, fruity red, but when the grapes are partly dried, they are made into Amarone, one of Italy’s most noble wines. Bardolino is made from the same grapes as Valpolicella but is a lighter version. Similar to Soave, Bianco di Custoza is another DOC white as is Lessini Durello, a steely dry wine, usually sparkling.
The central hills produce whites similar to Soave as well as Tocai, the Pinots, Merlot, and Cabernet. Prosecco, a dry to lightly sweet white, is produced in the area as is the renowned Venegazzu, both usually sparkling.
The eastern plains have been dominated by Merlot and Cabernet Franc for decades, but the local red Raboso and white Verduzzo still have admirers. Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, and Chardonnay are also gaining ground.