Even at dusk here in Friuli there is this slight smoky softness that seems to envelope the gently sloping hills, tall trees with their winter branches bare and reaching for the sun. The little farmhouses and narrow village streets all blanketed in the same almost billowy shroud of faint haze. Quiet beautiful really and even more so as I sit here soaking in the wealth of information that has been thrown at my head and palate over the past two days, reliving the foods, faces, wines and passion of a people that have opened their homes to us, their barrel rooms, their kitchens for no other reason than to share with us the taste of their place. The place they work, farm, raise their families…really live. Been a remarkable education for me….
I make no secret of the fact that I am a French wine lover, I drink them far and above any others and they are at the core of my wine loving life but that other part of me….that one that likes to wander, discover and splash my tongue around in something new, well I am getting quite a thrill out of these remarkably complex, somewhat mineral driven white wines. The diversity, the complexity, the richness and depth on the palate, the rather stunning age ability. They have been rocking my French wine drinking world over the past two days and I can quite literally slipping beneath my skin.
Yesterday morning we met for breakfast and I was giddy as hell to find the regions beloved prosciutto; fat glistening as it came to room temperature, along with slabs of regional cheeses like Montasio, waiting for me at the breakfast spread. One of my favorite things about visiting Alsace is the fact that they serve ham and cheese for breakfast and much like Alsace Friuli being so far north they too serve this more Germanic of breakfast options. Screw the cereal and sweet breakfast crap, bring on the savory cheeses and bits of ham! Thrilled, I was simply thrilled and munched away on my ham and cheese while sipping on the other new love of my life….Italian coffee. Fuck. How do they get it so dense, extracted and rich without getting any of that bitter thing that can and does turn me off? Dunno but I am taking in as much of this brilliant stuff as I can possibly get my hands on.
We made our way to the Consorzio in Cividale where we tasted through forty two Friulano (free-U-lano)…yeah, forty two. I’ve had so little actual experience with this particular variety, a bottle here and there and a handful at a trade tasting, so this was quite the palate crash course for me. We are doing mono variety tastings so as to get a real feel for what the region has to offer and for me there could be no better way to learn about a grape but….a better way to really learn about a wine? Well no place can do that better than in the homes face to face with the people that make it while eating the foods that have been prepared there for centuries.
We travelled from the Consorzio to the Butussi winery where father Angelo and sons Filippo and Tobia served us bowls of steaming and ultra savory barley risotto along with older vintage of their Friulano…mind bending how delicious both were. We were then served another regional dish that I am sure I would offer sexual favors for it was so good; white polenta with warm slabs of salami and vinegar dressed onions…seriously one of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth. Father and sons went on to tell us about the history of their beloved region, how at one time it was the epicenter for all things aircraft and discussed, while pouring more mind you, the evolution of the wines both in Friuli and there at the Butussi estate. My head was spinning with pleasures. Pleasure of palate through the food and wines, pleasures of learning something new in a field I so adore…I had no idea that Friulano could age so beautifully and am now rather intoxicated by this sexy bitter thing that seems to run through many of the older offerings, and the very real pleasure of watching the history and pride swell up in a family as they explained their lives and this place….what it all means to them, to us. Okay and there may have been just an ounce of pleasure watching the Butussi men talk, damn….quite the genetic jackpot.
Loving every minute of it
And that was just lunch.