Borgo San Daniele – integrity in the glass

IMG_2544Brother and sister Mauro and Alessandra Mauri have put their hearts, souls and considerable energy into Borgo San Daniele which is in what is now a pleasant rural suburb of Cormòns itself, the town at the centre of the wine trade in Collio.  Sometimes people just strike you as very genuine and that is certainly the case here.  Both in our meeting with them and in the ways others talked about them, we got the consistent picture of a small, personally run estate producing wines of very good to excellent quality, a beacon for the Collio DOC.  They have a very beautiful restored house with one of the most pleasant tasting rooms I have had the good fortune to be in.  On the day that we visited in early April 2012, the weather had turned cold again, after May-like sunshine, and there was a warming fire burning in the grate to complete the welcome.  They have some rooms in which they offer bed and breakfast – which would certainly be my first port of call on returning to Cormòns. 

In reality, the estate is no longer that small at 18.5 hectares, having been built up since the the Mauri inherited the farmhouse and a few hectares.  But it is still small enough to be run with a completely personal touch and with every decision being made by Mauro and Alessandra.  A key one was to keep the number of wines produced to a relatively small number (only four are advertised on the website) but to aim for the highest quality.   Genuinely made wines which reflect a particular place plus a personal touch is recipe for success – with no doubt a lot of hard work behind the scenes.  There is a real integrity about Borgo San Daniele. 

Friulano

Mauro’s philosophy is low intervention and he has farmed organically for many years.  He is now working with the lunar calendar and has been using infusions in the vineyards for the last three years, all with a view to strengthening the vines so that they can protect themselves. But he honestly admits that they have had three quite easy years in terms of the weather. They accepted a loss of between 20-40% in 2008, but he is not sure what he would do if they were faced with a really difficult year. In general, the area has a Mediterranean climate but with a higher than typical rainfall and humidity which perhaps explains why organic and biodynamic approaches are rarer in Friuli among top growers than in other regions of Italy.

The same approach is continued in the winery.  He is happy to use the naturally occurring yeasts for fermentation. They have moved to shorter and shorter maceration times as Mauro believes that longer maceration tends to equalise all the wines. They use no clarification products and he adds a tiny amount of sulphur dioxide only at the point of bottling, thinking that this is more effective as the wine has not been dosed regularly. 

We tasted three white wines and two reds. Friulano Collio DOC 2010 is an important wine for them as it bears the name of the region.  This wine took a while to express itself in the glass – Friulano is not an overly assertive variety.  Pale lemon in colour, with a fine pear and white flower aromas on the nose with a slightly ginger touch which Maura thinks is characteristic of the variety.  Very clean with good structure on the palate and an excellent, lasting finish. 

Pinot Grigio Collio DOC 2010 – as with the Friulano, this used to be made in large neutral barrels but now is made in stainless steel, to make the best of the fruit.  80% of the grapes are picked at normal ripeness and this undergoes 12 hours of maceration on the skins; the rest is picked at super maturity and just pressed.  Fragrant and substantial wine on the nose, same big impression on the palate with elegant peach fruit and some structure. A serious and substantial Pinot Grigio. 

IMG_2548Arbis Blanc 2009 – is an innovative blend of Friulano, Sauvignon, Pinot Bianco and Chardonnay which is a big wine in every way.  Made with late harvested grapes, it spends a year in 20 hectolitre large barrels, having been fermented with yeasts saved from the preceding year’s production. (Mauro refers to this a ‘small solera’.) The label says 14% of alcohol but in reality this is 14.5 or perhaps a bit more.  Pronounced caramel and honey notes on the nose from the slightly oxidative ageing, floral and white peach, exotic fruit, some yeastiness, good balance, excellent length with fruit through the palate.  Not surprisingly this was a tre bicchieri winner.

IMG_2554We finished with the two reds.  Pignolo 2006 is currently made with 90% of the Pignolo variety and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon/ Franc, but from the 2007 vintage it will be in purezza. Mauro comments on the small bunches of this local variety and believes that the skin to juice ratio here is very promising. This version was a year older than other examples we tasted and interestingly the 10% Cabernet was still clearly detectable on the nose and palate even though Pignolo is no shrinking violet: bright blackcurrant nose, the Cabernet just softening the overall effect; an intense and elegant wine which carried its powerful tannins well.  It will be fascinating to taste the 100% varietal side by side.  The top red is Gortmarin 2006, a Merlot and Cabernet blend from a virtually 50 year old vineyard which is aged in barriques only. It is only made in years when it is possible to carry out a late harvest, ie late September into October.  A very substantial wine with classic red and black fruit prominent, quite lively tannins for a six year old with decent length.  The bird lovers will want to know that those are mallards on the label.

It is always a particular pleasure to meet those who are making outstanding examples of wines which really reflect their locality, here the vineyards around Cormòns.  With many thanks to Mauro and Alessandra. 

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