Collavini: pushing the boundaries

Eugenio Collavini is a substantial plant just outside of Cormòns in the village of Corno di Rosazzo.   It has the air of a highly competent, innovative winery which hasn’t wasted money on a architecture but has invested in high quality plant to produce distinctive wines.  We were shown around by Giovanni Collavini who was a model host and we had the chance to talk to the wine maker and office staff. 

Charmat vatsGiovanni Collavini in the drying room

The first thing we saw were the rather magnificent pressurised tanks for making sparking wine using the Italian method (Martinotti) or Charmat if you prefer.  These stainless steel giants lying on their sides hold the firm’s Ribolla Gialla which makes an excellent, mildly perfumed sparkler.  But this is not a short term operation as, very unusually, the wines are held on the lees for about 30 months (or at least 28 cycles of the moon as the brochure says). The idea is to keep them very cool and to let the fermentation take as long as possible to preserve freshness and elegance – which it certainly does.  The tanks are installed on their sides so that they are in effect huge bottles which maximise the wine’s contact with the lees: a sort of Charmat á la champenoise, though the firm prefers to call it the Collavini method.  We really enjoyed the Ribolla Gialla spumante which is classy and distinctive wine at €18. 

If the idea with the Ribolla is to preserve subtlety and elegance, Collavini has also made big strides in concentrating flavours in high tech ways but one which do not degrade the quality of the fruit.  Above on the right you can see the stacked baskets in the drying room.  Appassimento is an old Italian (and Mediterranean) trick but usually it is done rapidly on the vine or slowly indoors into the winter. Here it is done quite rapidly using circulated air but at very low temperatures, around 7°, which must feel positively arctic if the outside temperature is 35°.  Unlike the older peasant method this is highly controlled and reliable: perfect bunches in small crates prevent damage to the grapes, the low temperatures preserve aromatics and acidity, and the circulating air – from which humidity is constantly removed – concentrates flavours.  They use this room for some top reds and whites.  In addition there is a further cold room which they use either for a type of ice wine (ie dehydration by removing frozen water in grapes) or simply for storing their bottle-fermented sparkling wine while it matures. 

pneumatic pressescooling equipment for newly picked grapes
What really matters at the end of the day is the quality of the wine in the glass and here Collavini does not disappoint.  From the large range, I have already noted the quality of the sparkling Ribolla Gialla.  Pinot Grigio Collio DOC 2011 was full of sharp and ripe apple flavours, very fine, very long.  Picked in the second or third week of August (ie earlier than used to be the case), it is kept fresh in stainless steel and is left on the lees under the end of winter for a bit more texture.  The Friuliano Collio DOC 2011 is the product of a good year for this variety, here still known of course as Tocai.  It is made from the fruit of selected parcels of 80 year old vines and macerated on the skins for 12 hours at a cold temperature.  The enologist explains that they avoid contact with oxygen scrupulously as Friulano is a bruta bestia (a bit of beast) and oxidises very easily.  Beautiful nose of white flowers, pear and almond, attractive palate and a faint bitter note to end on, very good indeed.  Blancfumat 2011 is of course Sauvignon which has been much at home in these parts for the last 50 years. Despite the name it is not made in wood but to a similar formula as the Pinot Grigio above: typical asparagus and green notes on the nose, good fruit and sage notes on the palate – they succeed in their aim of making the palate like the nose.  Very good acidity and length. 

IMG_2431 Broy Collio Bianco 2010 is the top white here for which the very best bunches of the best fruit are used, a blend of Friulano and Chardonnay. The Friulano is given the ‘partial drying out at a low temperature’ treatment for three weeks as described above.  The dry extract of this wine reaches the 30g level which is more typical of a red wine than a white.  A deeper lemon colour, rich citrus notes, very well balanced along with greater concentration on the palate, fine fruit finish.  Very impressive.

Collavini was one of the larger concerns which we visited but one which really aims for quality and innovation.   With many thanks to Giovanni Collavini and all at the forward looking establishment. 

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