Friuli is known for its single variety white wines – Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon especially. But of course these are modern wines, created in the 1970s to a style which is very recent: clean fermentation to preserve fruit flavour, use of stainless steel not old large wood barrels, short or no maceration on the skins. The problem then becomes that there is a tendency for everyone’s wine to taste very similar. Yes, there are incremental differences of quality but a varietal wine from a very small area with the same geology is going to be rather similar to the neighbours.
In this situation it is a bold move to produce one single wine and to make it a blend. Of course you have history on your side. Before the 1970s, the wines would have been blends, even if Ribolla Gialla was the predominant grape for whites and Refosco for reds. Varietal wines can also make you rather vulnerable to a poor vintage. Ribolla Gialla can be too acidic, Malvalsia can be overly fat and Friulano can be get to too high alcohol levels before it is genuinely ripe. So a blend can help in these circumstances. We noticed that while most producers had a line of varietal wines as their bread and butter production, they often had a blend as their top wine – see the pieces on Borgo San Daniele, Livio Felluga or Collavini. But at Edi Keber they have taken this process to the end point: they now, since 2007, make just one wine from their 12 hectares of prime land in the Collio, right on the Slovenian border.
The grapes here are the local white varieties: (Tocai) Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia Istriana. They grow on the famous Ponca soils (‘flyss’) which is a famously crumbly type of rock, low in nutrients but mineral rich, perfect for wines of concentration and elegance. The best possible place to observe this is underground and the Keber winery has a great exposed section for you to look at and touch – it fragments at the slightest provocation (left above). This means that they need to keep the rows between the vines covered as it would be very difficult to work with out something to hold it all together. If the harvest dates allow they make the wine as a blend from the start. Most of the must is fermented in lovely old-fashioned cement tanks (right, above), with 20% being given the luxury of fermentation in old barriques.
We tasted two vintages, the 2011 and the 2010.
Edi Keber Collio DOC 2011 – a beautiful mid lemon colour, with a perfumed entry on the assertive nose which combines floral, fruit and herb notes; great structure on palate – this is a substantial if balance wine – with fresh fruit, some candied fruit and some well handled bitterness too. Complex and very age worthy – the family has vintages going back for decades.
Collio DOC 2010 – this was from a less good year, very rainy. It does not have the vibrant fruit of the 2011 but instead the palate has really brought together the mature peach fruit, grapefruit and mineral notes, along with a developing honeyed gloss. Excellent length.
With many thanks to all at Edi Keber – by producing a single, multi-varietal, wine you are using a traditional approach to make a modern classic.
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