Livio Felluga – wine and hospitality

Livio Felluga is something of a legend in Friuli.  Born in 1914 he is still going strong at 98 having been among those who transformed the wine scene in this part of what is now Italy – and what at the time of his birth was still part of the Austrian empire, which gives a sense of perspective.  The family originally came from Istria, moved to Grado (then a Austro-Hungarian resort) and finally, in the 1930s to Rosazzo, just outside Cormòns, which became the centre of the Collio zone.  The second part of his life may have been a time of peace and prosperity, the first half would have been anything but. Two world wars fought out in and over the region, political crises and uncertainty, setting up a wine business in the port of Grado (where totally coincidentally Janet and I learnt Italian), losing it all  and then founding a business from scratch at Rosazzo.  From here  wines have been made which have received recognition around the world – with a bit of help from the eye-catching map label which itself has now celebrated 50 years. 

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A dedicated tasting has many advantages. It allows a range of wines to be tasted with a relatively clear head because spitting is allowed, indeed is necessary.  There are few distractions and notes can be taken in a systematic way.  Hopefully the light is good and and the room well ventilated.  On the other hand this is a totally artificial situation.  Wine is not consumed in a laboratory of the senses; hopefully it is shared in good company with great food, conversation and laughter.  So, tasting, indeed on this occasion actually drinking (!) the Felluga whites over lunch with Elda Felluga in her busy road-side restaurant and meeting place was entirely the right thing to do.  It also gives me the chance to thank her for a splendid lunch – starter, local cheeses, asparagus risotto and, for those of us who couldn’t resist it, splendid local rabbit – and to acknowledge her generous hospitality.  If you are in the zone, Terra e Vini is a relaxed and excellent place to eat and there are rooms too. 

The wines here are Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC.  We started with Friulano 2010 which opens in a very restrained way and then grows in stature.  Like all the whites, traditionally it would have been made in large (fairly) neutral barrels but now of course ferments in scrupulously clean stainless steel.  A good aperitif wine and better with light or tangy antipasti and first courses. The Pinot Grigio 2010 is immediately attractive, with a rich and layered nose, good texture and an excellent balance between the fruit and acidity.  Elda will just about admit to this being a favourite wine – but it depends on the occasion. Sauvignon 2010 has classic green vegetal notes and good length.  It went very well with the asparagus, but to my mind it is the least distinctive of these wines, there being so many examples of well made Sauvignon around the world and indeed in north east Italy.  By contrast Abbazia di Rosazzo 2009, named after a local landmark in the hills which were bathed in spring sunshine when we visited, is an excellent, complex five-way blend. The Friulano, Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon, Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla compete its fermentation and maturation in oak barrels  Finally, Terre Alte 2008, a blend of Tocai Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Sauvignon, has a fantastically rich range of aromas, very good peachy fruit on the palate with a real ‘wow’ factor.  These are fine wines (and I will add notes on the reds once I have tasted them) and would grace any living room or dining table.

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With many thanks to Elda Felluga who is a consummate host.  As we did not have any visits that afternoon, we took your advice and drove in the spring sunshine on the back roads to the fine town of Cividale del Friuli with its remarkable Longobard church – a memorable day indeed. 

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