Nicola Manferrari takes Tocai Friuliano to majestic heights in Collio. Photo courtesy of Borgo del Tiglio.

I Wanna Go Backwards - The Beauty of Aged Collio Whites

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It’s something of a curiosity that in considering the great wines of Italy and the great whites of the world, the wines of the Friuli's Collio are somehow overlooked. They combine structure, texture, aromatics, not to mention ageability, in compelling fashion.  The region is blessed by a moderate climate, distinctive terroir, and an abundance of gifted growers.

One of the finest of these growers is Nicola Manferrari of Borgo del Tiglio in Brazzano in Collio Gozino. A pharmacist by trade, he took over his father’s estate in 1981 and set about “to make aromatic wines of flavor and equilibrium that will age well.” (As quoted in Carla Capalbo’s splendid book Collio: Fine Wines and Foods from Italy’s North-east.) To achieve this, Nicola keeps yields low, ferments with native yeasts, and vinifies and ages the wines in 250 liter French oak barrels. The resulting wines are textured, mineral, and perfumed. Today we are fortunate to offer two aged examples of his wines. First is the 1996 Tocai Friuliano, still displaying lithe fruit underpinned by a taut minerality. Second is the 1994 Studio di Bianco, a blend of Friuliano, Riesling Italico, and Sauvignon Blanc from a hillside vineyard in Ruttars near the Slovenian border which offers greater texture and richness, as well as a beguiling interplay of fruit, earth, and spice on a long, layered, harmonious finish. Both wines benefit from decanting and time in the glass as we discovered when we tasted them recently, building on the nose and palate over an afternoon. -John McIlwain

(I’d like to thank Dr. Jeremy Parzen, Victor Hazan, Melissa Sutherland, Carla Capalbo, Fred Plotkin, and Edward Behr who’ve all written or spoken so eloquently about the beauty of this region and its wines.)

Borgo del Tiglio 1994 Studio di Bianco

A blend of 50% Fruiliano, 25% Riesling Italico, and 25% Sauvignon Blanc from a hillside vineyard in Ruttars near the Slovenian border, Studio di Bianco is an expression of Nicola Manferrari’s determination to make a world-class white wine with the potential for aging. The Riesling and Sauvignon are co-fermented separately with a portion of the Friuliano in oak and then blended before aging in barrel for at least a year. The 1994 Studio is a fascinating example. Quickly double decanted, and then tasted over a few hours, the wine became more expressive aromatically and texturally with air. The nose shows notes of orange peel, peach, sea spray, evolving to offer aromas of brown butter, smoke, and balsam with just a hint of oxidation. On the palate, flavors of peach, pear skin, and hazelnut give way to reveal a saline minerality, and a bit of pleasing, resinous bitterness on the finish. With time in the glass Studio becomes more layered and expansive. Decanted and served around cellar temperature, this will pair beautifully with richer seafood dishes or poultry.  John McIlwain 

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Borgo del Tiglio 1996 Collio Tocai Friulano

From vines grown in Flysch di Cormons, (mixed sandstone and marls), fermented and aged in barrel. Pale gold robe. A touch shy aromatically upon opening. With a quick decant, the aromatic palette expands: scents of white flowers, golden delicious apple, orange oil,  and honey vie with notes of wet stone and iron for prominence. On multilayered palate it displays flavors of stone fruit, acacia, Mirabelle plum, with a steely mineral character and a fine zesty acidity on the long, detailed finish. As with other bottles of Borgo del Tiglio from this era we've tasted, decanting the wine and following over an afternoon reveals a surprising amount of aromatic detail and textural complexity. Decanted and served a bit cooler than cellar temperature, this pairs beautifully with the local Prosciutto San Danielle, crab, and fresh cheeses. John McIlwain

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  • $34.99