The first thing that catches your attention when you see Franco Terpin is his hands. He is a big guy, and his hands are really big. The second thing is that he is a great guy, one of those persons you instantly like. He is so much passionate about his wines and he loves to taste them with you and explain as much as he can about them and then telling you stories. And that’s very good, keeping in mind our visit was late in a Sunday evening, in a family time.
It was dark outside, a bit cold too, and Franco’s properly named winery is at the very end of a small side road, one of those places in which you need to ask for directions to every living soul you may find in the road, and there are not many. Once you get there, everything fits into place. Franco is here to welcome you and show you the premises. If you base your expectative in the number of bottles Franco sells every vintage, you might expect the place to be small and dark, kind of a cave run by an eremite. On the contrary, the place is very well illuminated and modern looking. All the typical machinery is there, and then you see a few long rows of French barrels for ageing the wines he is carefully producing every year. You can also find a collection of empty bottles of wines produced by his friends and from wineries around the world. These are the vessels of old wine souls that for sure made Franco enjoy when he shared them down in the night of time.
In one corner of the basement there are a big wooden table and a cupboard containing wine glasses that make the place resemble a country home living room. This is the tasting room. Over the table, Franco displays the wines he is producing and he explains all of them, including details of the winemaking process as well as funny tales of his trips around the world. His main line of wines is Franco Terpin. Here he produces five white single-varietal wines and one red wine. A Pinot Grigio, a Friulano (called Jakot), a Sauvignon, a Chardonnay and a Ribolla Gialla. I know you would love to read which one I enjoyed most. However, being my faithful reader as you are, you also know that I love macerated white wines from Friuli. And of course, Franco’s winery is in San Floriano di Collio, Gorizia (Friuli Venezia-Giulia), so I can’t but love all his wines. Let’s say in a scale of 1 to 100, I would grade his wines in the same order they were tasted as 99.1, 99.2, 99.3, 99.4 and 99.5. Why not higher grades? Well, Franco is going to read this article, therefore I want him to make them better for the next vintage instead of sitting pleased with himself after some Spanish crazy-about-macerated-wines-from-Friuli guy gave him such a high ratings.
The Pinot Grigio had a wonderful rosé color. As he explained, this grape is the whiter of the red grapes, or the redder of the white grapes, so a short maceration period turns the color of the must into rosé. It is also a delicate wine both in the nose and in the palate. The Friulano, a local variety, was really nice, as well as the Sauvignon, a wine that expresses so well the marl limestone soil of this area. Then his two best examples of macerated white wines: the Chardonnay that was powerful yet much tamed and balanced, and the amazingly amazing Ribolla Gialla. Did you know I love the Ribolla? Well, this one is really good. Overall, his wines are very delicate, not going over the top in any level. They are easy wines to drink and definitely greatly enjoyable.
His red wine is Sialis, a Merlot-based wine. Very interesting example of the character this grape has in the Collio, where it is the most-planted red variety.
We were enjoying Franco’s stories, tales and anecdotes while we were enjoying his wines. We mentioned a few Malvasia wines we had previously tasted and then he disappeared. As if he suddenly realized he had the dinner in the oven. Few seconds later, he showed up with a bottle with a strange label on it. No variety, no vintage, just a drawing of three guys and a word: ILLEGAL. Eyes wide open, eyebrows raised, dead silence… 500 bottles of this wine he is producing with Malvasia. I love Malvasia wines from the Collio, where there are not that many, and from the Carso, both the Slovenian side and the Italian side, where there are a lot more. The Carso is just a bit southeast from here. This wine, however, was simply… uhmm… let’s say brutal. It was potent in the nose and the palate, high of everything, including alcohol, and extremely good. A wine not for the faint of heart, a wine that grabbed us from the very first sip. Appalling, strong, full of all the good things in a wine. Its name comes from, well, let’s not get into that. Did I mention it has 16% abv?
Franco works his vineyards organically and naturally and then in the cellar all he does is letting the wines express themselves, no corrections done, no chemicals, no added enzymes or selected yeasts, only the indigenous ones. Just the way wines have been produced in this area for decades.
We will talk soon to Franco about his wines and his winemaking philosophy.