It was a long time since I wanted to visit Mario Zanusso. I had published an article about the winery he is running along with this father Ferdinando, I Clivi, and then I had the chance to run an interview with him. It was a very nice opportunity to learn a lot about the way they feel about wine and winemaking, and ever since then I wanted to visit him. One day, stars lined up correctly and we finally met.
The day was really cloudy and rainy, which made it bad for visiting the vineyards. Setting my feet in a vineyard is always nice and especially if the vineyard is one of my beloved Ribolla Gialla. I Clivi di Ferdinando e Mario Zanusso is located in the very heart of the Collio, and the house over the cellar in on the top of a hill surrounded by their vineyards, very much château-like in Bordeaux.
When doing the article, Mario was kind enough to send me many pictures that I used for it. When I stepped into the office, everything was like in the pictures: Ferdinando was at his desk working, exactly as he was portrayed, and Mario was there too, in front of is computer, so I had this small feeling of Deja-vu. Because in fact, I had already seen it.
We went to the front porch and Mario explained about the vineyards and a funny thing about DO limits. It happens that they have vineyards in two faces of the same hill: one side is Collio DOC, province of Gorizia, and the second one is Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC, province of Udine. In both cases, by the way, the soil is the marl and sandstone flysch (ponca) rich in marine sediment of Pliocene origin. Of course, they have to vinify all separated to keep each DOC seals. Mario loves to do all the vineyard works organically, as well as in the cellar.
Then we moved to the downstairs cellar. Everything was ready there, cases of wines in pallets to be shipped away, must in the steel tanks, as no white wine touches the wood. There was only one oak barrel in one corner, the lone representative of this style of ageing vessel. Looking at it, seeing one barrel among so many steel tanks, it was very bizarre. The purpose of this barrel is to age the lees of the Friulano must once they move one tank to another. Later on, they mix parts of these lees with the wine to give it more structure while it ages more.
They produce around 50,000 bottles a year with four white varieties (Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla, Verduzzo and Friulano) and a red wine elaborated with Merlot. The Merlot is their only wine passing through oak as the white wines do all their processes in steel tanks. The Friulano is the heart of the winery, as they produce three different wines with this autochthonous variety, one coming from Brazan vineyard, Clivi Brazan, and the second from the Galea vineyard, Clivi Galea. The third one is Friulano San Pietro from the vineyard called the same way. With the Ribolla they produce a wonderful sparkling wine and a dry wine. And the Verduzzo is an amazing wine whose production is barely 4,000 bottles per year. The Malvasia Vigna 80 Anni is a wine produced with the Malvasia Istriana with a total of 3,000 bottles per vintage.
It was time then to enjoy some of their wines. Time was a bit constrained, so we did just a few. We started with the Friulano San Pietro 2016. Very fine and elegant wine, maybe a bit cold as Mario said, but it was really enjoyable in your glass. The Malvasia 2016followed, and as you can expect, it was wonderful, fresh, with a great structure, a wine that give you so much pleasure. Finally, the Verduzzo 2016, that to my surprise, as I had never tasted before a single varietal Verduzzo, it was incredible. A wine I instantly fell in love with. Luckily for the company but unluckily for me, they had run out of the Ribolla Gialla wine, so this way I have another excuse to come again.
It was a quick visit but at the same time it was very well worth it. Mario is a great person and a great winemaker. He is doing really good wines in the Collio and I just can’t wait for the next time I go visit him again.
Photo (c) I Clivi