Before dining in Lokanda Devetak a few months ago, we had visited the amazing underground cellar Augustin has. We were looking for a bottle to take home with us and he recommended us Rosso della Castellada 2003, a Merlot/Cabernet blend by a local winery. So local is just a few kilometers away from the restaurant. We followed his advice.

Days later we visited Primosic, another local winery producing a great Orange wine using Ribolla Gialla. Azienda Agricola Primosic is member of an association called Associazione Produttori Ribolla Di Oslavia, formed by Italian producers elaborating wines with the Ribolla Gialla variety, which they call the Yellow Soul of Oslavia. Six producers created the association: Silvan Primosic, Dario Prinčič, Stanko Radikon, Rinaldo Fiegl, Franco Sosol (Il Carpino) and the producer of the wine we took home with us, Nicolò Bensa (La Castellada).

La Castellada was founded in 1954 in Oslavia, (Gorizia) by Giuseppe Bensa, when he returned from Switzerland where he had been working as a carpenter. He purchased some plots of land that included a house to use as a tavern where he could serve the wines he produced. In 1985, sons Giorgio and Nicolò started bottling the wine that they were already selling and dedicated heart and soul to wine growing and establishing La Castellada estate. The name comes from one of the Oslavia hills. In 2009 Nicolò’s sons Matteo and Stefano joined the company.

Nowadays La Castellada owns 10 hectares of vineyards, with half of those being 45/55 years old and yielding around 3,000/3,500 plants per hectare with a production of 50 tons/ha, while the other more recent half is about 25 years old and has 5,500/6,000 plants per hectare with a lower yield of 50 tons/ha, achieving optimal ripening and concentration. Soils are marl and sandstone flysch (ponca) of Eocene origin.

The Oslavia area is placed between the Julian Alps and the Adriatic Sea, where the action of a cool and breezy air favors the creation of a microclimate.

As residents of Oslavia and members of the aforementioned association, the RibollaGialla is our place to start. The Bensas like to work with big Slavonian casks and they use steel tanks to refine the final product. In the case of their Orange wine, they leave the must macerating with the skins and also their natural yeasts for two months. Yes, sixty days of maceration. Then the wine stays 24 months ageing in oak. The color, well, this style is called Orange wine and not because they use this fruit. As for the aromas and taste, is it a wine you either love or dislike because it is not for everyone, but if you like it, you absolutely love it, as it is our case.

You might think that they only do this with the Ribolla, but no, my friend. They have another wine, Bianco Riserva VRH (75% Chardonnay, 25% Sauvignon Blanc) produced under the same method as the Ribolla: two months macerating and 24 months more ageing in Slavonian casks.

Four other white wines macerate with their skins, but in this case for only four days. The Chardonnay, the Sauvignon and the Friulano, as well as their white blend, the Bianco della Castellada (50% Pinot Grigio, 30% Chardonnay, 20% Sauvignon Blanc).

Finally their Pinot Grigio stays a total of 15 days macerating in the big casks.

La Castellada not only produces white wines. We talked in the beginning about the Rosso della Castellada, a blend with 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet. After fermentation, this wine spends 12 months in oak barrels and then is transferred into Slavonian casks for another 24 months.

Their last red wine is a single-varietal Merlot. What does it have so special? The destemmed grapes were macerated for 15 days in Slavonian oak with their indigenous yeasts. The ageing was 12 months in barrels and 24 months in big Slavonian oak casks with a refining period in stainless steel vats without filtration.

All their wines are Collio DOC.

Do you think there are no special wines around here? You should try these ones produced by La Castellada.

Soon we will talk to Stefano Bensa about their winemaking philosophy.

Photos © La Castellada