New wine techniques

An interesting article in the NY Times about some Italian winemakers who are pushing the envelope.

New Wine in Really Old Bottles
JOSKO GRAVNER has thrown it all away, more than once. When he started making wine 30 years ago outside this small town in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of northeastern Italy, he produced crisp, aromatic white wines in a popular style, using the latest technology.

But he was not satisfied making wines like everybody else. He replaced his temperature-controlled steel tanks with small barrels of French oak, and he won acclaim for white wines of uncommon richness. But not even that was sufficient, and Mr. Gravner began to experiment with techniques considered radical by the winemaking establishment. The hazy, ciderish hue of the resulting white wines, so different from the usual clear yellow-gold, persuaded some that the wines were spoiled. But one taste showed they were fresh and alive, with a sheer, lip-smacking texture.

Was he happy? Please.

Rejecting the modern trappings of the cellar, Mr. Gravner has reached back 5,000 years. He now ferments his wines in huge terra-cotta amphorae that he lines with beeswax and buries in the earth up to their great, gaping lips. Ancient Greeks and Romans would be right at home with him, yet his 2001 wines, his first vintage from the amphorae, which he is planning to release in September, are more vivacious and idiosyncratic than ever.

"With every change, I had clients who lost faith in me," Mr. Gravner said. "The cantina was in a crisis. Now I'm out of crisis, but the rest of the world is in crisis."

Perhaps it's something in the air, or in the wine, but few places on earth have such a concentration of determined, individualistic winemakers as Friuli-Venezia Giulia, particularly in the low rolling hills that stretch across the border with Slovenia. To their fans they make deeply personal, almost artistic wines. To detractors they are fanatical eccentrics.

I wouldn't mind spending a few weeks in that area traveling around, eating the local food and sampling some of these wines. Mmmmm...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on May 26, 2005 4:16 PM.

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