Wines from Trieste.
By Filippo Bartolotta
From Collio to Carso is a little hour drive.
One doesn’t even have time to get thirsty, but in case the wines from Carso will wake anyone up!
Streams of rivers flow underground this Northern East Costal area of Italy.
People here have got names which sound pretty different from the usual Italians like Mario Rossi: Kante, Zidarich, Skerk, etc. And wait to get to the wines: Vitovska, Terrano and more…
This is just the peak of the iceberg, just a little sign of the million extraordinary differences that make Italy 1000 countries within one!
It is more exotic to travel across Italy that going to London or Paris!
In some areas not only they speak a very strict dialect, but actually speak a language, in same cases officially recognized by the European Community.
Trieste andÂ the wine area around it is one of those places where this feeling of exotic is very welcoming. People are very reserved over here, but this doesnâ€™t stop them from being
pleasantly generous and hospitable. The food is a an Austro-Hungary-Italian combination with plenty of succulent meat dishes, but also local sea food and irresistible desserts.
Anyway this time I started a little more inland than Trieste, in Cormons.
In the little Hotel where I have stayedÂ I thought I was going to have some rice and a salad and instead I was fed Ravioli with a potato and venison filling, Pork with apple sauce and veggies and when I was about to leave table a luscious ice cream with a figs and rum jam on top with an orange spirit made by the owner!
In this place every year thereâ€™s a celebration for an Austrian emperor with thousands of Austrians coming down to party!
The pictures on the wall with the white and red Austrian flags are everywhere in the hotel. This area of Italy was Austrian till 1918.
I was still thinking about the pretty little Cormons when I arrived to Prepotto on the coast.
My first stop here is at the Zidarich cellar.
Benjamin’s wife -Nevenka- Â opens the door of the lovely wooden-stone house a few km away from Duino. This is a village of very few little houses.
It might be proven a little difficult to find it and in case you get lost you wonâ€™t be having too many people around to ask, but as anticipated…it is all worth it.
We go waiting for Banjamin Zidarich on a big terrace with a stunning view of the sea on top of the cellar.
My son is given a platter of local salami and some bread. He eyes open as he doesn’t get to have such a succulent and naughty snack every day.
I must confess that I couldnâ€™t resist to do a â€œquality checkâ€ of my sonâ€™s meal, despite I didnâ€™t need any more calories that day. Was it good? Ohhh yes!
Benjamin arrives and we head straight into the cellar, but as we get to the door he begins to show first some of his vineyards and then a bit of history of the farm.
He seemed to be working to building up some kind of expectations and as we get in I donâ€™t quite get it as it is like entering any ground floor of a regular cellar: bottling line and some storage space.
Yes the stone chosen by Benjamin were cut locally, he also had an artist carving some of the columnsÂ in a very delicate and impressive way and yes, I was quite thrilled to see so many of the super savory and juicy Vitovska, but this wasnâ€™t enough to match Benjaminâ€™s talks on his big investment.
He was very calm and kind of secure, then he says: letâ€™s get down to taste some wines.
We start getting down a staircase and all of a sudden I understand: a deep underground cellar, carved in the natural rock of Carso always wet by little springs here and there.
Every floor we were reaching down the temperature was getting more austere, till we see the first barrels.
Zidarich cellar is literally a cave. He has done an amazing job in obtaining rooms out of the mountains without using any cement, or other building materials: the wines got to feel happy here, I say, he smiles and says: I am trying to do my best to secure the best conditions possible for my wines, after a long year in the vineyard!
We start tasting from the Slavonian and French oak cask and regardless the barrel or the variety, the “rocky minerality” is the true essence to his wines.
Minerality is a very abused word (I use it a lot too), but some wines do have an extra edge of flinty-stoney-watery-mouth filling complexity which canâ€™t be described otherwise.
To understand minerality have a drop of any of Zidarich wines and everyone will get it.
Very often though minerality is related to very austere wines, here his wines are important but always extremely drinkable and refreshing.
Benjamin belongs to a group of â€œnatural wine-makersâ€ (see http://luxwinetrip.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/no-hung-over-in-verona/) under the provocative name of: â€œtrue winesâ€; as if anything else in the market wasnâ€™t!
Point is that anything is true, even Mc-Donald! The clue therefore to me is not “truth”, but linking authenticity to natural wine making and quality. In my next blog Iâ€™ll try to tackle this very difficultÂ subject for the moment we stick to Carso.
NOTES ON THE WINES.
As mentioned,Â althoughÂ a simple variety, very often used with other grapes, Zidarich Vitovska is one of my favourite with its inner powerful energy, smooth balance, intensity andÂ length. Watch our its drinkability: its overwhelming with its oriental perfumes and fruits! Despite the wine is made naturally and like a red -with a long maceration, no filtration, no additives of any kind and a couple of years of big oak aging- this is a true elegant dancing butterfly!
This is a blend of Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc and Vitovska.
The first gives the wine loads of floralÂ seductiveness, which seems to be pushed even further by the backbone of Sauv. B. and the Vitosvska to smooth out and mineralize this very complexÂ lengthyÂ wine!
I love this wine for itsÂ marvelousÂ fruit driven and salty contrast. Yeas you heard me, salty. Great red berry crush, blackÂ cherriesÂ and spices. It’s a wine with a unique character which will surprise most wine lovers!
After this wonderful spelunking wine experience I now have a problem: I am late with Skerk and with the Kante, apparently not the easiest and accommodating of people!
Fearing the worst Benjamin offers to take me to Kante, not before saying hello to Skerk who makes one of the most elegant and well interpreted Malvasia in the area.
We arrive in a small, little cement house in the middle of the wood with a lovely vineyard garden in front, and a few free-run roosters roaming around.
Milo gets all excited as he finds a way to explore a little house in the woods, but Daphne and Vanessa seemed to be getting tired by now. I, on the other end, am extremely impatient to meet the man whose labels have helped me so much in inspiring great moments and relieving me from difficult ones.
We are offered some amazing cheeses and some sparkling wine by Miss Kante while waiting for Edi Kante to come back from the field.
I was expecting to meet someone arriving tired and dirty from the work in the field and instead I see an extremely well groomed and super tall man approaching us with high-tech spectacles and a very outspoken attitude.
He goes straight for my little duckling (Daphne) who seemed pretty happy about it.
He kindly asks permission to hold her and Daphne doesnâ€™t hesitate a second.
I immediately think: two atomic bombs together!
You can tell straight away that Kante is an extremely energetic man with a lot of character and personality.
He gets Daphne back to Vanessa and finally looks at me: are you ready?
I, kind of get a little scared, like before an exam, but promptly respond: sure I am!
We get inside the house, he hands me over a big jumper and we get down the cellar. He asks me a little of the wineries I have been before and we start chatting about wine. A minute later we are in an engaging one-to-one wine philosophy and wine making techniques drama.
We get together well, He seems to like what I have to say and I like his style while I thin to myself: very soon you are going to taste his wines with him in his cellar!
My dream couldnâ€™t get any better as we start from the lowest floor. A grotto with cement cylindrical structure with circularÂ steps to get people up and down.
Once at the bottom we are in a round cellar with circularly displayed barriques surrounded by wet walls and cold temperature.
Soldera told me I used too much concrete to build it, but I am pretty happy about this, he says.
Kanteâ€™s cellar gives the feeling of a secret Batman like cellar. Â There is indeed a lot of cement to support the cylinder shaped underground cellar surrounded by carsick rock.
Very often I have to ask producers to speed up tastings, to taste more. But here with Kante I should have been careful of what I wished for.
After the tenth barrel I understand that I might have entered like in a â€œwine casinoâ€ where you know when you get in, but you donâ€™t know when you are going to be out.
An hour passed and we start getting to the floor above but I all of a sudden think of Vanessa and the kids. Usually one gets to taste a few barrels, but not the whole production. I now have mixed feelingsÂ between the wine tasting adrenaline and the thought of my family going -rightfully- crazy.
He ensures me that his wife is taking the best care possible and so I feel better.
Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Vitoska, Pinot Blanc from new barrels, from different parcel, from different areas, from different countries as well!!!
If I were to report here all the tastings we had together it would be like a directory, so I will spare you that. What I can say is that Kante is one of the most serious, technical, passionate and thorough wine maker I have ever met in my life.
He asks me to be honest during tasting and so I go straightforward and he seems to appreciate better my criticism than my praises.
Kante is a strong personality, but he doesnâ€™t make any unquestionable statements as one would expect from a famous producer. He has more questions than answers and he tries to understand the wine world through a lot of experimentations in the cellar without having the consumers to pay for it. A kid inside one of the most authoritative Italian wine makers! I like this. I like to see people taking risks in their life and profession; I like wine makers that donâ€™t give anything for granted, people who want to learn all the time from any occasion.
He has been experimenting to produce in every way possible: natural with no sulphur; plenty of sulphur and manipulation and more. All his tests are kept in the cellar for years and then tasted over and over. He would put in the market only the production he has been experimenting for more years and that he is certain 110%.
Kante is a man of science, he is open to different theories and different practices, but he is also an empiric and pragmatic person and an artist too (painter).
At the third underground level up, after a good thirty wines tasted I thought I had a vision: my wife and kids all covered in blankets appearing behind a cask. It must have been hungry! Then Milo runs towards me, I hug and see in his eyes that is time to go.
We try to get back on the surface, but not before going for another 10 wines and the last bit of show with the Saber and one of his KK Spumante Brut NV with plenty of life and zest…just like Edi!
Some Wine Notes
Kante Sauvignon Blanc
This is one of my favorite Italian Sauvignon Blanc. Year after year Kante release this very sleek wine, which sometimes might be a little more oak driven, but always with an irresistible seductive styleÂ and drinkability. Itâ€™s a wine for lovers!
A more alcoholic style wine with a rounder and fattier mouth-fill. It gets better with a few year of bottle aging to get rid of some oak. In the cellar I had a lot of cask samples with a lot of fruit and savoriness which I would like to see more in the bottle.
Kanteâ€™s Vitoska is a cleaner and more austere version than the many macerative and salty ones.
Very clean and zesty wine quite simple. I am sure we are going to see more intriguing versions coming soon.
I have tasted so many amazingly different Malvasia in Ediâ€™s cellar that he would be able to produce ten labels.Â What I love about his approach with this aromatic variety is the balancing of the â€œaromaticsâ€ avoiding to go for too obvious floral and fruit style and reaching for more complexity.
Hotel and B&B in Trieste
Duchi dâ€™Aosta.Â wonderfully authentic Italian 18-19th century 5 star with original wooden floors and authentic furniture. Great bar and terrace overlooking the beautiful and spacious Piazza UnitÃ dâ€™Italia. One of the best coffee menu in town.
Daphne&Milo at the Duchi d’Aosta
On a budget but donâ€™t want to give up authenticity, elegance and Mittel European flair?
B&B DecÃ². This is Sonia&Davidâ€™s place. They live in this beautiful historical 19th C Palazzo on the 4th floor with their little super behaved four year old Sara and a reserved cat -Asia-. Sonia is an Interior decorator of great talent, she also make hand make bags and more. Wooden floors, antiques and lovely decorations make you feel very well here.
My favorite restaurant.
Ristorante Scabar on the hills of Trieste. Giorgio and Ami Scabar will approach you asking what you have seen in the menu. Then they think a few seconds and the give you their proposal based on your choices, but always adding or subtracting something in order to try and balance everything out for the best. Dialogue with this passionate restaurant owners is great. It does work for me and the result is always better than expected. Wine list is to die for Scabar is a very knowledgeable Friulan wine lover from whom anyone can learn. Let him light the way for you. Great Scampi, very fresh marinated sardines, the three version cod…I wish I could be there now!
Avoid Caffe degli Specchi.
This is a beautiful historic place in the main square in Trieste, but is run in the most touristic, rude and speculative way possible. The Duchi dâ€™Aosta right in front is a more friendly and high quality option.