Our host, Castello di Spessa, holds the key to the cellar door tightly. It measures 10 inches in length and hangs from a crimson string. Our curious group is led deep into the cellar of the Collio wine area of Friuli–Venezia Giulia by him.
I am gaining a deeper understanding of the wines produced here. I quickly discover that this wine is intimately linked to the cultural fabric in this special area of northern Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia.
Collio Goriziano Wine Region
The Collio Goriziano Wine Region’s shape is a crescent. This means that depending on your location, you could be looking at Slovenia and Italy from both sides. Variable terrain is found here. Collio and the Friuli valley are two different areas. Collio has hills and slopes at elevations of 935 feet (285m) and is only 20 minutes from the coast. One hour is required to reach the northern mountain influence.
These hillsides are ideal for wine-grape cultivation, as they provide the soil, sun, and climactic variability necessary to produce interesting complex wines.
Sunset from Baronesse Tacco
Also, the Collio hills offer breathtaking views. On the top of the resort venue, Baronesse Tacco is a 360-degree panorama of the sunset. This is the place where you can taste 30 wines from the Consorzio Colio. I am attending this four-day wine festival.
After tasting some outstanding dishes, such as the 2016 Primosic Friulano, 2017 Gradis’ciutta Malvasia, and the ribolla gialla form Borgo Conventi ribolla gialla, we gather to enjoy a multi-course meal prepared by Michelin-starred chef Daniele Repetti. The evening concludes with a memorable dessert consisting of ricotta pana cotta and raspberry meringue, fresh berries, lemon verbena gel, lemon verbena gel, and fresh berry meringue.
In a rare shift, I decided to end the night with an excellent espresso from Torrefazione. He was showcasing his award-winning beans at a table in front.
Our group of journalists, wine educators, and industry leaders had extensively explored Collio wines via estate tours and tastings in the days preceding this cumulative tasting.
Collio Wines Excel
We asked the following questions: “Why is Collio such a special region?” (Answer: Rain, wind, hills. “What makes the wine from Collio so good?” (Answer: Climate, biodiversity, sandy soil, low production.
Richard Baudains, Wine Scholar Guild’s technical instructor, leads us through two sessions to learn more about Collio Bianco. This is a field mix of co-fermented grapes that he believes “the whole of the parts is more important than their sum.”
After tasting over 30 sauvignons, our understanding of the varietal is deepened. Most people try to pigeonhole it with every style from France to Australia.
A Diverse Terrain is Ideal for Hiking
The area is also a wilderness with lots of hiking and other adventure opportunities. The hike along the sentiero deelle vigne alte (“the path to the high vineyards”) is a fascinating way to see the soil we have been studying so much.
After walking for hours and wearing muddy shoes, we finally reach the road that takes us to Osteria de la Subida. This is a traditional taverna, where we enjoy a leisurely lunch of local delicacies. We eat cheese, salume, and olive oil as well as risotto and olive oil.
This property has guest cottages out back – which I would love to stay if ever I return – as well as a beautiful pool with horse stables just across the street.
Collio Led White Wine Movement
Apart from the fact that Collio produces 3 percent of the Italian National Production of DOC (Denominazione Di Origine Controllata), a quality-assurance designation for Italian wines, it is also interesting to learn that this border area was a leader in the white wine movement in the 1960s and 1970s shortly after becoming the third Italian Consorzio. It’s easy to see and taste the reasons. Baudains states, “The wines from the Collio always had a reputation.”
The larger theme is the integrity and pride that wine producers display. Their lives and the wine they produce are a reflection of the community, culture, and environment that surrounds them.
After touring the castle, which is the oldest building in the Collio area, we return to the castle for our first event. We then assemble for an incredible dinner prepared by chef Antonia Klugmann. The menu includes tomato soup with truffles, hops, simple and pure risotto, as well as pork ribs with cedar, mustard, and black garlic. The dessert is completed with chamomile cream, lemon meringue, and ginger crumble.
The panel discussion where Mike Veseth, The Wine Economist editor, and author, discusses how to balance economic, environmental, and social sustainability is perhaps the most powerful. He said, “This is an important moment…for Collio wines.” This is the time to draw from its past and look ahead…and communicate excellence with clarity.
If You Go: Collio Consortium