Ancient amber history: Gravner – Breg 1997

Old wines never cease to fascinate me. They invariably come to the table with a story to tell, with baggage attached, with secrets and profundities that are simply impossible in the latest vintage.

This 1997 Breg from Josko Gravner is laden with resonance – it’s one of the first years that Gravner bottled his then “new” style of wine, abandoning steel tanks and French oak barriques entirely, for long skin contact and ageing in much larger more neutral oak vessels. It’s the last year that Gravner kept his old label – the now iconic red/brown vine lable has graced every produced sine 1998. It also predates his usage of amphora for commercially bottled wines.
Large oak maturation vessels at Gravner

An extreme Ribolla Gialla from Renato Keber

Keber is typical of many small producers in Friuli Collio, in producing a range varying from the more conventional fresh, fruity varietal wines, to the more traditional. Keber’s Ribolla Gialla Extreme is a nod to the long skin maceration technique that has been embedded in Friuli’s wine traditions for centuries.

Orange weekly: Gravner – Breg 2004

Josko Gravner and Stanko Radikon, both hailing from Oslavje in north-eastern Friuli, pretty much kickstarted the revival of extended skin contact white wine making, in western Europe (In Georgia it has an unbroken history of 8000 years). For me, this makes uncorking a wine from either producer a special event.

Gravner’s wines are as uncompromising as they are brilliant, produced solely in Georgian qvevris (amphorae) since 2001. This bright amber coloured Breg 2004, a white blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Italico and Pinot Grigio still feels youthful and rather closed.

Orange weekly: La Castellada – Ribolla Gialla 2009

This 2009 Ribolla Gialla shows absolute mastery of Oslavia’s cherished variety and the extended skin maceration technique which is increasingly associated with this village.

Brothers Niccolò & Giorgio Bensa started bottling wine at this estate in Oslavia, Friuli Collio in 1985 – their reputation has built impressively ever since. Niccolò’s sons Stefano and Matteo are now involved too. The Bensas were part of the “Gravner group” during the late 1990s, which was so pivotal in reintroducing the traditional methods of extended skin contact and wild yeast ferments.