There are days when you just get lucky. I had two of them last weekend. To celebrate the publication of my book Amber Revolution in the Netherlands, I organised two dinners to say thank you to people who helped support the project over the last year. I took almost no pictures – the blurred bottle shot above is really the best I have. Still, it’s about the wine, right?
Both dinners featured major verticals of Gravner’s complex, age-worthy wines, assembled partly from my cellar and partly with the assistance of the Gravner family. It isn’t often that one gets the opportunity to compare so many vintages of these gems – and with Mateja Gravner on hand to animate them brilliantly. It may well have been a unique experience – some wines are becoming very difficult to source (1997 for example).
Either way, it’s worth making some brief notes about how the wines stacked up. I’ve starred a few favourites and double-starred my all-time top three.
The first commercial vintage of Gravner’s macerated style, made with only a week or so of skin contact and fermented in oak. Holding up extremely well, with a delicate herbal complexity and very expressive.
The only disappointment of the entire weekend, a less than perfect bottle with hints of oxidation on the nose, otherwise this is a great effort, only overshadowed by the Ribolla from the same year.
** Ribolla Riserva 1998 (magnum)
1998 was the first year when Josko Gravner deliberately picked for botrytis in his Ribolla Gialla, and this riserva is made with the most botrytised grapes. It’s an extraordinary, majestic effort, yet more structured and tannic than the regular ’98, still with freshness and poise. There are signs of development on the nose, but this still drinks like a young wine.
Soft and almost caramel-like, very easygoing, and almost a more “commercial” style of wine according to one colleague who attended on Sunday night. Long, refined finish.
* Ribolla 2000
A lovely surprise, tight and nervy, very nicely matured with energy and freshness. Somewhat similar to the regular 1998 Ribolla.
Showing the character of this cool vintage, almost as pure and electric as the ribolla, but with Breg’s typically broader fruit and rounder texture.
** Ribolla 2002
One of my all time favourite Ribolla vintages. Just seems to get better and better. Some evolved, waxy aromas, but brilliantly tight and pure on the palate, so lively and youthful.
Quite broad and opulent, full of fruit, complex, maybe missing some refinement when compared to the Ribolla.
Finally coming round, this was a very unexpressive wine early in its development. Now it’s singing, with long length and very fine structure.
Breg 2008 (magnum)
Big and powerful, very ripe and blowsy. With 15% ABV, it’s almost too big. I can’t fault the balance but my personal taste is for the lighter, fresher vintages.
* Ribolla 2008
Classic Ribolla, powerful and structured. Already showing very well, but really just a baby.
* Ribolla 2009 (magnum)
Regal and elegant, still youthful but with crisp structure, amazing focus and clarity.
* Rosso 2000 (Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon)
Show just how wonderful Merlot from the Collio can be. Beautiful maturity, with broad but open structure, plenty of fruit, lively and full of herbal notes. Contrary to legend, this wine is stil being made. Mateja Gravner confirmed that Josko hasn’t ripped out the Merlot yet (they are very old vines). Although she says “he could do at any minute, depending on his mood!”
** Rosso Breg 2004 (Pignolo)
A stunning effort, for me the best vintage of Pignolo so far (only 2003, 2004 and 2005 have been released). Dark and brooding, with prodigious tannins but perfect balance. Just starting to show some development, with hints of woodsmoke, truffle and dried herbs joining the rather monolithic dark berry fruit.