On the Road with the Grape Guy

A Look at the Vino from Collavini

23 Feb 2023

The story of Collavini begins in 1896 in Ignano, Italy, we're founder Eugenio supplied wine to stores and noble families in Udine.

The winery is located in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, which is the top right corner of Italy, near Austria, Slovenia and the Adriatic Sea. The region may be small, compared to other regions of Italy, but it does rank among the best for producing white wines.

The one white variety most notable is Ribolla Gialla, but before we get there we must mention Manlio Collavini, who took over from his father Eugenio and ended up creating two very iconic wines.

Manlio's first wine of note was not so much a wine itself, but a colour change to an existing wine: Pinot Grigio fermented off the skins. At the time he took over the winery from Eugenio, Pinot Grigio was produced in the coppery colour or “ramato-style” and was sold in dark green Alsatian-style bottles. But Manlio decided he wanted to create a wine that was white, and then also bottled it in clear Bordeaux-style glass, thus showing off its golden colour.

But Manlio's real find came at the end of the '70s when he wanted to try and make a sparkling Ribolla Gialla ... At first, he tried first Charmet (like Prosecco) then traditional method, but neither worked out so well for him. So he decided to create his own technique for making the wine. Long fermentation in horizontal autoclaves, followed by 12 months refinement in bottle. The long fermentation can take up to 30 months, which is rare for an autoclave / Charmat method sparkling wine. The method has now become called the Collavini Method.

At the time Ribolla Gialla was not a grape that had a big following, Manlio decided to allocate 4.5 hectares of his family property to this grape and use it for his sparkling wine. It has turned into a great success.

Today, Collavini has 170 hectares, produces about a million and a half bottles annually of which 200,000 are Ribolla Gialla. Distribution for their wines began in Canada and Argentina, but now 50% of the production is exported into 50 markets around the world.

There is also some question as to why the winery's logo is a dachshund. Turns out, Manlio was very fond of his first dachshund, he even named it Ribolla. As tribute to the dog, after its passing, he decided to put the dog on the Pinot Grigio label, this ended up being a genius marketing plan as it facilitated recognition in the wine, and people wanted to try the dachshund wine.

Today, we tried six of the wines from Collavini, including the dachshund wine, to discover their love of indigenous grapes, both red and white.

2018 Ribolla Gialla - Spumante Brut Millesimato Ribolla
Collavini has been making bubbles for the past 50 years, this Ribolla has been part of that making for 45 of those. The wine sees some time in wood, and is usually 5 years from vintage date before release. The wine still retains a lovely freshness, despite the long time it spends in a cellar. Bready for sure, but also with some lovely lemon pith/zest, honey almonds, and a nice crisp/mineral finish. The acidity absolutely rocks.  (****)

Collavini PG2021 Villa Canlunga - Pinot Grigio DOC Collio
Made from 100% Pinot Grigio, their biggest market is the LCBO in Canada, which they have been in for 40 years. "We were before our time," says blank blank blank... And it ranks within the top three Pinot Grigios sold in Ontario. This is the dachshund wine mentioned earlier, it is now been put into a Burgundy-style bottle instead of the traditional Bordeaux bottle to make it distinctive from other big brands lurking on shelves. Crisp, clean, bright, yellow fruit and citrus. Pleasant with slight pithy note and a nice long finish.  (*** ½+)

2019 Broy Bianco Collio
This wine is made up of 50% Friulano, 30% Chardonnay and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. The Chardonnay and Friulano are partially dried, while the Sauvignon Blanc is harvested a few days earlier. It is then blended together and fermented partly in stainless steel and partly in barrel. There's a subtle creaminess along the mid palate; plus lime/wax/ and interesting acidity. The wine only spends a short time in the wood which adds the spicy character and complexity. This is a lovely wine.  (****)

2020 Pucino - Refosco del Peduncolo Rosso
This is an indigenous grape to the region, which has historical references to wines made in the area at Roman times. There's no wood aging, and it needs a chill. Carbonic maceration is used in the making of this wine which shows fresh cherry, blackberry and decent acidity.  (*** ½)

2012 Pignolo Pignolo
One of those "fantasy" wines that people talk about, although it is also named after the Pignolo grape. In 2009 it was their first vintage, and only 10 to 15 producers were making wine from this grape.  It is interesting to note that Sagrantino probably takes longer to become drinkable then Pignolo. This is an amazing wine, really pretty for starters. The nose is alluring with blackberry, black, cherry, cinnamon and spice. It's dense and delicious, complex and rich, with a tannin note to the finish that does not seem to get in the way of your enjoyment of this wine.  (**** ½)


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