Le Vigne di Zamo Colli Orientali del Friuli Rosazzo Pignolo 2004

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Friulian wines, though famous around the world, rarely see the light of day in British Columbia. And I’m talking about the whites. Friulian red wine? Forget it.

This oversight is part of the province’s general lackluster Italian wine selection. With the exception of a few key importers such as International Cellars, Trialto and Sedimentary Wines, there is little beyond the standard being brought into the province.

Though a fantastic wine, I don’t expect many importers will take up the torch for this rare Friulian red, but nonetheless it is important for British Columbians to know wines like this exist.

Can Friuli Do Red?

Le Vigne di Zamo was founded in 1978 and soon gained a reputation not just for white wine but also for top quality Friulian red. The winery is located in Rocca Bernarda, which is a historic zone at the heart of Colli Orientali del Friuli.

While red wine from Friuli may not be for all, I am a huge fan of the best of these wines, which in my experience are made from low yielding carefully farmed vines with the indigenous grapes (though there are some great wines made from Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) at top sites where they can ripen well. The wines are always distinct, very dry, long, spicy and herbal (in a good, ripe, way). They offer what I would consider to be a fascinating amalgam of a Loire-like focus on aroma with unobtrusive power that somehow hides in the background.

This wine, made from the rare and indigenous Pignolo grape, shares dark cherry aromas with the likes of Brunello di Montalcino. It’s too bad there are so few serious wines made from this grape – perhaps something that will be remedied with time. Zamo is one of the original revivalists of the grape, working with Walter Filiputti to restore the grape from a couple vines leaning against an old abbey wall. After a dispute with Filputti the Pignolo made from this abbey’s fruit went into bottlings by Filiputti rather than Zamo. Zamo now sources the grapes from their own vineyards in Rosazzo. Perhaps it is not a surprise, but Pierluigi Zamo believes that Pignolo is the best red grape in Friuli and is the region’s best chance at making renowned red wines.

As for the wine, it is an exceptional bottle of red, filled with rich modern cherry fruit and spices. The powerful fruity nose gives way to a very dry palate and finish of savory spice. I can highly recommend this wine both as delicious and as an education on how good indigenous red wines from Friuli can be.

$60 at Eataly, Chicago


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