Spotlight on Indigenous Italian White Wine: Gravner Breg 2004
At some point we in the wine business have to acknowledge that labelling a wine ‘orange’ is about as helpful as saying ‘white’ or ‘red’. It serves a very imprecise macro function, but says nothing about style, terroir or quality. Thus, insofar as I can call Gravner’s Breg the best Orange wine I’ve ever tasted, it says little about why the wine is of interest.
Gravner is one of the most important and influential wine makers in the world. His wines can now trace lineage well beyond northeast Italy and neighbouring Slovenia to California, Australia and South Africa. California’s most important cuttings of Ribolla Gialla come from Gravner’s vineyards in Friuli.
Gravner is an intensivist. That is, he looks for the most intense experiences, expressions, and qualities for his wines. He constantly tests and rotates parcels, divesting some of his holdings he deems inferior to find greater parcels. He has played with fermentation from oak to his famous use of amphorae, but never rests on one particular formula until he finds what he believes to be the apex of the experience he is trying to deliver.
What I love about Gravner is his honesty about his journey through wine and food. He describes a time when he used modern controlled fermentation, steel over wood, etc. He also talks about technology, saying he is repeatedly astonished at what humans have accomplished. But, he says, when it comes to wine, it is a food, and like all foods it ends up in the stomach. What the stomach needs is three things: yeasts, bacteria and enzymes. He says once he realized that he decided he would never again remove these things from his wines. It is a potent lesson that applies to most of today’s food culture – we have lost the true healthfulness of foods to mediates corporate experiences and processing technology.
From Orange to Wine
The Breg is a powerful wine and an utterly delicious one. Made with Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Italico, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio, it is the quintessence of how describing a wine as orange does little to convey its meaning. Nuts, orchard fruits, tannins, massive fruity power. It is easy to flip out when tasting this, as I did.
A perfect pairing with orecchiette tossed in fresh BC fava beans, guanciale, parsley and white wine.
Why is this wine in my ‘indigenous Italian white’ spotlight? It is something you can only find in this small corner of Italy – there truly is nothing like it anywhere else.
“Wine must be good, it doesn’t need any addition to its name.” ~Josko Gravner
~$100 at various private shops in Vancouver