by Fred McMillin
for February 25, 1997
A Bright White from Italy
Prologue: The three Pighin brothers, owners of the largest private wine estate in the Friuli district of northeastern Italy, export about 600,000 bottles a year. They are one of the chief architects of Friuli's reputation for lively, fresh dry whites... from "The Slow Food Guide to the Wines of the World."
The Rest of the Story: Julius Caesar may have been the first big name to taste the wines of Friuli (free-oo-lee). We know Caesar sampled the wines of the regions he conquered, and Pliny the Elder praised some of the district's whites. In any case, 2,000 years later quality was in a slump until the 1970's. Then modernization started (cold fermentation to increase fruit flavors, etc.). That's when the Pighins saw the potential and founded their winery (1973)- To check their progress, try their 1995 100% Pinot Grigio (gree-zhee-oh). It has plenty of pungent character... closer to Sauvignon Blanc than Chardonnay. Pliny would be pleased.
1995 Pinot Grigio, Friuli, Italy
Postscript: Damn the phylloxera, full speed ahead! Enologist Livio Pighin is growing three acres of vines without grafting onto phylloxera-resistant American rootstock. Last we heard the vines are starting to produce some good wines. Keep your fingers crossed.
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