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The wines of  Ronco del Gelso, Isonzo del Friuli, Italy

The Friuli DOC of Isonzo (northeast Italy) is on the up, with an influx of young, ambitious growers fresh from viticultural college determined to exploit the quality potential of their vineyards. One such grower is Giorgio Badin, at his family estate Ronco del Gelso (which translates ‘Hill of the Mulberry tree’). He’s steadily building a reputation for his wines, and as this tasting demonstrated, it’s a reputation that is richly deserved. I was very excited by these profound wines, as my notes probably show.

The vineyards occupy some 15 ha near Cormons on the right bank of the Isonzo river. The vineyard area continues to expand as finances allow, and in 2001 a new winery was built. Within Isonzo the area around Giorgio’s vineyards is recognized as a special one, and from 2002 it will have its own micro-DOC, Gesimis. The climate here is ideal for quality grape growing with cold air from Central Europe meeting warm Adriatic winds, creating temperature variations favouring slow even ripening. The soil is also ideal, with deep calcareous beds of well-drained gravel known locally as ‘ponka’. In bond prices are given in brackets after each note. UK agent is Ockse Wines (tel 020 8691 2846; e-mail rjc@ocksewines.net). 

Pinot Grigio Sot Lis Rivis 2000 Isonzo del Friuli
From a single-vineyard, Sot Lis Rivis, this is barrel-fermented in new oak. The nose displays a sophisticated creamy, toasty edge with a distinctive herbiness. The rich, herby nutty palate has a full texture and good concentration. The oak is well integrated. Very good/excellent (£69.00 per 12)

Tocai Friulano 2000 Isonzo del Friuli
Deep yellow colour. Distinctly herby, straw tinged nose leads to a rich, herby palate with a lovely nutty texture. Pure, clean fruit flavours here in a restrained style. Very good/excellent (£59.50 per 12)

Sauvignon 2000 Isonzo del Friuli
Distinctively savoury and herby nose with a pronounced grassiness. Rich textured palate is wonderfully herby and intense with good minerality. Lovely and well above the norm for this grape. Very good/excellent (£65.50)

Pinot Bianco 2001 Isonzo del Friuli
Very appealing nose: rich, herby and with an attractive spicy minerality. The rich savoury palate displays vivid, fresh fruit characters and a nutty edge. Nicely poised. Very good/excellent (£30.50 per 6)

Riesling 2001 Isonzo del Friuli
Harvested late at yields of 45 hl/ha. Full, expressive crisp lemony nose with herby complexity. The palate is crisp with a good concentration of attractive lemony fruit. Very good+ (£31.90 per 6)

Latimis 2000 Isonzo del Friuli
A blend of late-picked Tocai Friulano, Pinot Bianco and Riesling. Deep yellow colour. Very rich intense herbal nose is savoury and full. Huge concentration on the rich-textured palate, which stays fresh despite the weight of rich, herby fruit. Very good/excellent (£61.00 per 12)

Merlot 1999, Isonzo del Friuli
Aged in new French barriques for 12 months. Very deep red/purple colour. Lovely rich berry fruit on the nose with a subtle leady edge and some sweet spicy oak. The palate is chunky, concentrated and savoury with a chocolatey richness to the fruit and good acidity. Deliciously rich and with potential. Very good+ (£91.50 per 12)  

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wines tasted July 2002; article published October 2002