The Venica Six-Pack: notes on the wines


Above: When I visited the Venica & Venica winery back in September of 2010, Giampaolo explained to me how he uses these “balloons” to collect the CO2 naturally produced by fermentation. He reserves the CO2 in these receptacles and then uses it to “cover” the wine when the wine has been racked to sealed stainless-steel vats after fermentation. By pumping small amount of CO2 into the vat from above, he ensures that the wine has no contact with oxygen during aging before bottling. This helps to maintain the freshness of the wines and it also makes it possible for him to bottle the wines with minimal addition of sulfites. I had read about winemakers using this system in France, but this was the first time I’d ever seen it in Italy.

The Venica Six-Pack

Pinot Grigio 2009
Malvasia 2009
Friulano Ronco delle Cime 2009
Sauvignon Ronco delle Mele 2009 2010
Balbium 2009 (two bottles)


$168 (plus tax and shipping)

Above: Did you know that Pinot Grigio (Gray Pinot) is actually a light-skin red grape and not a white grape? That’s what Pinot Grigio looks like during and after fermentation before Giampaolo filters the wine. (That’s the 2010 Pinot Grigio in the glass.)

Pinot Grigio

Giampaolo’s Pinot Grigio is simply one of the best you’ll ever taste. This is not the light, insipid Pinot Grigio that Americans have been taught to like by behemoth marketing campaigns that bottle Veneto-grown Pinot Grigio hundreds of miles away in Trentino intended solely for an American audience (nor is it Pinot Grigio grown “under the Tuscan Sun”). You’ll find Venica’s signature freshness and genuine fruit flavors (white stone) in this wine and more body than you may be accustomed to and you’ll note that it has a wonderful pink hue, a classic characteristic of Pinot Grigio from Collio (imparted by gentle skin contact).


Of all the grapes historically cultivated in Collio in Friuli, Malvasia is one of the most expressive in my opinion. While Malvasia is planted throughout Italy (and Europe, for that matter), here it takes on a brightness of fruit and a clarity and focus that I find unique with respect to its cousins in other parts of Italy. In Venica’s Malvasia, you’ll find more minerality than in the Pinot Grigio and apricot and peach flavors (as opposed to the white stone fruit in the Pinot Grigio). Of all of the whites in this flight, this is the most versatile in my view, straddling the cusp of aperitif and first course.

Friulano Ronco delle Cime (Tocai Friulano)

With Giampaolo’s Friulano, we really start to see the nobility of his family’s legacy in white wine begin to emerge. The Ronco delle Cime (literally, the hilltop of the peaks) is one of Venica’s top growing sites and combines the classic ponca subsoils (the unique sandy marl — flysch — Eocene seabed, typical of Collio). Here, the wine’s minerality plays gorgeously against its aromatic character (think grass and freshly cut straw) and more weight in the mouth with respect to the previous two entries in this flight. In my view, this is a benchmark expression of Friuli and Friulano (the grape variety).

Sauvignon [Blanc] Ronco delle Mele

My friend and Master Sommelier Bobby Stuckey likes to call Sauvignon Blanc “Friuli’s secret weapon.” If you follow along here or at my personal blog, you know that I generally avoid drinking international varieties grown on Italian soil. Friuli’s Sauvignon Blanc is one of the few exceptions for this rule of mine. Here, the variety’s aromatic character takes on a much more elegant note than, say, the classic Sauvignon Blanc of Sancerre (which I also love). The Ronco delle Mele (Hilltop of the Apples) is Venica’s top growing site and it is reserved for Sauvignon Blanc. The hilltop is so steep and the drainage so strong that Giampaolo’s grandfather planted apple trees on the slope to stop rain erosion (I’ve been there with Giampaolo). As a result the vines are able to thrive despite the harsh growing conditions. The resulting richness in the fruit delivers one of the greatest expressions of Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever tasted. When Tracie P and I visited Giampaolo in February, we drank the 1998 (below). It was incredible… One of the best wines of that trip.


I’ve included two bottles of Giampaolo’s Calabrian Magliocco in this flight because, as always, I envision the flight as a dinner party for six persons. With this summer offering, you have 4 wonderful and truly delightful white wines — each with different weight and expressions elegance but all marked by their freshness — and then two bottles of the Magliocco (red) to go with your summer grill. So little of Giampaolo’s Magliocco is made on his family’s olive oil estate in Calabria that I didn’t even get to taste the wine until I got back to the States (California is one of the few states to get an allocation, btw). This wine is chewy and packed with earth and red and black fruit. And even in spite of the hot growing zone, it has that zinging acidity that I look for in all the wines we drink. Personally, I can’t drink enough of it… and so it seemed right to throw in two bottles to round this six-pack off.

I’ll be delivering and shipping the wines next week. Thanks for reading.


Btw, did yall hear that Tracie P and I are going to be parents?
Here’s the announcement…

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