French varietals in Italy seem to be a modern issue as the press concentrates on the blending of Bordeaux varietals with sangiovese in Tuscany and new chardonnay releases from the Sicily. However, in many regions French varietals have been in place since the end of the 1800s when many vineyards where replanted after being devastated by the phylloxera root louse . In particular, Friuli Venezia Giulia saw an influx of new plantings. In Friuli these varieties have been established so long that they are almost indigenous and no one locally thinks of them as "French".
Not only French vines immigrated to Friuli. In 1869 Théodore de La Tour selected the hills of Collio for his home and winery. There along with his Austrian wife, Elvine Ritter (Friuli was part of Austria in those days) he not only brought vines from his native France, but the most advanced winemaking concepts of the day. This was the estate that was to become Villa Russiz, one of Italy's finest producers of white wines. De la Tour passed away in 1894 and his dedication to quality was continued by his widow, Elvine, until the ravages of World War I forced her to abandon the property. After the war, Adele Cerruti acquired the estate and created a children's institute which still exists today. Villa Russiz is still a non-profit organization and the charitable activities of the children's institute continue.
Under the guidance of general manager and enologist Gianni Menotti, the wines of Villa Russiz have continued to go from strength to strength and in 2003 the estate was awarded the prestigious Gambero Rosso award for the best white wine in Italy for their 2000 Chardonnay Gräfin de La Tour. Named for the estate's founder, the Villa Russiz De La Tour single vineyard selections are among Italy's finest wines.
The grapes for the Sauvignon de la Tour are selected from a small, prime vineyard location at the very top of a hill overlooking the winery. After a very gentle pressing, this wine ages ten months on the lees in stainless steel tanks. The ripe fruit flavors gain layers of complexity from this lees contact and the substantial weight of the wine is carried by a racy acidity that will seduce the most ardent Sancerre or Pouilly Fume lover. In all regards, this is an outstanding white wine and one of the finest sauvignon blanc wines I have tasted.
Tasting Notes: Bright light gold with green highlights. The aromas radiate out of the glass and are full of lycee, tart pear and mineral notes laced with a smoky tang. Full, but lively on the palate with fantastic creamy sweet fruit that is pungent and dry at the same moment. All of this is held together by a energetic acid rush. The finish is almost unending and very lively with bright acid and citrus carrying the ripe pear and apricot flavors and hard mineral textures. An outstanding wine.
A Neil Empson Selection - Imported by Empson USA