The why, the what and the how of...
Enzo Pontoni is one of Italy’s cult properties and crafts some of the most astonishing and monumental wines consumers are likely to come across.
Miani (Enzo’s mother’s maiden name), an unassuming estate located in the DOC of Colli Orientali del Friuli, near the village of Buttrio, has 13 hectares of organic vineyards spread across multiple varietals. These include Friulano, Malvasia, Ribolla Gialla, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Refosco. Density is high – each hectare shoehorns in almost 7,000 vines. Even with the high-density of the vineyards, yields are kept low at around 20 hectolitres per hectare. A miniscule 8,000 bottles are produced each year, and only if Enzo believes the quality of the juice is good enough. In 2002, for example, no wine was released – the harvest was simply not up to Pontoni’s excruciatingly high standards.
Pontoni took over the family vineyards after his father, Nello, passed away. This reclusive maverick owns a mere four hectares of vineyards and rents another nine. He works in unassuming cellars where he transforms his minuscule yields of a dozen different varieties into complex, taut and impeccably balanced wines. Pontoni’s philosophy quite simply relies on old vines, very low yields and an obsessive dedication to the land.
All wines are barrel fermented, of which about 40% go into new French oak. Processes in the cellar remain rustic – discarding malolactic fermentation (except for the Chardonnay) and unconcerned with temperature control. Wines are bottled per vineyard to highlight the subtle changes from one to the next. It’s not just his whites that are worth seeking out – he makes two Merlots, “Filip” (from Rosazzo) and “Buri” (from Buttrio) of which the former is generally rounder and more approachable as opposed to the Buri which is often firmer, more structured and complex. In addition, he makes a wine from the local Refosco grape called “Calvari”, aged in 100% new wood – this too has carved out cult status.
These are arguably Italy’s greatest white wines. If you can find them, buy them.
“Enzo Pontoni literally lives in his vineyards, at home only for lunch and dinner. I can’t remember many wines that I would rather have on my dining table. The wines are among the best that have ever been produced anywhere.” – Robert Parker