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Italy’s white wine arsenal. Friuli.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia as a wine region may not be a household name, but when taking a closer look at the white wine made here by the likes of Ronco del Gnemiz, it should be a reference point for wine lovers. Between vineyard and bottle, nothing is sacrificed in the name of trends or marketability. Ronco del Gnemiz demonstrates tireless dedication to the environment and to honest winemaking. 

Dear Reader,

Let us first get the lay of the land before we get onto the wines and the people behind them. The region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia can be found in the top-right corner of Italy, between Austria, Slovenia, the Adriatic Sea and Veneto. With as many as ten DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) and four DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) areas, there is generally not much wine at all coming out of them – not higher up on the quality ladder anyway.

Our focus here today is on the area of Colli Orientali del Friuli. The likes of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and the indigenous Friulano grow very well on the hills (“colli”), which are protected by the Alps to the North and exposed to gentle sea breezes to the South.

Image credit: Vineyards.com

“Talk about tasting terroir. My conversation and tasting with Christian Patat of Ronco del Gnemiz left me wishing that I was in Friuli, boots on the ground and digging my hands through the ponca soils…the style of Ronco del Gnemiz is one of transparency”
Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Ronco del Gnemiz

Founded by the Palazzolo family in 1964, the winery of Ronco del Gnemiz presides over a mere 6.5 hectares of vineyards near Udine. Serena Palazzolo took over from her father in the early 1990s and today, she and her husband Christian Patat produce, on average, a modest 15,000 bottles a year. The work carried out by Serena, Christian and her team both in the vineyards and in the cellar earned Ronco del Gnemiz certification from the Regional Agency for Rural Development of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (ERSA) for high ecological standards. 

The white wines produced at Ronco del Gnemiz’s small winery are beautifully aromatic and, on the palate, show balance, texture and layers of enticing flavour. Once picked, grapes are pressed very gently so as to preserve their natural characteristics. The Chardonnays see a bit of oak (fermentation and malolactic in 228-liter barrique), but other than this, when orientating yourself with the range of white wines from Ronco del Gnemiz, the most important factor to consider is the vineyard. What you smell and taste really does speak of the vineyard site. The Friulano “San Zuan”, for example, is a bit more mineral in character when drinking it next to the Friulano “Buri Bellaria”, which is rounder and exudes riper yellow fruit. There are marked differences between each wine and it comes down to vine age, elevation and soil type. Try them all if you can – it’s well worth it.

While not very much, some red wine is made in Friuli and from Ronco and we have a tiny amount of their Rosso “Dott. Palazzolo”, which is a Bordeaux-style blend made exclusively from estate-grown fruit. The wine will benefit from another 1-2 years in bottle to fully reveal the wonderful individuality of these varietals growing in this region and being guided into bottle by Ronco del Gnemiz.

Ronco del Gnemiz 2019 whites
6-bottle mixed case

R 3,200
per 6-bottle case

Only 16 mixed cases available

Sauvignon “Serena Palazzolo e Figli” 2019 x 3 bottles
This is made from grapes sourced from vineyards, mostly from Buttrio. It’s a beautiful wine to enjoy young, with its zesty fruit and vibrant acidity.
[Not yet tasted]

Chardonnay “Sol” 2019 x 1 bottle
“There are masses of dusty dried flowers, crushed apple and stone lifting up from the 2019 Chardonnay Sol. This holds your attention firm, with a sizzling display of zesty acids, salty minerals and sour orchard fruits. What the 2019 lacks in body, it makes up for with its high energy and cheek-puckering tension, which leaves the palate feeling completely refreshed and just begging for another sip, as pretty inner florals linger long. The Sol is produced from sixty-five-year-old vines within the estate vineyards.”
92 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Friulano “San Zuan” 2019 x 1 bottle
“A bouquet showing young mango, nectarine and dusty yellow florals creates an elegant introduction to the 2019 Friulano San Zuan. This gains in richness and savory depths with time in the glass. It’s silky, weighty yet poised, with sour citrus opening the experience, giving way to white orchard fruits, as masses of stony minerality collect toward the close. That said, there’s a sensation of opulence here, even as the San Zuan tapers off with mouthwatering salty tension. The 2019 could use another year to fully come together; but once it does, it should be absolutely irresistible. The San Zuan is produced from three separate parcels of old vines (sixty years and older) within the estate vineyards.”
92 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Sauvignon “Lozeta” 2019 x 1 bottle
“Crushed stone, candied lemon peels, green apple and dusty dried flowers all rise up effortlessly from the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Lozeta. It’s silky-smooth, almost oily in feel, yet there’s an energy and precision within that excites the senses as saline-minerals add tension over a dense core of ripe stone fruits. The cheeks pucker with youthful tension as tart citrus and inner florals linger long. The 2019 Lozeta could use a year or two of cellaring to reveal all of its charms.”
92 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Le Bouquet des Garrigues
6-bottle mixed case

The below wines are made in small volumes so while there isn’t too much to go around, we strongly recommend getting a bottle or two of some/all of them to enjoy.

Only 18 bottles of each wine available

Sauvignon “Salici” 2019 | R 575 per bottle
“The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Salici lifts up with an enticing display of mineral-infused peach, dusty yellow flowers and a hint of honied almonds. It’s silky and round in feel, caressing the palate with ripe orchard fruits balanced by a wave of zesty citrus and salty acidity. There’s a bit of a tropical touch that lingers through the long and refreshing finale.”
90 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Sauvignon “Peri” 2019 | R 795 per bottle
“The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Péri is intense. It’s deep and bassy at first, lifting up with a pungent yet truly seductive display of crushed stone, wild herbs and moist earth, lifted by hints of zested lemon and yellow florals. The textures are soft and pliant, yet they give way to nervous acidity and notes of sour citrus, which creates a sensation of inner tension. This becomes salty, bristling with saturating mineral tones offset by ripe apples throughout the long and cheek-puckering finale. A minute goes by, and you can not only still taste but also feel the 2019 Péri on your palate. It’s quite a wine. The Péri hails from the oldest Sauvignon vines (about 45 years old) within the estate vineyards, planted in marl and calcareous soils.”
– 93 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Sauvignon “Sol” 2019 | R 795 per bottle
“The 2019 Sauvignon Blanc Sol is a bit more extroverted and fruit-focused than the Péri, but that’s not to say that it lacks at all in character and verve. Dried apricot, peach and vanilla bean gain further depths with a spritz of lime and hints of wild herbs. It’s soft, almost oily in texture, offset by notes of tart green apple, ginger and savory spice, creating an expression of contrasts. Hints of kiwi, sour melon and saline-mineral tones linger impressively long while residual acids slowly fizzle out. The Sol is sourced from a lower-elevation parcel in the estate vineyards, planted in rocky, calcareous soils.”
91 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Friulano “Buri Bellaria” 2019 | R 795 per bottle
“The 2019 Friulano Buri Bellaria isn’t quite ready to reveal all of its charms, opening with an alluring yet understated bouquet of ripe pears, apples, hints of mulling spice and dusty florals. It’s an opulent and soothing expression, coasting across a medium-bodied frame with ripe orchard fruits and a hint of custard that comes forward toward the close. There’s a density here that masks a more structured expression beneath, with residual acids which maintain an energetic feel. You can certainly enjoy the 2019 now, but the best is yet to come. Give the 2019 a year or two of cellaring, and watch it shine. The Buri Bellaria hails [from] a vineyard which is managed by the Palazzolo family in Buttrio, and it shows a fruitier and more exotic expression than the estate bottling.”
91 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Rosso “Dott. Palazzolo” 2018 | R 895 per bottle
“Crushed stone minerality meets floral undergrowth, dried blackberries and a hint of animal musk to create a beguiling display on the 2018 Dott. Palazzolo Rosso. This is silky and savoury, with a sapidity that makes you think more of food than wine, as tart wild berries and spices give way to mounting tannins and herbal tones. Inner violets, black currants and hints of sour citrus all resonate through the finale, along with a tug of structural heft that just begs for another year or two of cellaring. Very nice. The Dott. Palazzolo Rosso is a blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot, all from estate vineyards.”
92 points | Eric Guido for Vinous | January 2021

Food Pairing Suggestions

In general, these white wines from Ronco del Gnemiz will pair well with dishes which incorporate an element of acidity, or which are quite earthy/herbaceous.

Suggestions of dishes to enjoy with the white wines include prosciutto, baked or sautéed fish/shellfish, grilled fish, sushi, baked/roasted chicken, turkey or pork and all with an addition of citrus. For the wines with a bit more texture, pair them with light curry dishes and spicy Mexican or Thai inspired dishes – it’s easy to make these vegetarian too. Another vegetarian option is baked polenta with a rich cheese like gorgonzola and some mushrooms.

For the cheese fans, these white wines go very well with soft, creamy cheeses like Boursin, feta, goat’s cheese and harder cheeses like Gouda.

The Cabernet Franc-dominated 2018 red from Ronco del Gnemiz will go very well with roasts (chicken, pork, beef), grilled (or on the braai) beef, game, lamb and sausage. For after a main meal, you can also enjoy this wine with a selection of hard cheeses.

Many thanks.

Kind regards,
Simon Crawley
Account Manager | WSET – Level 3