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Modern, But Not Cookie-Cutter
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Jun 29, 2010
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Marco Felluga, Venezia Giulia IGT (Italy), Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso “Ronco dei Moreri” 2007 (Dalla Terra, $20):  Have you noticed that I am an Italophile?  Searching for inspiration for this column, I blind-tasted, from California, six 2008 Chardonnays and six prestigious reds, mainly Cabernets and one Syrah.  Good wines, all -- but none of them struck that chord in me that says:  I really want to tell others about this wine.  Then I blind-tasted this red from Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia region.  It whispered to me, “Welcome home.”

What resonated for me in this wine is its style: that it is soft of texture and flavorful of ripe fruit, while retaining depth, moderate weight and some earthiness.  It gives us wine lovers the ripeness and richness we have come to expect in most red wines without selling out to cookie-cutter international styling.

The Marco Felluga winery is named for the grandfather of the current Marco Felluga, who founded the winery at the turn of the last century.  The contemporary Marco Felluga, now an octogenarian, championed the development of Friuli’s Collio DOC zone and is generally regarded as one of Italy’s great wine visionaries.  His children, Roberto and Alessandra, now run the Marco Felluga winery and its sister operation, the Russiz Superiore estate.  In simple terms, the Russiz Superiore wines are pricier and more ambitious, while the Marco Felluga wines are less expensive.

The grape variety that makes this wine is one of Italy’s many fairly obscure varieties.  It is a specialty of the Friuli region in northeastern Italy.  More than one sub-variety of Refosco exists but this is the finest, named for its red stem, or peduncle.  Refosco gives wines that are medium- to full-bodied, with velvety texture and some spiciness.

The fairly deep purple color of this wine sets you up for richness, ripeness and youthfulness, all of which the wine delivers.  The rather intense aroma suggests tart cherry, blackberry, spiciness and a slight floral character.  It’s when the wine hits your palate that you realize that it is not a generic modern red.  It is dry and medium-plus bodied with an upfront hit of ripe fruit and softness, but it is not dense in texture, not extremely extractive and not particularly oaky.  You can taste the fruity, spicy, floral notes and sense an undercurrent of delicate tannin behind the wine’s ripe, seductive softness.  It has weight, richness, smoothness and flavor -- prerequisites for any red wine today that might appeal to the majority of wine drinkers -- but it is dry, it is well-balanced (13.5% alcohol) and it has something personal to say.

This wine is completely delightful now and I predict it to remain in top form for the next five years or so.  Its fruitiness will suit it well to grilled foods and even slightly spicy dishes, and yet it is not too fruity to be incongruous with earthy dishes such as lentils or portabellas.  This is a delicious, flexible red wine and a great value at $20.

90 Points