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A Sauvignon Blanc That Couples Zing with Finesse
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Dec 4, 2012
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Russiz Superiore, Collio (Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy) Sauvignon 2011
(Dalla Terra, $24):  I have a love-hate relationship with Sauvignon Blanc. I love the spirited personality that this grape can bring to its wines but I hate so many of the domestic examples, cosmetized by exaggerated ripeness and high alcohol, that parade under the Sauvignon Blanc name today.  Most of my favorite Sauvignon Blancs come from the classic regions for that grape:  The eastern Loire Valley, the Graves and Pessac-Leognan districts of Bordeaux, and the northeastern part of Italy.

This racy Sauvignon is from the Friuli region in Italy’s extreme northeast.  This is the region that makes most of the finest Sauvignon wines in Italy.  Russiz Superiore, the estate where the grapes for this wine grow, is an historic property in the heart of the Collio DOC district.  Collio is considered one of Friuli’s two finest wine areas because of its hills, its climate-tempering proximity to the Adriatic Sea, just 12 miles away, and the protective influence of the Pre-Alps in the north.  The Russiz Superiore estate in Collio dates to the 13th century; the Roberto Felluga family, makers of Marco Felluga wines, has owned the property for about 50 years.

Most Sauvignons from Friuli are un-oaked, crisp and assertive in flavor.  This wine diverges from that model slightly, resulting in a more richly textured and weightier wine with more complexity of flavor than a standard Sauvignon from the region.  The wine is fermented mainly in stainless steel, but ten percent of the juice ferments in barrel and ages there for eight months.  Also, the juice undergoes some skin contact prior to pressing and fermentation.  The skin contact enhances the aromas and flavors of the wine, while the small amount of barrel fermentation enriches the wine’s texture and weight.

When you smell this wine, you’ll likely notice a rich aroma, less penetrating than you might expect from a Sauvignon Blanc but more nuanced, with floral notes and a fragrant fruitiness that suggests citrus (grapefruit, but also lemon confit), with accents of fresh sage.

In your mouth, the wine is dry, creamy in texture, and nearly full-bodied, with good concentration of fruit character.  At the heart of all these soft and rich impressions, the zingy nature of Sauvignon Blanc peeks through. Typical of Sauvignon, the wine has crisp acidity that gives the wine depth and drives the taste across the whole length of your mouth; it also has fresh herbal and tart citrus flavors.  (The winery’s tasting notes mention “green pepper,” another typical Sauvignon character.)  This wine is varietally true to the Sauvignon Blanc grape but it cloaks the wild, exuberant personality of the grape with refinement.

The colder that you serve the wine and the narrower your glass, the more that you will taste that core of raciness; a larger glass or a less cold temperature brings out the combination of richness and zing.

90 Points