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Sake in London

Sake brewers in London for the annual  International Wine Competition Awards.

Rooted deep in the Friulian Slovenian border in Northern Italy the Ribolla Gialla grape makes incredibly delicious wines. Its various methods of production make this white varietal behave with such elegance at times, intellectual, thought-evoking and even rich and powerful on some occasions.

In California we are gifted with a small but fierce number of Ribolla Gialla plantings that have captivated a number of growers who create beautiful pieces.

To celebrate the aforementioned, a proper gathering has taken place for nearly a decade. The hosts are acclaimed vignerons Steve and Jill Matthiasson, who graciously plan and execute one of my all-time favorite reunions.

Once a year, a number of producers meet to share their unique wines and their experimental findings and most importantly learn from each other.

Each year there are a number of surprises and new projects as well as updates on sources and new techniques, and this year was no exception.

Without further ado, here the findings of this year’s Ribolla Fest.

The first of the wines tasted was the Grassi Ribolla Gialla Sparkling made by Miguel Luna. This first attempt at this style was simply exhilarating.

Produced with interesting methods, this golden celebratory wine is full of fresh-cut green pineapple and lemon zest, subliminally rounded with a rich and nutty kiss achieved by blending some of the 2010 Ribolla Gialla.

“This was a small trial produced from the first crop of the new plantings at the Grassi Estate” Miguel said. “We hope to produce it again next year with the intent to share some with the market.”

I sure hope so.

Next up, in my opinion one of the godfathers of Friulian whites in California, Dan Petrosky shared his 2018 Annia White Blend commemorative of the 10th anniversary of Massican. The blend of Tocai Friuliano, Ribolla Gialla and Chardonnay is simply memorable. Chamomile, citrus and crushed minerals dance in unison creating a consistently crushable wine.

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“Ribolla Gialla performs great when it’s under 50% of the blend” Dan said based on his experience.

The tasting followed with a great surprise, a brand that I’ve followed and enjoyed since inception: Benevolent Neglect showcasing their first attempt at Ribolla Gialla.

Partners Matt Nagy(winemaker) and Ben Brenner (the ying to the yang) didn’t flinch at the opportunity. “Steve Matthiasson called us and asked if we wanted some Ribolla and we couldn’t resist,” Matt said.

Matt’s approach, a Slovenian vessel and topped with a tad of Greco, created wine you talk about for days. Complex and layered with peach-skin texture and a bright pop of Meyer lemon peel.

We then tasted Cowan Cellar’s Ribolla Gialla, which was both crisp and mouthwatering but sadly the last vintage produced as they decided to close the winery chapter.

Rhyme Cellars’ long-skin contact and bold Ribolla came next with an unapologetic and distinctive wine reminiscent of chamomile tea, graham cracker and enough tannins to tackle a steak. A wine worth looking for.

From Arnot Roberts we tasted two versions side by side. First was the 2011 produced in Amphora with a nutty-driven, yogurt note. The much brighter 2018 Ribolla Gialla version had an electric profile full of bitter greens and echinacea.

To button up the tasting portion, Jill and Steve shared two of their sought-after wines. The first one, a wine that has been produced since 2005, was simply called Matthiasson White. A Sauvignon Blanc based blend with Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friuliano that does the trick every time. Crisp, exotic and captivating.

The last of the flight one of the most emblematic styles of Ribolla Gialla, along the lines of icons from the old world like Gravner or Paolo Bea. A wine deliberately made in an oxidative style, unapologetic with notes of almond skin, apple cider and wild forest flor, simply unstoppable.

No doubt Ribolla Gialla is here to stay with its multiple chameleonic skills in the hands of skilled vineyard owners and winemakers, never ceases to amaze me.

Until next week, cheers!

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Eduardo can be reached at eduardo@sakedrinker.com.

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