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Eduardo Dingler, Wine to Sake: Tastings that celebrate Friuli

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The following chapter of my Friulian adventure last fall included a rare tasting at Petrussa: a retrospective flight of the indigenous and celebrated Schippettino di Prepotto (also known as Ribolla Nera) dating back to 1998.

The Petrussa Estate is the life work of two brothers Paolo and Gianni Petrussa, who have been crafting exceptional wines celebrating Friulian culture and terroir since 1989.

The tasting was breathtaking with several favorites amongst the peers that put an emphasis on vintages and minor winemaking nuances to create complex world-class wines.

The tasting yielded some memorable results, which highlighted the virtues of Schioppettino driven by a powerful purple flower bouquet with an undeniable herbal component and black pepper spice.

The 1998, driven by a cooler vintage, delivered layers of candied fruit and savory herbs along with hints of saddle leather, a salted plum layer and mouth-watering acidity.

Vintages like the 2007 and 2009, which were characterized by a warm climate, allowed for a riper style full of dark fruit, a touch of tomato leaf and concentration in the mid-palate.

An excellent surprise arrived after tasting the flight when Paolo poured us the 1999 Rosso. Composed of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon this expressive wine was clearly on top of its game. A scrumptious array of black truffle, mint and macerated red fruit was cradled on a bed of dark cocoa and lush balsamic, a real treat.

The next stop included the highly anticipated tour and tasting at the Moschioni Estate guided by the man himself, Michele Moschioni. His name carries a weight across the Italian wine scene. In many ways, he defies tradition by producing powerful and concentrated wines from a white wine-driven area.

His expressive and unique winemaking style is partly influenced by some of the greatest like Giuseppe Quintarelli and Romano Dal Forno, both Amarone legends from Verona. But Michele’s skills go way beyond that and continue to impress.

We toured his production facility where the magic happens, and he explained the future ongoing projects, which include the construction of an elaborate cellar adjacent to the existing facility.

Following the tour, we sat to chat and taste a few of his wines. Aside from winemaking, Michele is quite skilled at charcuterie-making. He sliced up one of his unique creations to go along with the wines, a salami with filet in the center, simply heavenly!

“Wine has to be a pleasure,” Michele said loudly with a big smile as we started tasting. His bold and expressive wines are pretty much a reflection of his personality and wisdom.

The tasting included some incredible wines like the 2012 Moschioni Celtico Riserva made of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes dried for five days to concentrate the flavors and aged for four years in oak. The result, simply a joy, driven by a juicy mulberry and wild raspberry preserve along with orange peel and clove spice with a hint of bacon and grilled rosemary -- wow or as Michele would say, "Bomba!"

We also tasted the 2012 Moschioni Schioppettino, which carried an impressive weight with a blousy and loud black cherry note along with dark chocolate, baking spice and a silky texture with elegant tannin.

Truly on a category of its own, encompassing ideal fruit sources along with adventurous yet meticulous winemaking technique that transcends time and place, I can't wait to go back and spend more time with Michele and his family.

For dinner, we headed to the Birrificio Forum Iulii, an upbeat and delicious brewpub where one of my favorite beers is made, Birra Friuli. Along with a couple of pints we indulged in some of the local gastronomic staples like Stracciatella di Mozzarella, which consists of fried donut holes with creamy mozzarella and prosciutto, and Frico, which is basically melted Montasio cheese and potatoes, a worthy goodbye to the region.

The next morning we headed into Udine for a last rendezvous of Friuli where we sipped an espresso in the lively town before catching a train to Lucca via Venezia to my next stop.

Just like my previous visit to Friuli I left a big piece of my heart. The people, the food and of course the wine make it memorable.

That bottle of wine you bought doesn’t have to go to waste. Here are the best ways to open a wine bottle without a corkscrew. Rather than trying to take the cork out, you should push the cork into the bottle with a blunt object like a wooden spoon. This is the safest way to open a wine bottle, however, it may leave debris floating in the wine which is not ideal. Another fairly safe option is to use a bike or ball pump. Simply stab the needle into the cork and slowly push air into it until the air forces the cork out of the bottle. You should never open a wine bottle with a knife, wire hanger, or lighter as these options are very dangerous. If you’re unsure on whether you’ll be able to find a corkscrew it’s best to go for the screw cap option.

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