A few years ago I was living in Rome and ordered a glass of wine on the rooftop of a hotel near the Bocca della Verità. They brought me a white, and it was amazing – crisp, lemon peel, white stone minerality. I asked the waitress to bring me the bottle, and it was a Livio Felluga Sauvignon. Ever since then I’ve been in love with their wines, so I was super excited to get invited on a trip to Friuli to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the winery’s cool map label.
The label was created by Livio to portray the then-unknown wine region of Friuli. We got to participate in a scavenger hunt that took us through the locations and grapes that shaped the Felluga journey.
We split into three teams of 3 or 4 somms and writers and got our rules. But first, an aperitif in Trieste with some Friulano of course. Friulano is a native grape of Friuli, and is a perfect aperitivo wine – super light, almondy, crisp and clean.
Trieste is gorgeous, btw. A seaside town on the border of Slovenia where James Joyce wrote a lot of Ulysses. You can see why:
After selecting our team name (Vini Vidi Vici), we were on to the first challenge! We took a boat to the incredibly charming seaside town of Grado and were handed our first clue.
The second challenge had us all literally racing again, this time through the town of Udine. We had to decipher the clue and then find the osteria that we’d passed on a tour of the town earlier. I remembered it because it looked cute with its little hat above the door and thought it would be a good place to eat.
It turned out that the grandfather of the woman who runs the osteria was Livio’s first customer. We saw each team sprinting ahead of us to so knew we lost, but we got to taste through tons of Friulian wines at dinner – lots of light, crisp whites like Malvasia, Friulano, Ribolla Giallo, as well as a light red called Schiopettino (meaning “little gunshot” because it can be sort of flinty) which was one of my faves.
For the next challenge, it was off to the vineyards! We headed to Abbazia di Rosazzo and saw the ripe Merlot and Refosco hanging from the vines. So ripe, in fact, that they were ready to be picked. By us.
I’ve always wanted to try doing harvest, though heard it’s back-breaking work. Now I know first hand. Check out the slight curve on my back, and try doing that as you cut the grapes on every vine! We only did it for about 20 minutes but real harvest workers do it all day long.
Best part of doing harvest? The harvest meal! They had a huge, amazing spread waiting for us with a gigantic bottle of Sossò – a delicious blend of the plummy Merlot and more feral Refosco grapes from the vines we’d just cut. This bottle was ’96 though, so those grapes were picked quite a few years before the ones we just cut… I loved how the Refosco gave the velvety Merlot a little wildness, like putting a leather jacket over a ballgown.
A few of the next challenges got us to the wines themselves.
We then got to explore the Abbazia di Rosazzo, an old abbey that was founded by a hermit in around 800 AD. It also happens to have some of the best vineyards in the region, so Livio Felluga waited a few decades to finally own and manage them.
We spent a lot of time in this beautiful place, and got grilled about its history for the next challenge.
Writing good tasting notes isn’t easy. We had a little fun with ours (the grapefriend way) and described the 2014 as full of jasmine and orange blossom while remaining lean, like someone who’s about to fatten up with a two-risotto lunch. Which is what we were about to do.
On to the final challenge! We had to put each Terre Alte wine in age order. All of the teams did ok but a few vintages threw everyone for a loop, thinking they were much older than they actually were which messed up our whole order.
And the winning team was…