The Bastianich family is credited for bringing Friulian food and wine to the world. Lidia Bastianich owns a restaurant empire in the USA with her daughter Tanya and her son Joe of MasterChef’s fame.
In the early 1990’s, the family bought a few vineyards in their homeland of Friuli Venezia Giuli in Italy. The family-owned Bastianich winery was established in 1997 with their first vintage in 1998. The Bastianich vineyards now cover an area of 40 hectares, all of which are located in the Friuli Colli Orientali DOC. The Bastianich vineyards produce enough fruits to make around 250000 to 300000 bottles a year. The winery doesn’t buy fruits from growers to augment production even as global demand for the wines has grown year on year.
In the Colli Orientali DOC, there are two distinct climatic zones which lend a lot of vibrancy to the fruits cultivated here. The main vineyard is nestled well within the localities of Buttrio and Premariacco. The proximity of the Adriatic Sea makes the temperature warm enough in these vineyards for the grapes to grow well. Here ripening is influenced by the warmth coming from the sea and the grapes are perfect for the production of the most full-bodied and structured wines. Bastianich’s famous cru wines such as Vespa Blanco, Vespa Rosso, Plus and Calbrone are made from grapes grown in these vineyards.
The other climatic zone in the DOC is located at Cividale del Friuli. This vineyard is located close to the mountains where the cold wind from the north results in wines with greater aromatic intensity. Grapes for the Vini Orsone wines are grown here. Vini Orsone is Bastianich’s range of single varietal wines made to showcase Friuli’s top quality and to be enjoyed without breaking the bank.
The whole Bastianich range is excellent but it will take too long to mention all of them. I have selected highlights that will give you an idea of what to expect from the winery. Generally, Bastianich wines are geared towards a stronger palate, especially the big, off-dry red wines. Three of the Bastianich Cru wines have gone through a period of appassimento, meaning the grapes were laid out to dry – Amarone style. The Plus, Vespa Rosso, and Calabrone wines all have been made with this method, thus having a touch of residual sugar. But don’t be tricked into thinking that these wines lack finesse. I find the Bastianich wines to be some of the most interesting wines I have ever tasted in the last 20 years.
The Bastianich Plus (Vivino 4.1) is made 100% from Tocai Fruilano. This wine is made with late-harvest and dried fruit from a single-vineyard of 60 year-old vines. The palate is multi-layered and complex with notes of honey, grass, caramel, and cantaloupe melon flavours. The wine is rich, big, and delicious with just a touch of sweetness and a long finish.
“It's fantastic. It's like putting cloves, white pepper and peeled almonds in your mouth at the same time. A great wine. Full-bodied, hints of ripe fruit and a persistent and fruity finish. Fantastic and Electric. The best.” – James Suckling
The Vespa Rosso (Vivino 4.1) is Bastianich’s estate red wine. It is a blend of Merlot and Refosco. Refosco is native to Friuli. Over the years, it has taken up a bigger percentage in the blend to give the wine a more local identity. To make this wine, grapes are destemmed and gently pressed to extract the softest tannins. The wine undergoes 18 months maturity in French oak followed by another 18 months before commercial release. The colour is luminous ruby red, brilliant and rich, while the nose shows ripe mulberry and black cherry, with none of the vegetal aromas often found in northern Italian reds. A red of uncommon extraction and body, the palate shows sweet, velvety tannins along with perfectly balanced acidity and alcohol. This balance and elegance renders Vespa Rosso rich, pleasant and incredibly drinkable. The finish is long, intense and persistent.
“It shows lots of ripe fruit, with hints of plums. Full body, soft and velvety tannins and a long and flavorful aftertaste. Doughy and delicious. Spicy and fruity.” – James Suckling
The Calabrone (Vivino 4.3) is an estate reserve red blend made from Merlot and Refosco. After picking, the grapes are destemmed and airdried on racks for approximately 6 weeks (appassimento ala Amarone) prior to crushing. The wine undergoes maturity for 2 years in new French oak and then a further 2 years in the bottle before release. All in, it takes about 5 years to get the bottle to your table. The Calabrone is made only in the best years.
The result is a Calabrone that’s absolutely smooth and velvety, delicate and balanced, complex and enjoyable, all at the same time. The nose shows overripe cherry, dried red flowers, sweet spices and chocolate with hints of tobacco and cocoa. On the palate its residual sugar is initially misleading, with a soft, sweet impact. This gives way to clean acidity and a load of tannins and incredible extraction. The finish is dry, warm, enveloping and characterized by unmatched balance and elegance.
“The Calabrone is a crazy wine, it shows so many spices, cloves, nutmeg and small berries. Full bodied and slightly sweet, it shows round tannins and a lively finish. Very similar to an amarone.” – James Suckling
The last cru wine is the Vespa Bianco (Vivino 4.0). Vespa Bianco served as Bastianich’s standard bearer since 1998 and is today considered by wine critics to be one of Italy’s best white wines alongside Jermann. It’s made from a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The elegance of Chardonnay and structure of ripe Sauvignon Blanc ensure complexity and longevity in the wine. In its youth, the Vespa Bianco exhibits nuances of both yellow and antique gold hues, with extraordinary brightness and clarity. On the nose hints of beeswax, apricots, and honey give the wine an immediate, fresh, though structured impact. On the palate the enveloping complexity comes to bear, the structure and texture of the wine expanding across the palate with finesse, voluptuousness and balance. The wine becomes even more incredible when aged for 5 or 10 years in the bottle (or even more).
“Straw yellow with golden shades. (Vespa Bianco) opens to the nose with refined aromas of white flowers, tropical fruit, apples, beeswax, chalk and hints of salinity and oak. The palate is elegant, rich in aromas, perfectly balanced between freshness, body and flavour. Long and lively persistence.” – Guida Bibenda
Bastianich wines are now available at Wines Online.
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