Last month, Joe Bastianich presented his northern Italian wines to the Wine Media Guild, an organization of wine writers to which I belong. He explained how he wanted to show that it was possible in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region to make world-class wines.
This area in northeastern Italy is well-known for its white wines such as pinot grigio, pinot bianco, sauvignon, ribolla gialla, chardonnay, and friulano. But being well-known is not synonymous with being sought after. That distinction is what motivates Joe Bastianich at his winery.
Founded in 1997, Bastianich winery produces four white wines, one red, and a rose’. The Vespa Bianco is its leading white wine; at our tasting he presented five vintages of it, beginning with the 2001. Made from a blend of chardonnay, sauvignon (northern Italy doesn’t use the name sauvignon blanc), and picolit, and indigenous grape of the region.
Bastianich explained that Vespa Bianco’s grape mix varies by vintage, but it’s approximately 45-percent each chardonnay and sauvignon, with 10-percent picolit. Each grape is vinified separately; the chardonnay and sauvignon are vinified in equal parts in French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, while the picolit is fermented in large used barrels. In order to preserve the acidity in the wine, only slightly more than half of it undergoes malolactic fermentation, a process that changes the tart acidity of the wine to a creamy texture. Each wine is aged for a year before the blending and than aged for another 18 months.
The result of all this work is a wine offering aromas resembling honeysuckle and lime; and rich flavors of pear and guava with a pleasant citrus-like finish. Having preserved its acidity, the 2006 Vespa Bianco has a freshness that keeps the palate alive. The older vintages of the Vespa Bianco had a deeper, yellowish-tint, and an appealing richer pear and honey texture and flavor. It was clear from the vertical tasting that the 2006 Vespa Bianco will gain greater complexity in the next few years.
I met Lidia Bastianich soon after she opened Felidia in 1981 and have enjoyed countless meals there. It was a pleasure watching her son present his wines with the intelligence, grace, and dedication to excellence that is the family’s hallmark.
The 2006 Bastianich Vespa Bianco retails for approximately $33.