Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy at Paul’s on Wisconsin Avenue in Washington DC.
Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy, was in Washington DC and I had the opportunity to meet him and taste his wines at Paul’s on Wisconsin Avenue, in Washington DC.
Massimo "Max" di Lenardo is consistently cited by Gambero Rosso as producing fine wines in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region about 70 miles northeast of Venice. The di Lenardo family has made wine at its farm at Otagnano di Gonars since the 1800's, but it was not until Max di Lenardo took over the family business in 1985 that the estate came into real prominence.
Wine Producer Italy
Italy is home of some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. Etruscans and Greek settlers produced wine in the country long before the Romans started developing their own vineyards. Two thousand years later, Italy is world leader in wine, accounting for about 20% of world wine production. Italians also lead the world in wine consumption by volume, 59 liters per capita, compared with 8 liters per capita in the US. Wine is grown in almost every region of the country.
Picture: Italy's Wine Regions with Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Italy's classification system has 4 groups of wine: (1) Vino da Tavola (VDT) – table wine. (2) Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT – the most recent laws promoted many of the finer table wine regions to IGT status), (3) Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) and (4) Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). Both DOC and DOCG wines refer to zones which are more specific than an IGT, and the permitted grapes are also more specifically defined. Presently, there are about 120 IGT zones, 310 DOC and 30 DOCG appellations.
There is wine everywhere in Italy, from the Alps in the North to Sicilia in the South, clustered into 20 wine regions, which correspond to the 20 administrative regions. The about 30 DOCG wines are located in 13 different administrative regions but most of them are concentrated in Piedmont and Tuscany. The Piedmont area of northwestern Italy is further divided into two popular regions, Barbaresco and Barolo; the predominant grape there is the Nebbiolo. The large area in central Italy is Tuscany and is known for Chianti; the Sangiovese is the predominant red grape in Tuscany. In Italy’s South are Puglia and the island of Sicily.
There are several hundreds of indigenous grapes in Italy. The following is a list of the most common and important ones.
Rosso/Red: (1) Sangiovese - Italy's claim to fame, the pride of Tuscany. It produces Chianti and Brunello di Montalcino. (2) Nebbiolo - The most noble of Italy's varietals. Nebbiolo is difficult to master, but produces the renowned Barolo and Barbaresco. (3) Montepulciano - The grape of this name is not to be confused with the Tuscan town of Montepulciano; it is most widely planted on the opposite coast in Abruzzo. (4) Barbera - The most widely grown red wine grape of Piedmont and Southern Lombardy, most famously around the towns of Asti and Alba, and Pavia. Barbera wines were once considered as the lighter versions of Barolos. (5) Corvina - Along with the varietals Rondinella and Molinara, this is the principal grape which makes the famous wines of the Veneto: Valpolicella and Amarone. (6) Nero d'Avola - Nearly unheard of in the international market until recent years, this native varietal of Sicily is gaining attention for its plummy fruit and sweet tannins. (7) Dolcetto - A grape that grows alongside Barbera and Nebbiolo in Piedmont; a wine for everyday drinking.
Picture: Christian G.E.Schiller with Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy at Paul’s, on Wisconsin Avenue, in Washington DC.
Bianco/White: (1) Trebbiano - Behind Cataratto (which is made for industrial jug wine), this is the most widely planted white varietal in Italy.Mostly easy drinking wines. (2) Moscato - Grown mainly in Piedmont, it is mainly used in the slightly-sparkling (frizzante), semi-sweet Moscato d'Asti. (3) Pinot Grigio - A hugely successful commercial grape, known as Pinot Gris in France and Grauburgunder in Germany. Produces crisp and clean wines. Typically mass-produced wine in Italy. (4) Arneis - A crisp and floral varietal from Piedmont, which has been grown there since the 15th century. (5) Garganega - The main grape varietal for wines labeled Soave, this is a crisp, dry white wine from the Veneto wine region.
The di Lenardo Vineyards is based in the north-east of Italy, in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia wine region. Once part of the Venetian Republic and with sections under the influence of the Austro-Hungarian Empire for some time, the wines of the region are said to have noticeable Slavic and Germanic influences. The Friuli-Venezia Giulia region is bordered by the Alps to the north separating it from Austria. Slovenia borders the region on the east and the Italian regions of Veneto forms the western border and part of the southern border with the Adriatic Sea. There are 11 DOC, 3 DOCG and 3 IGT designations. Almost 2/3 of the wine produced in the region falls under a DOC designation. The area is known predominantly for its white wine - with fruit and acidity and little, if any, oak, resembling.
Di Lenardo Vineyards
The di Lenardo family has cultivated vines in Ontagnano, just a few miles away from Udine, since the early 1800s. But it was not until Massimo “Max” di Lenardo took over his family’s wine production in 1985 that quality took a real leap forward. The decision to use only grapes produced by the family’s own vineyards was coupled with a change in the winemaking philosophy, including new plantings of vines with an increased density (up to 6000 per hectare). Before Massimo entered the scene, the wine was sold in bulk and not bottled. “The grapes are now picked by hand, fermentation takes places at an electronically controlled temperature. In fact, we have the most sophisticated state of the art facility in the area.” said Massimo. Interestingly, “100 percent of the energy used in the winery is solar energy” said Massimo.
Pictures: Massimo “Max” di Lenardo from Friuli, Italy at Paul’s, on Wisconsin Avenue, in Washington DC.
The di Lenardo Vineyards comprises four large vineyard areas in different parts of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia - VIGNE DAI VIERIS , VIGNE DA SAN MARTIN , VIGNE DA LIS MARIS and TIARE D'ALBE - totaling 40 hectares, compared with an area of around 150 hectares of the whole estate. In addition, an area of 5 hectares is under a long-term lease. In 2010, du Lenardo Vineyards produced around 600.000 bottles of wine, of which about ¾ are exported.
What Massimo Poured
DI LENARDO, Friulano "Toh!" , Friuli DOC Grave, 2009
Alc. 13 % by vol. The whole berries were pressed gently in a pneumatic press. After a first racking, the must was transferred to temperature-controlled fermentation still vats. The wine stayed on the lees until bottling. Clarification of the musts made with a new "state of the art" flowtation bio-system. Bottled under vacuum. Friulano is a grape indigenous to Friuli, and it is the most popular and most widely planted white grape variety of the region. TOH! is di Lenardo Vineyards’ flagship wine, having garnered awards year in every vintage. 60.000 bottles.
Picture: The Wines Massimo Poured
DI LENARDO Chardonnay IGT Venezia Giulia 2009
Alc. 13 % by vol. The whole berries were pressed gently in a pneumatic press. After a first racking, the must was transferred to temperature-controlled fermentation still vats. The wine stayed on the lees until bottling. Clarification of the musts made with a new "state of the art" flowtation bio-system. Bottled under vacuum. A wine with 100% Chardonnay "Musque", a "clone" of the Chardonnay grape sourced from the French national nursery at Tours.
DI LENARDO "Just Me" Merlot IGT Venezia Giulia 2008
Alc. 14% by vol. This small production wine is made from 100% Estate grown Merlot coming from vines with an average age of 25 years. But what makes it so special is how the wine is made. One third of the grapes are dried on racks for a month before pressing (a practice used in the making of Amarone). This process is called appassimento or rasinate (to dry and shrivel) in Italian. This gives the wine an incredibly rich, spicy complexity and dark inky color that is enhanced by 18 months in small American oak barrels. 10.000 bottles.
DI LENARDO Verduzzo "Pass the Cookies!" IGT Venezia Giulia 2009
Alc. 12,5% by vol. Harvested early to have a higher acidity and than dried 3 months on the racks to concentrate the sugars. Verduzzo is the grape, one of the indigenous varieties of Friuli. Noticeable sweetness. 10.000 bottles.
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