Nicola Manferrari is one of Italy’s great white winemakers. We recently visited Nicola at his winery in the small village of Brazzano located just outside Cormòns. Brazzano is the location of his special, old vine vineyards that produce the fruit for his stellar Ronco della Chiesa Friulano and Malvasia wines. We review all his current releases that we tasted at the winery with Nicola and his son Mattia.
A pharmacist by training, Nicola became a winemaker rather unexpectedly when his father, who sold his wine in bulk, died in 1981. Nicola’s scientific training and intellectual curiosity led him to explore how to make the very best possible wine. This self-taught master winemaker is now in his 36th year of winemaking and still constantly learning and fine-tuning.
Nicola’s meticulous attention to detail in the vineyard and winemaking is reflected in the modern, stylish winery with sliding glass doors, glistening surfaces, and rows of neatly stacked, tight-grained oak barrels. All his wines are fermented and matured in French oak barriques, which along with the high acidity and minerality contributed by the crumbly Flysch di Cormòns (Ponca) sandstone-marl soils give the Borgo del Tiglio wines their sculpted precision, structure and long life.
When Nicola first started making wine in 1981 most of the 3 ha of vines he inherited from his father were Tocai Friulano, a variety known for its low acidity. He relates that at the time many old family wineries were still making Friulano by letting the fruit fully ripen and then macerating on the skins, resulting in dull wines with little acidity. The newer winemakers were following the German method of picking for high acidity, which meant harvesting under-ripe grapes, which resulted in wines with no flavor. Nicola set for himself the goal of making flavorful, vivacious Friulano with the capacity to age. The result is evident in his 100% Friulano wine, Ronco della Chiesa. His other icon wine, Studio di Bianco, blends Friulano about 50/50 with higher acid varieties.
Annual production is about 40 thousand bottles.
US Importers: Grand Cru Selections; Lyra Fine Wine Import; Volio
Borgo del Tiglio 2015 Chardonnay Selezione Collio (Cormòns) 93 A very pure and fine Chardonnay. Honeyed melon and pear are spiced with a touch of smoky oak. Highly mineral in character with bright acidity, honeyed flavors, and excellent extract. From the densely planted, southeast facing Ca’ delle Vallade vineyard (7300 vines/ha); fermented and matured in mostly new French oak barriques.
Borgo del Tiglio 2015 Malvasia Selezione Collio (Cormòns) 93 White flowers, acacia, and a light smokiness on the nose. Ethereal and delicate with piercing purity and layers of fruit, honeycomb and minerals in the mouth. Amazing persistence on the finish. Fermented in second use oak barrels. Sourced from the 60 year old Clos Bruno vineyard adjacent to the winery in Brazzano (see photo at top).
Borgo del Tiglio 2015 Ronco della Chiesa Friulano Collio (Cormòns) 94 Both a vineyard and barrel selection, this is a pure and exotic old vine Friulano showing lemon flower scents and cured lemon flavors. There’s incredible finesse and lightness with surprisingly bright acidity. Grown on the Flysch di Cormòns (ponka) soils common to the region. Only 10 hl selected from the 30 hl potential of the 40 year old vines planted on the steep vineyard that’s located behind the winery. Made from the aromatic Tokai Verde selection.
Borgo del Tiglio 2015 Sauvignon Selezione Collio (Ruttars) 91 A high toned perfume of flowers and herbs gives way to a densely flavored yet lightly weighted pure palate showing star fruit, white grapefruit, and a touch of anise. From a Ruttars vineyard with eastern exposure. Given a brief cold maceration inside the press. Aged 9 months in barrique.
Borgo del Tiglio 2013 Studio di Bianco Collio (Ruttars) 95 A beautifully constructed white blend, platinum straw in color and with incredible finesse. Spicy on the nose with light honeyed toast notes. Attacks with concentrated, very fresh fruit complemented by touches of fennel, white pepper and toast. Finishes dry with high acidity. Made of a blend of co-fermentations of Friulano and Sauvignon and of Friulano and Riesling. Friulano usually accounts for half the final blend.
Borgo del Tiglio 2011 Rosso Della Centa Collio 93 Medium dark red. An all Merlot red wine made only in the very best vintages. 2011 is the latest release. Beautiful, emphatic aromas of vanilla, red plum, red cherry and a light touch of tobacco leaf. Silky on the palate with hints of paprika and vanilla. From the San Giorgio a Brazzano vineyard. Aged 2-3 years in barrique.
(Photos by Don Winkler)