This strain of Malvasia grows most successfully and abundantly in the northern Adriatic basin, between Venice and the Istrian peninsula of northern Croatia, from which the grape takes its name. It loves to be planted within view of the sea so that it can drink in its salty breezes. The limestone plateau of the Carso district, above Trieste in eastern Friuli, is the home of the Kante winery where this Malvasia is grown. Aromatically reminiscent of Friulano, with whispers of peach and apricot, it is soft and delicate and has a dry and cleansing finish. Planted here centuries ago, this grape remains today to slake the thirst of locals and visitors as it is served alongside fresh sea critters.
The Carso district of Friuli, just outside of Trieste, is a unique micro-climate sandwiched between the Adriatic Sea to the south, the Alps to the north, and the Balkans to the east. The temperatures are cool at night and the grey limestone is in abundance. In this near-perfect combination of climate and terreno, Edi Kante produces wines that are poised, solid, fresh, and brimming with the character of both the varietal and the limestone soil of Carso. The Kante style is born not only of his incredibly energetic, passionate, mad-scientist like personality, but also of the inherent characteristics of Carso and his deliberate decision to allow these characteristics to shine through rather than be dominated by wine-making technique.
Friuli may be forever tied to its bland, acidic Pinot Grigios, which at one point saturated the export market, but a deeper look reveals a captivating array of unique grape-growing sites, distinctive indigenous varieties, and passionate small growers keen on preserving a rich tradition of winemaking.
Here in Italy’s northeast corner, the region is shared between the Julian Alps in the north and plains leading to the Adriatic Sea in the south, bound by the Veneto to the west and Slovenia to the east. While it is one of the wettest regions of Italy—and all of Europe, for that matter—Friuli benefits from the push-and-pull of cool air currents from the mountains meeting warmer breezes from the Adriatic. A crescent-shaped slice of foothills, where both play a role, tends to produce the region’s finest wines.
Nothing is more emblematic to Friulian wine than a crisp, peachy Ribolla Gialla served with thinly sliced prosciutto San Daniele, a local specialty. And yet, this only begins to tell the story: high-acid, mineral-driven whites from a number of local varieties including Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, and Malvasia range from light and crisp to powerful and age-worthy, complementing Adriatic shellfish, hearty mountain cheeses, and everything in between. Native reds like Schioppettino, Terrano, and Refosco all have something unique to say, while there has even been significant success with French varieties like Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot, all long established in the region.
Friuli’s diversity is its strength, and it keeps us coming back for more. In fact, Kermit imported one of the region’s first organic growers toward the start of his career; our more recent collaboration with producers like Vignai da Duline is a testament to the enormous potential when devoted artisans put their hearts into Friuli’s fascinating terroir.
Trust the great winemakers, trust the great vineyards. Your wine merchant might even be trustworthy. In the long run, that vintage strip may be the least important guide to quality on your bottle of wine.—Kermit Lynch
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