Wines of Georgia Tasting

Wines of Georgia concluded the 2 days of the 2013 International Wine Tourism Conference. It was to be expected that Georgia’s two most important grape varieties, the white Rkatsiteli and the red Saperavi, would be presented, together with a wine vinified in the traditional amphore from the Kakheti wine region east of Tbilisi.

The 2009 Rkatsiteli was top class, with expressive minerality and refreshing acidity, giving the wine good length. The 2012 Alaverdi Monastery Cellar Kisi was for many of us a surprise. The oxidative vinification in an amphora creates a “vin jaune” which requires an acquired taste to appreciate it. The wine on offer was an excellent example for this rare style of wine. Very complex on nose and palate, with a dense and full body,  its pronounced grape tannins gave the wine a rather masculine character and a superb length.

Wines of Georgia Tasting IWINETC 13The two red wines were equally representative for Georgia’s wine styles. However, the 2007 Chateau Mukhrani Saperavi Reserve du Pince, a dry version of the great Saperavi grape, had  green tannins quite unusual for a Saperavi which normally has ripe and round, almost velvety grape tannins. Perhaps 2007 was not one of the best years!

Quite pleasant was the off-dry version (it was labeled semi-sweet)  of the Saperavi  grape, the 2011 Shumi Winery Kindzmarauli, a wine much superior to the fortified sweet red wines otherwise offered in the Mediterranean area. In this wine the tannins were pleasantly round and velvety.

An excellent tasting which generated interest and appetite for IWINETC 2014 in Georgia.

Jochen Erler, Circle of Wine Writers

Photos: Ruth Troyano

Georgia, Cradle of Wine

This was the title of the closing plenary session at the International Wine Tourism Conference and Workshop in Croatia 2013 and was made by the Georgian National Tourism Administration and the Georgian National Wine Agency. They gave an introduction to the wine industry of their country which has the longest history of uninterrupted wine production in the world. While under the Soviet regime emphasis was given to the volume of output, and this on a surface of 150.000 ha, nowadays only 40.000 ha are covered by productive vineyards. Quality of the wine has increased considerably since having lost the Russian market for the past few years and having established a foothold in other markets.

The development of wine tourism is one of the key targets of Georgia’s Government which has established an ambitious program of education and training for all manpower involved in the wine tourism industry. For each category of stakeholders, such as restaurant staff, winery staff, tour leaders and managerial staff specific and very detailed criteria have been laid down to ensure competence and professionalism for these people.

In addition, the existing wine festivals will receive support and further development. The highlight of the presentation was the announcement that Georgia will be the host country for next year’s (2014) International Wine Tourism Conference. The auditorium responded spontaneously by applauding this announcement. See you there in 2014!

Jochen Erler, Circle of Wine Writers

Photo Tom Plant

Article: Touring Georgia’s Kakheti Wine Region

Wine Tourism Workshop & Veneto Fam Trip for Tour Operators gets a Bravo!

The 2013 International Wine Tourism Conference & Workshop has received very positive feedback for the quality of the talks included in the conference programme, the wine tastings and the post conference Fam Trips  to Friuli (Blogger – Media Group) and to Veneto (Tour operators and travel agents specialised in wine and culinary tourism)

UK based tour operator, Caroline Pocock, Director of The Real Events Group has this to say:

Chris and I just wanted to say a huge thank you for a superb wine experience both in Zagreb and post tour.  Your organisation was outstanding, we both learnt so much about wine so now feel very confident to sell tours with detailed itineraries.   The contacts made during our time were priceless, and I have already recommended the two day wine tasting experience at Carline to a client.  

We would be honoured to be put on the list for next years event, and if required I would be very pleased to give you some contact details of other high level UK agents who would like to run wine experiences in Europe 

Thank you once again for you care and attention to detail.  Greatly appreciated.

As organisers of the event we would like to thank all of the speakers for taking time out to travel to Croatia and delivering quality talks on a range of issues related to wine and culinary tourism. Thanks to all our sponsors and above all the Movimento Turismo del Vino Veneto and the Strade del Vino e Sapori Friuli Venezia Giulia for organising and sponsoring post conference and workshop Fam Trips for agents and media respectively.

From the buzz already on the social media networks we can clearly see that everybody is now looking forward to IWINETC 2014 which will be held in the beautiful city of Tbilisi, Georgia from 28 – 29 March (Workshop 30 March)



Social Media Experts Reap Rewards in IWINETC Contest

Prior to the start of this year’s International Wine Tourism Conference in Zagreb, the blogger media group was given a challenge: The person with the most re-tweets of their introduction post on the Wine Pleasures site would win a prize. With a full roster of social media maniacs on tap, the game was on! Competition was fierce and the re-tweet totals were neck and neck as the final days of eligibility drew near. Rumors swirled on just what the prize might be and eager bloggers throttled up their twitter feeds to get the message out to their followers. Websites like help gain more followers and reach.

But only one blogger reigned supreme and leveraged her vast social network to pull away from the pack in a stunning victory. On the last day of the IWINETC FAM trip, Count Guecello Brugnera announced the winner at Principi di Porcia.

Melba Allen iwinetc winner 2013Liza Swift (no relation to Anthony Swift) also known as Brix Chick Liza and publisher of the Brix Chicks blog, was awarded the grand prize, a magnum of Torre Colombera –a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Refosco Dal Peduncolo Rosso. The label for Torre Colombera depicts the tower known as the Colmbera of the Castello di Porcia that housed carrier pigeons, the original messengers—precursors of modern day tweeters and appropriately awarded to the top tweeter on twitter; Ms. Swift.

Liza Swift iwinetc winner 2013In second place Ms. Melba Allen, of Wine Profilers, was honored for her good work with a copy of Nonna Marcella’s Cookbook from Goretti Winery in Umbria and presented by Chiara Tuppy of Strada del Vino e Sapori Fruili Venezia Guilia.

Liza Swift basks in the golden glow of victory!

Marcy Gordon

IWINETC 2014 will be held in Georgia from 21 – 22 March

Final Hours in Fruili

Traversing the winding roads from Spilimbergo to the Farm at Azzano Decimo, one passes many vineyards and small towns.  The vineyards, still asleep, look naked next to the bright green grasses refreshed from a day of steady rain. Disembarking from the bus, our group was immediately greeted and offered Prosciutto and a glass of Lison, a Friulano.

IWINETC 2013 FriuliOur first late afternoon stop was Principi di Porcia the name of the winery at the Farm at Azzano Decimo. We quickly learned that there is more than one type of fermentation occurring at the farm. The milk from the cows is used in cheese production. The cow manure is collected and fermented to produce methane. This in turn is used to create energy used to power the farm including the winery. There is sufficient energy left over to provide power to 3,000 residents.

IWINETC 2013 FriuliAfter a return to the tasting area, we tasted four more wines and listened to a presentation by Count Guecello outlining the many businesses that are part of the company that includes the vineyards/winery, energy production from renewable resources and many others. The wines tasted included a Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, Verduzzo Friulano and a red blend called Torre Colombera (the tower of the pigeons) a title referring to messages carried by pigeons in the middle ages. Think of it as the Twitter of the Middle Ages. During our wine tasting a magnum of wine was presented to fellow writer/blogger Liza Swift who was this year’s winner of the retweet contest.

IWINETC 2013 FriuliAfter our winery visit we headed to our final dinner together at Trattoria Cavour. San Simone Winery provided the evening’s wines and Anna and her husband Antonio of San Simone were at dinner to discuss the wines. The dinner was excellent and comments included dieting on returning home. The media FAM group was somewhat tired after an intense week at the International Wine Tourism Conference in Zagreb and traveling to wineries in the Friuli area of Italy. Our trip to Friuli is one to be cherished for many years and we appreciate the hard work the organizers and wineries put in presenting the food, wines and friendship of Friuli.

Terry Sullivan

“Better Than Heaven” at Azienda Agricola Zoff

Giuseppe Zoff warns my colleagues and I, “This is better than heaven.”  He presents us with a sample of his “special” flavored yogurt produced at his farm, Azienda Agricola Zoff, in the town of Cormons in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Friuli as most refer to it) region of Northeast Italy.

“But you must first guess what it is”.

We begin to make our guesses, “Apricot?”
“No,” says Laura, Giuseppe’s daughter who is also a part of the family business.
“Caramel,” I suspected.
“No, but you are getting close”.
“Vanilla!?” exclaims another.
“Ahhhh,” he says with a grin as he finally reveals the mystery item as a Dolce de Leche flavored yogurt, which turned out to be one of the highlights of our visit to this third generation farm owned and operated by the Zoff family.

Cheese tasting iwinetc FriuliThe property is home to 60 Pezzata Rossa Italian cows where their milk is used to produce yogurts and several types of cheese, including; Ricotta, Latteria, Mozzarella, Caciotta (plain and also several herb covered variations), as well as other products available for purchase in their quaint shop.

Cheese tasting iwinetc FriuliThe surroundings were rustic yet comfortable.  But it was the family philosophy that resonated most with me during our visit.  Their production methods are all natural, with no additives or chemicals ever used — this includes their practices on the farm and what they feed the cows, which is a mix of dry grass, herbs, and fresh corn, all produced on site.  They milk the cows half as often as a typical Holstein cow (approx 20 liters a day vs 50+ liters) and provide them with all natural feed, which creates milk with a higher fat content resulting in a more rich and flavorful milk.  Everything is as close to nature as you can get here, and it shows in the flavor of their dairy products.

Cheese tasting iwinetc FriuliThe cheeses are fresh, flavorful, and pure, and the yogurt is rich, creamy, and delicious. The comfortable environment is warm and welcoming, as is the hospitably.  As you observe Laura interact and translate for her father his charming personality reveals itself. Family is noticeably important to them.

Near the entrance of the kitchen proudly hangs a lovely picture of Giuseppe with a beautiful woman hugging his shoulders. When I asked Laura “Is this you?” she laughed and said, “No, that is my mother. She is here, but she is next door playing Nonna (grandmother) today with my children.”

Cheese tasting iwinetc FriuliIf you have the pleasure of visiting, and I hope you do, I encourage you to inquire about the B&B on site.  They offer five comfortably sized rooms for 85 euro per night including a fresh breakfast with foods produced (of course!) on the farm.  Though I did not stay overnight there I am confident they would extended the same level of hospitality to all who guest who visit them.  Be aware that it is a working farm — cows live on premise and you may see two lively German Shepherds roaming about.

Whether just a quick visit or overnight stay make sure to also taste the different aged Latteria cheese (the local cheese of the area) — the difference in flavor a few months does to each cheese is remarkable.  The Caciotta with thyme was another favorite of mine.

But above all, don’t leave without trying the creamy and sweet Dolce de Leche flavored yogurt.  Your taste buds will thank you!  If that isn’t available, the regular plain yogurt is less sweet but just as scrumptious.

For more information or to arrange a visit check out the Zoff website 

Thank you to Giuseppe, Laura, and Laura’s husband Fabio for your hospitality, and to the Strada del Vino e Sapori Friuli Venezia Giulia and the iwinetc team for arranging our tour.

Mary Cressler

Wine Trailing on Friuli’s Strada del Vino e Sapori Pordenonesi

To paraphrase Charles Dickens’  “food glorious food,” after a few days of rain I was thinking, “sun glorious sun!” Tuesday morning on the International Wine Tourism Conference Blogger-Media Fam Trip began with a few clouds and by afternoon, while visiting wineries on the Strada del Vino e Sapori Pordenonesi, the sun was shining brightly.

IWINETC Friuli 2013We had stayed for the evening at L’Uva e Le Stelle, not only a bed and breakfast but also Comelli Paolino, a winery. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at which we were offered cheese, sausage, home baked Italian pastries that included a wonderfully light tart made by the owner’s grandmother. We need the recipe! During breakfast Terry asked about the winery, visited the cellar and tasted several wines.

Too soon it was time to leave for our group’s first winery visit of Pitarsthe day, Pitars wine cellars. Soon after entering the Pitars facility, we noted a dried five-foot stump that had been dug up. Quickly we learned that this was from a mulberry tree. Live mulberry trees in the area were pointed out. Mulberry trees are protected in this region. Many years ago when Italy had silk industry mulberry leaves were used for silkworms.

We also noted that in this modern-style winery there were numerous works of sculptured wood. An artist has created many of these fine pieces. Soon an event for the artist will take place featuring his wood carved designs.

After observing the vineyards from the first floor, we were led upstairs to the third floor that reminded one of a large, well-furnished attic. Large windows on four sides opened and provided views of the vineyards. We tasted several wines including a Prosecco, Tureis IGT 2010, and Naos IGT 2007. Tureis was a blend of Friulano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Tureis is the name of a star. Naos was a blend of Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.

Our time at Pitars passed quickly and soon we were on our way to our second winery of the day.

IWINETC Friuli 2013Our next winery to visit, Tenuta Fernanda Cappello, was created by architect Fernanda Cappello. Inside the facility is light and airy. We were treated to a tour of the vineyards where the grapevines were still sleeping awaiting the coming of spring. The vineyards have the lower Alps to the north and the Adriatic Sea is to the south. We were also given a tour of the winery. Later we trudged up to the second floor to enjoy a tasting of wines and local foods. The wines we tasted included Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, Aromatic Traminer, and a Cabernet Franc.
Eventually we reached Spilimbergo, a unique town with a very historic church that dates back to the 1100s. Colorful but faded frescos from centuries past add to the sense of “old.” To the side of the altar one wall has frescoes representing stories from the Bible. The church is still in use by residents. A nearby castle was built in the 1500s and is still structurally sound and in use. Our visit to Spilimbergo was way too short but we were behind schedule and needed to travel to the next impressive winery.

During our journey to wineries we saw many signs of the Easter season inside wineries. Perhaps the largest display was at Tenuta Fernanda Cappello.

The Friuli region of Italy offers a delightful experience. The area is not crowded in March and there are many cultural experiences including food and wine. Italians are very friendly and welcoming to visitors.

Kathy Sullivan

Cividale: Gateway to Friuli Heaven

Christianity came here in the 7th century, we came on a rainy day after a fabulous lunch at Relais Zorzettig and a great visit and tasting with Zorzettig owner Anna Lisa.

We scurried over the Devils bridge and listened to an interesting tale from our guide extraordinaire Francesca, who got us out of the rain and into the Cividale Museum.  Their relics are amazing. @luscious_lushes Thea and I made the most of being close to a reliquary of St Anthony of Padua, the Patron Saint of girls looking for a husband.  The showpiece of the museum is a baptistery of elegantly carved white marble, so perfectly preserved it looks like a celestial Jacuzzi.

Cividale kept trying to baptize us with pouring rain, but we persevered. Our reward was a lively walk and a visit to the Cathedral.  Gothic doors, Renaissance elements and modern furnishings combined to highlight for us the passing of time in architecture.  The most important item here is an altar piece with figure dating back to 1202

Side by side, earlier Christian art is almost Egyptian in its simplicity compared with elaborate renaissance imagery. Cividale has many small but important churches some back to the 8th century when they told vivid stories with frescoes.

Sadly we missed the exhibit of women artisans, which was about to open.  The Tourist Board here keeps it fresh.  They can also provide comprehensive info for visitors helpful to planning and maximizing your visit.  You can find a lot at www. Cividale. Net or for individual help contact  Maps, ideas and cheerful help await you in this lovely historic town.

consortia iwinetc 2013Next up was the Consortia Colli Orientali del Friuli.  We saw a short video to introduce us to the land and history of this region of sandstone and marlstone where wine has been made for 2000 years.  Through a video survey of the region we got a sense of how ancient fortresses and castles have been woven into today’s delicious wine region.  Hora Bibendi was a sundial that let you know when Happy hour starts.

Our happy hour started when they served us examples.

Sauvignon blanc – lush aromatic white

Picolit dessert -pineappley sweetness tempered by pretty acidity

Pignolo – interesting indigenous red

paolo and alle iwinetc 2013The best way to explore the region: in a glass!

All in a lovely way to get a broad survey of the region and the wines that are made here.  If you are visiting Colli Orientale del Friuli, they can help with your questions via email if you would like to find out more about what they do and their producers contact:

Next, we were greeted by Paolo and his wife at I Comelli in Udine, very near Austrian Slovenian border.  They are famous for Ramandolo a unique wine that takes its name from the place and has a long history— its first official appearance is when it was offered to Pope Gregory the first.

Verduzzo friulano giallo is the grape from which Ramandolo is made.  It has a white berry packed with tannins.  These make Ramandolo a sweet wine with cleaning tannins so a lovely but not cloying finish The color is dark gold with peachy aromas with caramelly hints. Silky mouth feel and yummy noble rot, with a lingering finish of dried pears and that tasty, tasty botrytised sweetness.

Only 60 hectares and the only sweet wine to be marked DOCG.   The DNA of grape shows it came from the Balkans not from any Mediterranean source.  In nearby, Aquileia excavators found fermented Ramandolo in 5000 yr necropolis …Nine Euros at the winery All you Somms out there should put this on your list for dessert wines!

Slovenia. Yugoslavia. Austria. Venice. The region has flown many flags in the last 200 years.  Many people immigrated away but the Comellis stayed and focused on cultivating the soil as they have for many years working and preserving the area for its natural beauty and touristic potential.

Picolit is also made here in small quantities As well as Friulano.

Reds? Refosco!

Cab Franc, Merlot, and some other international varieties are produced

The cellar is modern and has been rebuilt when they outgrew the older one. So they combine modern and traditional to take the best of each to make great wine.

ramandalo mousse iwinetc 2013And what goes with good wine? Good food.  We adjourned to their restaurant which is attached to an Agri-turismo hotel.  A charming spot with a wood – fire.  We were served fresh delicious Friuliani dishes.  Starting with lovely prosciutto and ending with Torta Della Nonna, each matched with the delicious  I Comelli wines.  You can see the pix but if you can find a way to visit yourself. Two words: Randolo mousse. Yes. This is heaven.

But for a few intrepid bloggers, an additional level of heaven awaited as we ascended to L’ Uva e le Stelle.  This renovated fortress made of stone and the kind of furnishings you normally only see at high end home improvement shows, provides beauty, comfort and history. It even has its own beautifully restored church with, what might be actual, stairways to heaven.   We wanted to stay forever.

Alas, for us heaven had to wait. But as we left, our host Paolino told us how easy it would be to return, since there is a train from Venice to Udine and from Udine to Cividale.

We resolved to be extra good so that someday we will return to Heaven in Cividale, Udine and the wonderful hospitality that awaits a visitor to Friuli!

Liza Swift

Lokanda Devetak a perfect end to a day on the Strada del Vino e dei Sapori del Goriziano

In the Lokanda Devetak Restaurant in San Michele del Carso, Friuli, our international group of IWINETC 2013 wine bloggers settled in with anticipation. The meal was to showcase the “Strada del Vino e dei Sapori del Goriziano.” We were fresh off an extensive tasting of Villa Russiz wines at the large and elegant winery that dedicates profits to children’s charities. I was remembering most fondly their Defi de la Tour – an elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.

Having spent a good hour taking a passeggiata in Cormons before that, we were ready by 20.00 to relax, and our appetites were piqued.

Devetak SaraA tray of locally produced treats – including cows’ milk cheese and meat from the village- were passed and enjoyed with the Vitovska Carso 2010, Castello di Rubbia – Grad Rubije.

Next we received a beautiful pair of leak and sausage tartlets, which paired beautifully with Friulano 2011 Gradis ciutta from San Floriani del Collio. The warmth from the fresh-baked tarts warmed our bodies which had shivered in the vineyards and cellars of Lis Neris in the morning.

Devetak SaraWe moved on to a steaming risotto enlivened with Karst cheese produced by Dario Zidaric. The classic northern Italian dish was served alongside an intriguing 2008 Damjan Poveršič Malvasia, which had a lovely golden hue bordering on amber from two weeks maceration on the skins.

Our main course was a rich and flavorful guinea fowl in herb bacon. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Il Carpino from San Floriano del Collio matched the rich dish beautifully.

Devetak Sara iwinetc 2013We breathed a moment, resting and contemplating the beautiful meal. And then, a cucumber gelato predessert gave us strength to carry on. Next, the karst honey semifreddo with apricot purée in a basket of puff pastry made us smile. And when we felt like we couldn’t take another bite — cookies coffee and grappa were somehow calling out to us. The impressive staff of Devetak Sara had cared for us with a generous spirit.

And so we loaded our bus, sleepily anticipating a blissful night’s rest at La Subida. Our two-story apartment-like Devetak Sara iwinetc 2013lodgings offer multiple porches and views of the craggy forested hills. We would sleep well on beds covered with soft white duvets and a whimsical fox skin tossed across the top with aplomb. And though we lie down with bellies full, we will be keen to taste the homemade apple cake, fresh apricot preserves, local fresh yogurt, and just-carved prosciutto of the La Subida breakfast.

Diane Letulle

Tasting Friuli: Roses, Prosciutto, Cheese, & Ravioli

Our second day of the IWINETC 2013 Blogger-Media Fam Trip to Friuli, Italy, began with a tour of the Rosazzo Abbey (the monastery of roses) in the Colli Orientali region. The abbey is a cultural and religious center, and it’s also surrounded by vineyards and produces wine.

As our guide Mara Bon explained, it was Benedictine monks who first brought knowledge of vine cultivation to the abbey. Today it houses one of the oldest wine cellars in Friuli. Since 2009, care of the vineyards has been entrusted to nearby winery Livio Felluga. In 2010, wines from the area achieved DOCG status, and the Rosazzo DOCG was born.

iwinetc_monday3After an introduction from winemaker Filippo Felluga, we tasted the Abbazia Di Rosazzo 2011.  A refreshing white wine, it’s made from Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco, Malvasia, and Ribolla Gialla. The blend harmonizes nicely, producing a clean, balanced, and elegant wine. As we sipped, we had a beautiful view of the surrounding vineyards from the balcony of the tasting room.

iwinetc_monday2Next we headed to Zorzettig winery, where we went down to the atmospheric cellar and were greeted with a glass of their 2011 Oz Optimum sparkling wine. Back upstairs, we focused on local grape varieties, starting with the 2012 Ribolla Gialla and 2012 Friulano, both expressive white wines with a lush mouthfeel. They were nicely paired with a type of local ham, Prosciutto di San Daniele.

iwinetc_monday5Next we moved to a red wine, the Refosco 2010, and a cheese plate. The Formadi Frant, a firm cheese blended with pepper, caused a lot of exclamations in the room when paired with honey and the wine. The Refosco was rich and concentrated, with strong notes of cassis. Its tannic structure meant that it could age for much longer, yet it was already lovely. Finally, we tried Picolit, a rich (and delicious) local dessert wine with a nice acidity that makes it well balanced and not too heavy.

It was time for lunch next (as if we hadn’t eaten enough), so we got back on the bus for a short trip to the nearby Relais La Collina. We were treated to a succulent lunch, starting with iwinetc_monday4homemade ravioli filled with a blend of spinach, ricotta, herbs, and apple and topped with grated smoked ricotta, an old recipe from Carnia, in the Friulian mountains. If the description alone doesn’t make it sound amazing, let me tell you – it was. That was followed by a frittata with seasonal wild herbs served with polenta.

And with all that, of course, more wine! The day was only half over, but we were already getting a pretty good idea of Friuli’s gastronomic delights.

Lesley Trites