Cividale: Gateway to Friuli Heaven

Mar 21, 2013 | 2013 Croatia, Wine Tourism Conference

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

International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC)

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