Monday, November 03, 2008

Deliciously Different Ribolla Gialla

Ribolla Gialla is one of those varieties that most people have never heard of, never mind tasted.

It's been grown in the Friuli region of Italy since the 13th century, and experts believe that it is related to the red wine grape Schioppettino. Ribolla Gialla isn't grown in very many places in Europe, and it's grown in even fewer places here in the US.

You can count the US vineyards where Ribolla Gialla is planted on the index finger of one hand. Only one vineyard grows Ribolla Gialla and it's Vare Vineyards in the Napa Valley. George and Elsa Vare fell in love with Northern Italian and Slovenian grapes and wine and decided to dedicate their winemaking efforts to seeing how the varieties would fare over on this side of the world. In addition to Ribolla Gialla the Vares grow Pinot Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Tocai Friulano, and Sauvignon Blanc. They produce limited quantities of wine from small yields, and bottle it exclusively in 500ml and 1.5L bottles. And the wine is good--good enough that the famous French Laundry bought nearly all of their 2004 vintage for sale in the restaurant.

The 2005 Ribolla Gialla is sold out at the winery--but you can still get your hands on some of it if you are interested in trying it from Wine Q. (sample; $24.99/500ml, WineQ) This good QPR wine was deliciously different. When it was cold from the fridge I could have sworn it was very fresh Fino Sherry because of its dry nutty and citrus aromas and flavors. As it warmed up in the glass, however, the wine became heavier in the mouth, more acidic, and full of lemon oil aromas and flavors. There was a sensation of creaminess as well, which made it reminiscent of tangy lemon curd. This wine is made for shellfish and fish dishes, although it would also be a great match for appetizers or tapas.

Don't be afraid to try a new variety if you get the chance. You could be in for a deliciously different surprise.

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