Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Di Lenardo, "TOH!" Tocai Friulano

I'm drinking a little Tocai Friulano tonight with my take-out dinner while watching the Winter Olympics.  What a great way to unwind after my work week!  Today was my "Friday" and I was ready for a glass of wine and some tube time.  I picked it out of the fridge because I knew it would be crisp, refreshing, and immediately enjoyable, and I certainly was not disappointed.  In fact, I really enjoyed this inexpensive bottle, and it served its purpose quite nicely.

Tocai is a commonly planted grape in the North-Eastern part of Italy.  It has nothing to do with Tokaji, the famous sweet wine of Hungary, though they sound the same when spoken.  It may, however, be one in the same with Sauvignon Vert, a less-refined cousin of Sauvignon Blanc.  I buy into the theory mainly because the common aroma of grapefruit and the usually citrus flavored palete remind me of some of the great wines of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume made from its cousin, Sauvignon Blanc.  Tocai is just a little more understated and does not usually have the level of complexity that these benchmark Loire wines are known for.

The region of Friuli is incredibly dynamic and there are many grape varietals growing there; both red and white as well as international and local varietals.  Winemakers are much further ahead of the curve than many of the winemakers of the rest of Italy and many other parts of the world for that matter.  They take full advantage of the latest in wine-making techniques, a school of thought led by the great Mario Schiopetto who revolutionized white wine-making the world over from his home in Northern Italy.  For example, Di Lenardo used pneumatic presses to make this particular Tocai.  It's a device that slowly and gently crushes the grapes to ensure purity in the juice.  Champagne is another wine that uses gentle crushing, often by pneumatic press, to make only the best quality wines.

Temperature controlled fermentation, another Schiopetto innovation, is also used to make TOH! in conjunction with steel vats.  This assures that juice retains optimal freshness and prevents oxidation.  It is thought that cooler and therefore slower fermentation helps wine retain its primary fruit flavors longer, which is desirable for whites of this ilk.  I found this wine to be remarkably clean and fresh given that it is from the 2006 vintage.  I wouldn't expect a Tocai Friulano to hold up quite so nicely as this, unless it were painstakingly harvested, fermented, and matured as this one obviously was.

TOH! is a green-gold wine with a mildly aromatic nose.  It has green pear and pink grapefruit notes with a tinge of almond and freshly cut grass.  On the palete it is medium to full bodied and has a crisp and zesty tartness that I find appealing.  It expressed the minerality of the gravel calcium-rich soils found in the Fruili area on the long finish and left my mouth watering with every sip for more like a hoppy IPA.  It was delicious with the Saag Paneer that I drank it with.  I loved the way it cut the richness of the butter and cheese and accented the exotic coriander and clove used in my food.  It's wonderful how having the right wine with a particular dish can elevate an otherwise ordinary meal.

TOH! was a good deal too, falling into my under $15 wine shopping rule.  I thought it was an excellent example of what Tocai Friulano is all about: crisp, refreshing, and easy-drinking.  I also really liked that it tasted like Friuli, which to me produces wines that are rich in calcium character and usually have a long finish with mouth-watering acidity.  A very nice wine from Di Lenardo, all in all.  I'll be looking for more from them in the future - from investigating their website, there is a wine called "Pass the cookies" that I have decided to hunt down simply based on the name.  If I can find it, there will be more on that later... stay tuned to CQ!

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