Don Chigazola has brought wines from Friuli today on California Wine Country with Steve Jaxon and Dan Berger. Friuli is the region of Italy in the north-east, bordering on Slovenia. He has been on the show several times, most recently on this March 2022 episode all about wines from the Alto Adige region.
Don begins by retelling the story of how his company Chigazola Merchants works. He travels the back roads of Italy looking for small local producers of unique local wines. He tells about asking the local people who makes the best wine, then he follows the trail to find them. Once he finds the ones he wants to import, he begins the process which takes several months, for the wine to arrive. Don Chigazola really does have the coolest job in the world and it’s an inspiring story.
Today Don has brought three wines from the Traverso family vineyards in Friuli: Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. The Traverso family was on CWC, the last time was this episode in May of 2019.
These wines come from the Traverso family vineyards in Friuli, which are located in the region called Colli Orientali. That means “Eastern Hills” in Italian. This hilly region is warm during the day and gets cold at night. The soil is gravelly and so the vines have to struggle and send down deep roots. These conditions favor the development of good acidity which characterizes Italian whites.
The Friulano is an example of an Italian regional specialty. They also taste a Sauvignon Blanc which has a different character than the ones we are used to, from California or New Zealand. That is due to Friuli’s unique growing conditions.
There are 20 regions in Italy and each one famous for one, two or sometimes three major varietals that thrive there. There are 600 varietals grown in Italy, and over 100 kinds of white wine. They are all quite different than the same ol’ French varietals we are used to drinking in California, as these three wines demonstrate. Arneis is an example of a white wine from Piemonte that is delicious but simply now known in the US.
Don Chigazola explains that a lot of his wines are not famous outside of Italy. He enjoys having the role of a wine educator and a represenative of the families that make the wine he chooses to distribute. He takes care to send ancillary materials that come with the shipments which explain about the wines.
The third wine they taste is a Pinot Grigio. This is an Italian style, with a little bit of white wine tannin in the aftertaste. This varietal is the largest selling export product and not all of it is as good as this one.