Sun 27 Feb 2011
I mentioned the Bastianich Plus Tocai 2006, Colli Orientali del Friuli, briefly last year as the wine whose tough cork broke my favorite corkscrew. I had a second bottle, though, and opened it a couple of nights ago to accompany LL’s wonderful clam linguine. Lord have mercy, what a great wine! Made from a single vineyard of 60-year-old vines in the “eastern hills of Friuli,” in northeast Italy, the wine is not cheap, and the availability is limited, but I urge devotees of character-driven white wines to track it down. Plus Tocai 2006 is made from tocai friulano grapes, 10 percent of which are allowed to hang longer on the vines and become super-ripe and dried; the fermented juice made from those grapes is blended with the rest of the wine to contribute spice and richness and depth. Plus Tocai 2006 sees no oak; it’s fashioned in stainless steel, resting nine months on the lees, with 60 percent of the wine going through malolactic fermentation. The winemakers are Emilio Del Medico and Maurizio Castelli. The medium-gold color Bastianich Plus Tocai 2006 opens with lovely notes of lemon balm and lemon curd, ginger and quince, something like oh, let’s call it tangerine cream; cloves and cinnamon; and some platonic little white alpine flower — one hopes there is such a thing — that balances shy sweetness with astringency. With its spiced and macerated peach and pear flavors and its hint of roasted almonds, the wine is almost savory; it certainly rolls along the taste buds with a silken texture that conveys real weight and presence while seeming effortless, even ineffable. Vibrant acidity keeps the wine vividly immediate, while a burgeoning tide of limestone-like minerality provides a vein of seriousness to the structure. When you smell and taste a great wine, you know it unmistakeably, though that doesn’t mean that it’s overpowering or blatant; rather, its greatness, in this case, lies in an essential gathering of nuance and subtle details. This should drink well through 2012 to ’14. Alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Production was 800 six-bottle cases. Exceptional. Prices around the country range, rather ridiculously, from $35 to $65.
The 2007 version of this wine is also available.
Dark Star Imports, New York.