Often I get asked which region, in my opinion, is the best for wine. As you can imagine, this can be a rather challenging question to answer as there are so many factors to take in consideration such as style of wine, grape, soil composition, just to name a few. However, if I had to recommend a particular region to visit this time of the year, it would have to be Friuli. Unknown by many, this area is fascinating because of its wide range of exciting artisans that truly make top wines with a punch. Located on the north east of Italy on the border with Slovenia, historically Friuli has been making fine whites with a particular big tradition for the now trendy “orange wines”. Its landscape and cuisine really shine during this time of the year so when a client of ours told me that he wanted to organise an exclusive 3 day special event for his best clients with a focus on wines, I had no hesitation to suggest this intriguing area which is perfect for client entertainment.
They were based in a lovely castle in the heart of the Collio wine area which has been transformed into a charming wine Relais. Alessandra, the owner and also a family friend, is not only a wine producer herself but she also has a great touch for hospitality.
We first started discovering the area of Trieste, the “capital of the region” where the vineyards benefit from a very interesting location. They face the lagoon yet they are high up and protected by the Alps. Here, grapes like Vitovksa, Malvasia and Terrano truly excel. We decided to visit a leading artisanal winery set in a stunning landscape. In fact, all the wine production area is built underground in a cave like setting which adds a mysterious feel to the place. The red rock is a big factor here affecting the final taste of the wine and gives a distinct mineral feel.
Following this lovely tasting we decided to visit another special artisan that has a strong connection with caves: a fantastic cheese producer! Not the easiest cheese to produce, as it needs to be suspended in the air, inside a rather deep cave with a special cable. The producer then needs to make his way inside the cave to collect it… it really felt like watching a rock climber at work. The effort however, is fully justified when you get to taste this fantastic product called Jamar, a fully flavoured cow’s cheese that in the best years develops blue veins. Sensational by itself, astonishing when served with a small drizzle of locally made honey. After this enticing “aperitivo”, we headed to a lovely private villa on the Trieste Riviera to have a seafood lunch sampling the finest of Cucina Triestina matched with a selection of local wines to die for. They had an early night as the following morning they had to wake up nice and early.
The alarm went on at 5.45 as at 6.30 they had to be at a beautiful natural reserve for an exciting activity: wild boar hunting. They all really enjoyed the experience: being so close to nature with bursts of adrenaline really made their morning. Needless to say that hunger was building up so we took them to one of my favourite trattorias to enjoy a traditional Friulian meal. A selection of starters with delicious hams and cheese such as Fricco and San Daniele followed by homemade Gnocchi with wild boar ragu with copious amounts of Pignolo red wine to wash it down.
After a free afternoon to relax, the farewell dinner took place in a magical location: a stunning and exclusive private castle overlooking the vineyards. Here, the region’s only 2 Michelin star chef took my client and his guests through a sensorial gastronomic journey mixing tradition and innovation through inspiration and creativity. The perfect way to finish this fantastic corporate entertainment event!