Every winery has a story. Or maybe two.
The people who own and operate Zuani winery, about 90 minutes northeast of Venice, were in New York a few weeks ago to tell theirs. If you’ve never heard of Zuani, you will. We’re used to seeing about a dozen new wineries a year pop up in Napa Valley, but brand new wineries are rarer in Italy. Zuani celebrates its first dozen years in 2013, and it certainly is off on the right footing.
Its back story begins with Patrizia Felluga, who certainly has the right pedigree to start a new wine venture. The daughter of wine legend Marco Felluga, she is the fifth generation to make wines in Italy’s northeast Collio area and, for a time, along the Istria coast that is now Slovenia. She learned winemaking at her father’s wineries – the eponymous Marco Felluga and its companion, Russiz Superiore – but she had a dream to create her own heritage.
She found a 30-acre property she liked in 2001 and purchased it for her and her two children – Antonio and Caterina Zanon – who run the estate with the help of a consultant. She took the winery’s name from what the area was called on an old map from the days when Collio was ruled by the Austro-Hungarian empire – Zuani. (Just think of Swanee as in Swanee River and say it with a “Z” instead of an “S” and you’ve got the name right – “Zwann – ee.”)
In the meantime her father, Marco, retired from active duty, and her brother, Roberto, now operates both of the wineries Marco built. A sister, Alessandra, runs Castello di Buttrio, while an uncle, Livio Felluga, Marco’s older brother, years also established his own eponymous winery. It’s that kind of family. In Collio, the Fellugas are to winemaking as the Kennedys are to politics in New England.
But the front story is just as interesting as the back one. Collio, with the Alps at its back and the Adriatic at its front, is a great place to make wines, especially whites, and Patrizia and her children want to keep things pure and simple. They will not make red wines, just whites. The whites will not be varietals, but blends of the four grapes they grow – Pinot Grigio, Fruilano, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. There will be two of them – one without oak aging, one with oak aging. While time has a way of changing business models, at least for now the simplicity of Zuani’s approach is very refreshing.
And so are the wines. During the New York luncheon, we tasted four vintages of Zuani “Vigne” Collio Bianco (no oak) and two of Zuani “Zuani” Collio Bianco Riserva. “The market demands the recent vintages,” Antonio notes, “but I prefer the wines a couple of years older. They show more complexity and the minerality of the marl and sandstone soil.”
The 2011 Zuani “Vigne,” the current vintage, is very fragrant and floral with lots herbal notes. It is full and fruity on the palate – a trademark of most Collio whites – yet it has good acidity to finish. The oak in the 2010 Zuani “Zuani,” the current vintage, provides a mellow note, more than a pronounced woody one, with hints of citrus – orange, particularly – and tingling bitters around the edges. The older vintages tasted show that both wines develop well in the bottle.
Patrizia, who heads the Collio consorzio and who has had a long interest in wine tourism, has passed along that passion to daughter, Caterina, who studied architecture in Milan. Caterina heads hospitality at Zuani and has sought out ways to get visitors to become more involved in wine culture. The family plans to open a small lodge at the winery soon.
At Zuani, the back story is gradually fading into the background as the front story of a growing new family winery is taking hold.