Josko Gravner and Stanko Radikon, both hailing from Oslavia in north-eastern Friuli, pretty much kickstarted the revival of extended skin contact white wine making, in western Europe (In Georgia it has an unbroken history of 8000 years). For me, this makes uncorking a wine from either producer a special event.
Gravner’s wines are as uncompromising as they are brilliant, produced solely in Georgian qvevris (amphorae) since 2001. This piercingly bright amber coloured Breg 2004, a white blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Italico and Pinot Grigio still feels youthful and rather closed.
For a wine which has spent six months on its skins, the texture is soft and supple. On the nose, Breg ’04 is reticent to say the least, with some spiced apple and sandalwood notes. The palate is beautifully balanced, with the focus and elegance that I associate with Gravner. It’s difficult to break this wine down into its component parts, it seems so complete and integrated – but peeking out from the monolith were bright acidity, preserved pears, clove, manuka honey and quince.
I have the feeling that Breg ’04 still needs time. After an hour in the decanter, it was resolutely taciturn, with no signs of maturation or fragility. Impressive, for an 11 year old wine – but I would expect nothing less. It’s not for nothing that Gravner now produces a reserve line which is released at 14 years old.
This is a wine which shows elegance, refinement and gravitas, swathed in a beautiful amber robe, and a story which goes back thousands of years. But forget all that – it’s also damn delicious, even if some patience wouldn’t go amiss.