The region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the far north east of Italy, near the borders of Slovenia and Austria, is renowned for producing some of the best white wines in Italy. I Clivi, founded by Ferdinanado Zanusso in the mid-1990s, produces exceptionally pure wines in the two most esteemed appellations. Now run predominantly by Ferdinando’s son Mario, I Clivi is producing some of the most age-worthy and delicious wines in the region.
Ferdinando and Mario farm 12 hectares of old vines (averaging between 60 and 90 years old) from indigenous grape varieties on the steep slopes of Colli Orientali and Collio. The soils are a mix of clay and sandstone with marine deposits, resulting in wines of intense minerality. I Clivi is certified organic and very hands off in the vineyards, yet incredibly detailed in their work with pruning based on the vegetative needs of each vine. Yields are incredibly low – averaging only 20 hl/ha – and grapes are hand-harvested.
In the cellar the work is just as fastidious. The grapes are gently pressed, with only free-run juice used. The wines are fermented with ambient yeasts and vinified in stainless steel in order to reflect the true character of each variety. They are aged on their lees for up to 18 months before bottling with low amounts of sulphur.
In placing confidence in this land, in contrast with the fashion of international wines which in the 90’s struck the Italian and regional viticulture, they have always cultivated local varieties, partly as a legacy of the previous ownership, partly because they believe that in order to express at its best the land to which they belong it is necessary to vinify grapes which are here perfectly adapted, and for their territorial characterization are able to express their own personal terroir. The tending techniques adopted for the vineyards aim at the highest quality for Malvasia, Ribolla, Friulano, Verduzzo and Merlot, where the sea freshness of varieties harvested in Brazzano, Collio, is opposed to the width of the sun-kissed grapes from Corno di Rosazzo, Colli Orientali, less than three kilometers away.