‘’Ribolla Gialla is the typical vine of these areas and is the one worth working on, what interests me the most." A phrase heard a myriad of times, first by colleagues and friends passionate about wine and then later by Josko Gravner himself, during a tasting.This desire to stop producing red wines is clear to me, I understand the reasons and I would never allow myself to criticize such a choice, but I am terribly disappointed.
The first time I tasted a Gravner red was Rosso Breg 2005, three years ago during a meeting with the winemaker. I taste it, I look out of my eyes, in disbelief at such a delicacy while in the
meantime the distributor explained that less and less would be done, that they would progressively rip out the vineyard to make room for the Ribolla etc. etc.
Last spring, in Milan, I participated in a special tasting lunch with Josko Gravner to try all the vintages of "Rujno" (although the first two wines in the tasting were the last two vintages of Ribolla Gialla!)
For the occasion, in the kitchen, a close friend of Josko, who works at the opposite pole of our peninsula: Corrado Assenza, from Noto, who in addition to giving us a lunch as austere and Franciscan as sublime, gave me the impression of being one of the giants of this world and it was nice to have been able to hear him in such an intimate dimension. Rather than describing the dishes, he explained to us the reasoning he made them, and hearing him speak, I understood that
I was in front of a professional with an experience and with cultural means available out of the ordinary. I will never forget the dessert: a kind of rice-milk with broken wheat instead of rice, cauliflower, peas and candied bergamot. His goal was to work the grain in order to keep its natural sweetness intact!
But let's go back to Rujno: it is a Merlot of which very few vintages have been produced because it is done only when conditions allow it. Before being put on the market, expect to wait 14 years - 7 years of refinement in oak vats and 7 years in the bottle. The vintages produced were the 82' 85' 89' 90' 94' '97' 99' 01' and 2003. I’ll spare you my tasting notes: needless to say how exceptional they were and how important it was to be able to taste them at the same time in order to appreciate the differences dictated by the vintage.
What I found all the more interesting was to see the inverse proportionality relationship between the enthusiasm of the sommeliers and that of Gravner as they tasted the older vintages. The enthusiasm of the sommeliers increased and the producer gradually became sore, almost embarrassed. He seemed to be uncomfortable, as if talking about his work in the 80s and 90s bothered him. He had lost the confidence and enthusiasm of the beginning of tasting when we
tasted the 2003 and the 2001...
The reason was that while for the sommeliers above, tasting the older vintages meant probably bringing the Merlot back to what it should be; Josko confessed to us how disappointing he found tasting wines related to a time when he probably had a less clear idea of what would be his way and relied on the Elese paradigm. From his point of view, making Oslavia a wine similar to what they do in Bordeaux is a waste of time. What really matters is to protect the typicality of a place and understand what is the best way to work with the raw materials that you have available.