I Clivi Galea Rosso is made from 70-year-old, endangered merlot vines. Yes, endangered. For nearly a decade, winegrower Ferdinando Zanusso has jokingly threatened to uproot his four acres of merlot. And he is neither kidding nor laughing about their low yields.
I Clivi only made 100 cases of Galea Rosso in 2012. Yet Ferdinando can’t help but share his frustration over the merlot – with hidden pride. Then again, he doesn’t bother to conceal his preference for the varietal white wines that he makes from local friulano, malvasia, ribolla gialla, and verduzzo grapes.
Colli Orientali del Friuli is reputed for its white wines; its soils have been likened to Burgundy’s Côte D’Or which is high praise for any growing region. Based on this fact, it makes sense that i Clivi should give most of their attention to their white wines. And while most producers rush their reds to market when their wines’ astringency makes one wince, no such urgency has ever occurred to Ferdinando. He only releases Galea Rosso once he deems that it has hit its stride, when it can give pleasure to its imbiber.
Perhaps there’s something to be said for seeking out the lone red of a great white wine producer such as i Clivi. Given their trained apathy towards red wine, it means they only bother to produce Galea Rosso in good vintages and they still inevitably age each bottle in their winery rather than in your cellar (or closet).
Ferdinando admits, “It would be difficult to find a wine of this quality (at this price) from Bordeaux’s Right Bank, merlot’s native territory.” He nods, “È un signor vino.” Drink a bottle or two and you’ll find his words difficult to dispute. Look for an intricate, balanced palate that is redolent of black cherries, tobacco, leather, and spice. Pair with roasted or braised meats, salumi, Robiola Roccaverano – always my favorite – and pecorino, preferably Sardinian, aged 4-8 months.
*Note: I Clivi Galea Rosso starts to sing about an hour or two after uncorking and holds up a day, or two, or three after opening.