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A Surprising Sauvignon Blanc
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Nov 10, 2020
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Russiz Superiore, Collio (Italy) Sauvignon 2018 (Dalla Terra Winery Direct, $29):  I like to think that I can blind-identify the Sauvignon Blanc grape variety and can also tell you the region of production for a wine from that grape.  Sauvignon Blanc is a variety with particular aroma and flavor signatures, and although it is made differently in many wine regions of the world, most regions have signature styles for the variety.  This Sauvignon hails from the Friuli region in northeastern Italy — a well-established region for this variety.

I did not taste this wine blind, and in retrospect I wonder whether I could have identified it.  I can find the typical grassy and herbal notes of the grape, but the richness of the wine’s aroma extends well beyond those notes.  I also find a delicacy and gentleness in the wine that belies the assertiveness I expect from a Friuli Sauvignon.

Russiz Superiore is a wine estate with centuries-old roots.  The Marco Felluga winery acquired the property in 1967.  The Marco Felluga winery was itself founded in 1956, and today is run by Roberto Felluga, who is winemaker for both properties.  Typical of northeastern Italy wineries, both wineries produce a wide range of white wines from the local varieties (Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon) as well as international varieties and red wines but Russiz Superiore is more focused on small-production estate wines.  The name “Marco Felluga” appears on the labels of both wineries but more discreetly on those of Russiz Superiore.

The 2018 Russiz Superiore Sauvignon is a dry, medium-bodied white with vibrant, high acidity and rich, creamy texture.  Its aroma is quiet, suggesting non-fruity notes of nuttiness, honey, vanilla, white toffee, smoke and flint along with lemon peel.  But the aromatics that are reticent to your nose come alive in your mouth.  The flavors run from white peach, tangerine, and grapefruit rind to fresh herbs, grassiness, and green apple, and these are all vivid and showing good concentration of flavor.  A gentle, smoky note suggests the use of some oak, as does the creamy texture.  In fact, 15 percent of the juice was fermented in barrel.  The oak seems to have nuanced the wine in aroma and texture but has not subdued the fresh, lively flavors.

I tasted the Sauvignon alongside the 2017 Russiz Superiore Cabernet Franc, also from the Collio DOC ($31).  This wine took a day before I could truly appreciate it: fresh red-fruits aromas and lively cranberry-herbal-mineral flavors in a dry, medium-bodied red with grainy tannins, supple texture and good concentration.  It is enjoyable now, but I’d give it two years to show at its best, considering how much my appreciation for the wine evolved overnight.

If you are curious about the wines of the Marco Felluga winery, check out the 2019 “Mongris” Pinot Grigio (yes, Pinot Grigio) from Collio ($20) — and forget any stereotypes of Pinot Grigio as basically a crisp, straightforward, simple white wine.  Here you’ll find notes of lemon, apple, pear and peach in a medium-bodied white with rich texture.

My favorite remains the Russiz Superiore Sauvignon, with its tangy orange and lemon zestiness, its concentration, its vibrancy and yet its gentled-out, generous mouthfeel.

2018 Russiz Superiore Sauvignon, 92 Points
2017 Russiz Superiore Cabernet Franc, 90 Points
2019 Marco Felluga “Mongris” Pinot Grigio, 90 Points