Cellar Visit: Primosic, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

On a recent trip to Italy, David visited a dozen of our incredible producers. While in the Veneto region, he visited a new-to-us producer, Primosic and tried his personal favourite varietal in its native homeland: Ribolla Gialla.

Over to David...

I remember when I first tried Ribolla Gialla; it was the cult classic Radikon Slatnik. I was in my early 20s and didn't really care about wine yet (I was a chef at the time), but I swear this wine changed my life. It introduced me to Ribolla Gialla, natural wine, and orange wine all in one bottle!

It was an honour to be able to visit Primosic, who we have just brought into Wineology, and to learn more about Ribolla Gialla in its native homeland. I thought loved Ribolla, but I've got nothing on the passion of its producers.

The wines of Oslavia

Ribolla Gialla is an ancient white variety from Oslavia in northern Italy, on the border with Slovenia. It's typically light in body with bright acidity. The acid is perfect with deep fried seafood or something like lemony veal piccata or mussels in a white wine.

But when it's left on its skins, in the Oslavian style of Graver and Primosic, it turns into something that's a whole new level and category. While still delicious with fried fish or tempura veggies, a skinsy Ribolla can be treated more like a red and paired with tuna, duck or lamb, as well as spicy Asian cuisines and mature cheeses.

There is a unique bond between Oslavia and Ribolla. After World Wars, while much of Italy moved into mass production, the farmers of Oslavia spent decades replanting Ribolla Gialla on their destroyed vineyards. They knew that the marl clay, and poor, flaky soil that crumbles in the hand, was just what the indigenous varietal prefers.

The other native varietal for this region is refosco. Characterised by high acidity and tannins, this wine spends a short time on skins to obtain a more gentle and less tannic result, followed by fermentation in cement, intentionally avoiding oak barrels.

The wines of Primosic

"In 1998 we started doing short macerations at controlled temperature," says Boris Primosic. "Since 2003 we have taken a further step forward with our Ribolla di Oslavia, changing its production philosophy. Our father was emphatic that we keep a version of classic 'Think Yellow' Ribolla Gialla, that is vinified in steel without any type of maceration, so that it preserves the authentic freshness of primary and varietal aromas.

"Alongside, however, we wanted a richer and more complex wine, produced with full maceration on the skins and ageing in barrels. The results were immediately encouraging, and we continued in this direction: today our Ribolla Gialla Riserva embodies the best expression of Oslavia”.

We were lucky to taste the 2023 Think Yellow Ribolla Gialla, which had just been bottled (you can see above it hadn't even been labelled yet!) and it was already beautiful. The Think Yellow Ribolla Gialla is coming to Wineology soon, so keep an eye out!

Primosic Refosco 2019

Refosco has a strong and fruity character, with good acidity and freshness, generous red fruits and spiciness. Generally characterised by high acidity and tannins, Primosic leaves the grapes in contact with their skins for a relatively short period to reduce the tannins, and then ferments in cement, intentionally avoiding oak. Full bodied, fragrant, slightly tannic and savoury, with a pleasant and persistent aftertaste. Perfect for a Summer barbecue, and excellent in Winter with game. Or try it with pizza covered with nduja or spicy salami.

Primosic Ribolla Gialla Riserva 2019

An incredible full-body orange wine. Heavy tannins, complex, dry. The Ribolla Gialla spends four weeks on its skins, before undergoing malolactic fermentation in barrels and let to rest on lees. The wine is then transferred to large barrels for at least a year, then aged in bottles "until the right balance skin-wine is reached" (whenever that may be!). Characteristically dry, the fragrance evokes apricot, green tea, bitter orange rind, candied tangerine, and dried fruit.

Primosic "Think Yellow" Ribolla Gialla 2022 (coming soon!)

The “Think Yellow” is a fresh, sunny and young label for the grape variety that Primosic loves the most: Ribolla Gialla. It is fermented in stainless steel to enhance its primary characteristics, acidity and freshness. Characteristic dry flavour, slightly citrusy, gently mineral, and with a pleasant acidity. Drink with sushi or with fish and chips on the beach.

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