2017 Vie di Romans Ciampagnis Chardonnay



I guess were gonna have a year of fantastic Italian white wine at Waterford in 2021. You saw the Ca dei Frati deal a couple of weeks ago: now here comes another Italian white wine superstar…

One day Gianfranco Gallo was accosted by well-dressed men carrying bulging brief cases. They pulled out a wad of papers, spoke only in English, and were obviously ready for a fight (if only litigious, not physical).

Gianfranco’s family has owned vineyards in Friuli, Italy, since the 19th century. But it was only when he returned to the estate in 1978 that high-quality wine production began. Gianfranco had the drive, energy, and foresight to synthesize his region’s Pleistocene epoch terroir with modern winemaking techniques. Since his very first vintages, Gianfranco’s wines achieved cult status in Italy, making them nearly impossible to find here in America.

So it was a bit of a shock to Gianfranco when he finally got those papers translated. Turns out that two American brothers, also named Gallo, were one of the largest wineries in the world. As of this writing, one in every three bottles of wine consumed in America is a Gallo product. And they felt threatened enough by Gianfranco’s tiny estate that they were going to sue him and put him out of business.

Having tasted just a bit of American hospitality, Gianfranco quickly decided on two things. First, his winery would now be named “Vie di Romans,” honoring the ancient terroir by citing those who had first discovered it. The ancient road from Rome to the eastern Roman Empire, the Vie di Romans, passes through a very special place – the Friuli Isonzo. Second, he would put a white chicken (Gallo) on his winery’s label, forever teasing his eponymous (but no relation) Americans. No matter Gianfranco’s name difficulties, because here is one of the most glorious places to make white wine in the world – the Friuli Isonzo.

Here, in the hills northeast of Venice, the Romans started production of Italy’s (and arguably, the world’s) first great white wines. The Romans knew that Friuli’s shallow gravelly pebble soils; the coastal climatic influence of the Adriatic; and the hillside slopes were ideal conditions for grape growing. And this shows in Gianfranco’s Ciampagnis Vieris Chardonnay:

Aromas of pear, quince, lime, touches of tamarind, hints of orange blossom and lemon zest are all present on the nose, revealing a delightful complexity of purely gorgeous fruit. But as stunningly gorgeous as the nose is, the palate is simply a knockout – a densely woven texture of liquid minerality, freshness of delicately etched acidity, and a rich and powerful finish. Friulian white wines are famous for their depth of power, and that may be hard to translate for the uninitiated. White wine can be as powerful, dense and succulent as Napa Cabernet: But the conditions to create this style of white wine are exceedingly rare. One such place is Le Montrachet, in Burgundy, France. Another is Gianfranco’s Ciampagnis Chardonnay vineyard, in Friuli.

So while the Burgundians think they have the lock on the world’s best white wines, the Italians beat them by about 700 years. And I would argue, with this bottle of Vie di Romans Ciampagnis Chardonnay, they are beating them still.

Gianfranco believes this Chardonnay drinks best starting now and going until 2033. And I agree – I still have some of his 2012 vintage in the cellar. So you have two choices. Wait, and you will create a treasure in your cellar in a very short time. Or plow right on in – just be sure to decant the wine at least two hours in advance.

I only get a shot at this wine about once every seventh year – the last vintage I sold was 2012. That is how highly prized they are worldwide. And the reason is all in the bottle.

This is legendary Chardonnay. Don’t miss it.