The winery is set overlooking a lovely valley of vines, only three kilometres from the Slovenian border. The vines are now approaching 50 years old and these older vines are giving the company the raw materials they need to produce outstanding wines. They produce 130,000 bottles every year across all varieties (remember, that is less than Lafite produce every year) with half of that going outside of Italy to over fifteen countries.
When I arrived at Specogna, I knew I was going to like it there. There is professionalism in their operation, no disputing that, but it feels friendly and inviting. We had just been to Vie di Romans with their perfectly manicured vineyard and their ordered, sterile cellar, I felt there was little soul in the place. Specogna was full of soul. Rustic dining facilities with lots of old wooden furniture, green harvested cuttings strewn between the vines, wild flowers growing around the vineyards, a cellar packed with barrels of wine and no room to move - you got the feeling that they focus on the product rather than aesthetics and that they are passionate about their wines. Even if you didn't get that impression from the place, you certainly got it from the family welcome that you received. You could argue that you were being schmoozed, people trying to sell their wines and therefore putting on a show, but with this place you could feel that it was genuine.
We tried a lot of their wines. Here are my thoughts.
Specogna Ribolla Giala Sparkling
A bright and fresh aroma with a little bit of light citrus fruit and nice acidity. The mousse is like Champagne, pin prick and gentle, with a grapefruit and pear flavour. This is a good Italian fizz. 89pts Not available in UK
2010 Specogna Ribolla Giala
A bright aroma, some little elements of peach skin mixed with a touch of mineral. The palate is bright, a little acid coming off the start, and then some fresh pithy flavours coming off. There is a touch of sweeter fruit on the end, and then a very clean and very long finish. 91pts £18
2010 Specogna Friulano
A rounder aroma with some pithy fruit, lots of clean fresh lemon and also some pan fried lemon too. The palate is light, some fresh lemon and a little apple too. Good clean wine with some really nice zingy fruit. It has depth, some diluted lemon juice coming out too with pepper on the back end. I like this a lot. 90pts £17
2010 Specogna Sauvignon
Bright and grassy, light elderflower with a little green pepper coming through too. A touch of alcohol on the palate, but it is controled, tasty and light. Definitely a food Sauvignon, needing lighter herbal food to match well. 86pts Not available in UK
2009 Blanc de Cuar
A blend of Friulano, Ribolla Giala and Malvasia selected from the 22 wineries in the town. This is a joint effort by these wineries to produce a wine that embodies what Corno di Rosazzo makes. This is the only wine of its kind in Italy. A lot of complexity. There is the usual citrus and then some herbal aromas coming off. The palate has pineapple skin and some spice coming through. There is a little under ripe pear, some lighter fleshy fruit and some delicate, almost under ripe strawberry! Very interesting. 89pts Not available in UK
2010 Specogna Pinot Grigio Ramato
This wine is a ramato, a copper coloured wine made by leaving the juice from Pinot Grigio in contact with its violet coloured skins. It had bright, light red berry armoas with some raspberry leaf and pink grapefruit pith. The palate is clean with some lovely creamy texture coming off. There is a touch of tannin, some fresh cranberry notes too, cut with yellow grapefruit pith. Tasty. 89pts £18
2009 Specogna Chardonnay
A light oak coming through with a light mango and pineapple. Very clean with subtle freshness, a touch of ginger skin and a little mango dusted with white pepper. It is a nice wine, but I wouldn't bother that much with it. 84pts Not available in UK
We were then shown an experimental red Pinot Grigio made by Christian and his brother Michele. As Pinot Grigio has red skins, the brothers have decided to see what happens when you try to make a red wine from Pinot Grigio. Made from vines harvested in 2007, they have 30 days maceration on the skins and then lies in barrel. It is an interesting wine, and I think they should bottle this as it would be a wonderful curiosity for wine buffs, in the way that Dirk Niepoort's or Adi Badenhorst's unfortified sherry style wines are.
There were aromas of cranberries with a little spicy' menthol aroma and some oxidised, almost sherry notes. Some warm aniseed spice too. The palate has cherry stone flavour and some dried spicy woody aromas. There is a very spicy finish with a warming dried cherry flavour. A unique wine, very interesting. 92pts Not available anywhere!
2009 Specogna Merlot
Some sweet cherry and a bit of veggie coming through with a little menthol and, strangely, some concentrated watermelon. The palate has nice restrained fruit, a bit of leather and a touch of spice. Alcohol comes through a bit on the finish. 86pts Not available in UK
2007 Specogna Oltre Merlot
Bigger sweet fruit than the other Merlot, a little bit of aniseed coming off. The palate is concentrated. A bit of dark fruit and leathery. A bit of booze creeps in and lingers, but it is nearly balanced with the power of the fruit and leather. A decent wine, just not my thing. 85pts Not available in UK
2007 Specogna Pignolo
The low yielding grape, Pignolo, is the most important red variety in Friuli. It was cultivated in the 10th century when they built the rosazzo abbey but at the end of the 19th century it was almost extinct due to the need for high yielding vines. It was thought to be extinct until four plants were discovered in the 1960s. Specogna's wine has big, sweet cherries with a lot of spice, menthol and a little bit of clove coming through on the nose. There is high tannin, very dark flavours with lots of sour cherry, leathery with a bundle of cocoa and tobacco on the finish. Very interesting, some pretty gutsy fruit with a date like richness coming through. I like it a lot. 93pts £29
2005 Specogna Pignolo
A lot more sweetness on this older wine with a sweet chocolate some rich date characters and lots of concentrated cherry. The palate has had its tannins softened, some sweeter tobacco, a lovely dried berry flavour. Soft, silky and with really lovely balanced fruit, spice and justa touch of Bolivar cigar on the finish. 95pts
2010 Specogna Verduzzo
Aromas of peach cobbler and some rich, almost vanilla, custardy elements. The palate is rich, some sweetness and very approachable. There is a lovely lemony flavour, some bright citrus fruit, red oranges mixed with some mo vanilla and lemon. Bright and tasty with some pepper o the finish. Very good, just a touch of sweet mixed with a dry, clean palate. 90pts £17
Rich wlth sweet citrus and tropical fruit on the nose. Honey and lemon on the palate with a light sweet bright peach flavour, and a finish of lemon and grapefruit. Great acidity, and a very well made wine. 89pts Not available in UK
I'm prepared to admit that Specogna won me over. Their hospitality, excellent lunch and lovely surroundings made me fall in love with eastern Italy, but their wines are delightful as well. Sure, some of the wines may be a little on the pricier side, but I'm happy to pay a bit extra for a pack of bacon that I know has been bred and made with care, so why shouldn't I do the same for wine? What you are buying with these wines is a piece of Italy that isn't on the tourist route. A suggestion for a sunny summer day is find some Friulian recipes, invite some friends round and buy some Specogna wines. It is the nearest you are going to get to Friuli without going there!