The position of Australian wine around the world receives a natural level of respect.

Likewise imported brands now enjoy egalitarian treatment and this segment’s share of the market continues to grow, to well above 10 percent.

Australia’s oldest family wine company, Yalumba, through its importing arm Negociants Australia, run the biennial trade training seminars Working with Wine.

Prospective attendees actually sit an exam prior to gain acceptance to the program; and the demand is brisk.

Negociants have done much to stimulate the advance of sommelier training and roles in major Australian restaurants-and no doubt their prime imported brands are kept under the sales spotlight.

This year the focus was the wines of North East Italy, namely Alto Adige and Trentino, Veneto, and Fruili-Venezia-Giulia.

Italian wine author Nicolas Belfrage MW led the charge, describing the potted history of Italian wines through the ages and how that applied today.

The Etruscean influence on trellising systems (pergolas) was not lost on the audience with the vine arms shaped towards the heavens in order to gain greater crop.

Today’s blog reports on the white wines of Fruili through the brand Lis Nerris.

San Lorenzo’s Federica Pecorari from Lis Nerris in Fruili spoke of the family’s movements in viticulture since 1980 (where high production, more dilute wine was preferred), transforming from two thousand vines per hectare up to five and six thousand, with production limited to less than 1.5 kilograms per vine.

The region makes mono-varietal wines, essentially whites, and only recent experimentation has led to blending and more “interesting” styles with varied nose and texture.

The local traditions were once influenced heavily as a result of occupation while a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire with native varieties of Northern Europe once having a presence.

These have been shed for the modern era with Lis Nerris Pinot Grigio 2008 (AUD $34 / USD $31) the basic stainless steel-made wine from young vineyards around ten years.

Federica calls these the simple philosophy wines, while the vineyard selections such as Lis Nerris “Gris” Pinot Prigio 2007 (AUD $48 / USD $44) is single vineyard wine, 25 year-old vines, high ripeness (13-14% alcohol). Gris in this instance means “crickets”, a local insect inhabiting the grass around the vines.

This wine has high colour (gris can be orange or pink with loose winemaking), plus it is oak aged (500 litre, second and third use barrels), has nose complexity but also nose “heaviness” from heavy-handed working of the grape and pungent palate. The cellar term for the acidity sensation on the finish is “saltiness”, a quaint term for the minerality of grigio.

Federica refers to 2007 as “the anticipated vintage” for the “unfolding vines” which ripened between the end of August to the end of September.

Lis Nerris Fiore di Campo 2008 (AUD $38 / USD $35) is the company’s Reserve style white blend, first released in 2003, centred around fruilano (a native grape lingering from Austrian times); 85 percent that grape plus 10 percent sauvignon and five percent riesling.

The wine created good interest-delicate yet musky from the small aromatic grape proportion; very taut, mineral and slatey acidity for longer aging, made I believe for the younger generation of wine drinkers wanting less wine “attitude” and more understated acidity (the sauvignon blanc set).

This main grape was originally named tocai fruilano but under pressure from the Hungarians the “tocai” has been dropped, and in fact it became EU law from April 2008 that wines exported from Italy be simply called fruilano.

Lis Nerris is a progressive northern Italian producer, with 50 percent of its vineyards planted to pinot gris-one of the boom grapes of the moment-and for a few years to come no doubt.

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