This eastern most region of northern Italy borders Austria, Slovenia, and the Adriatic Sea. Administratively speaking, it is a new region, because only in 1968 it reached the present surface, with four provinces. Notwithstanding its recent formation, it is an old land. Its capital, Trieste, already was an important town in the Roman Empire, and nearby Aquileia even rated next to Rome in the early phases of Christianity. For centuries, Trieste was the most important harbour of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and it was acquired by Italy only after the end of the Habsburg dynasty, in the early 1900’s. Bertiolo itself may be a small agrarian village, but it also prides a fine past. Already in the late Middle Ages, its wines were recommended in archives as ‘pulchreas vineas Bertegoli’, the Latin words meaning ‘beautiful wines from Bertiolo’.
In 1960, before any DOC regulations existed, a small group of noble families with some 350 hectares of vineyards shared interests and created the Cantina di Bertiolo. Nowadays their mainbrands are: Cabert (short for: CAntina di BERTiolo) and Casali Roncali. Almost the entire region is protected by DOC regulations, and the Cabert wines take part in two DOC’s: Cabert in the DOC Friuli Grave and Casali Roncali in the DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli.
Of course, this is a land for white wines. Thus it is that we encounter local grape varieties like the Traminer, the Friulano (ex Tocai Friulano) and the Verduzzo, next to Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay. They make red ones too – and fine ones at that, like the local Refosco del Peduncolo Rosso (‘Refosco with the red stalk’, or Refosco dal pecul ross, as their dialect says). In the hands of a good winemaker, this is a full-bodied power engine. The Friulano’s (and Cabert’s) most famous wine, however, is the Picolit, a DOCG Colli Orientali del Friuli. At its best it is a velvety and not too sweet golden white dessert wine. Made from the Picolit grape and with an average of 10 till 15 tiny grapes per bunch, you can imagine it is sold in half size bottles only – and not actually cheap!
The noble families that created the Cantina di Bertiolo, proudly cultivate their cultural heritage that was handed down for generations. ‘From pruning to wine tasting’, as they phrase it.