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Fantinel

Many restaurants devote concerted efforts to authoring a high-caliber wine list that will pique the interests of their clientele, but few go so far as hotelier-restaurateur Mario Fantinel did. When he desired to offer the discerning customers of his Friulian restaurant some high-caliber selections, rather than going after top labels, he sought out top-quality vineyard land to start his own. That was 1969. Now, the Fantinel family operates a multitiered wine brand, the original restaurant (as well as a restaurant-hotel), and an extensive wine bar collection, the first of which opened in San Daniele del Friuli in 1998 as part of a project—“Pane, Vino e San Daniele”—undertaken by Mario’s three sons, Luciano, Gianfranco, and Loris. The original Pane Vino & San Daniele has essentially precipitated the launch of an upscale “chain” of sorts, with numerous outposts located in towns throughout northern Italy. These establishments are intended to promote the slow food philosophy and the enjoyment of local products, with an emphasis on the wines of Fantinel and the hams it produces in conjunction with the Testa e Molinaro company. At the time of this writing (August 2008), the locations numbered 20, though expansion plans include international destinations, as well as additional regional outposts.

Such an operation, of course, provides a perfect context in which to showcase the extensive portfolio of Fantinel, which operates several distinct labels. However, Fantinel began serving as a foremost ambassador of Friuli shortly into its second decade, undertaking various partnerships dedicated to establishing a recognized place for Friuli on the international scene. In fact, it was one of the first Friulian estates to sell its wines outside Friuli proper. Fantinel’s efforts comprise two estates—Fantinel and La Roncaia—and have largely been devoted to delineating the specific attributes defining Friuli’s complex terroir, supported by a distinct focus on three of Friuli’s DOCs—Collio, Grave, and Colli Orientali. Each label is dedicated to evoking the nuances and tradition of a particular delimited areas as well as a distinct stylistic orientation. The offerings under the Sant’Helena label represent the extensive clonal research that the estate has undertaken in an effort to cultivate the highest quality of grape. This is maximized by low yields, dense planting, hand-harvesting, and a meticulous process of selection. These influences collectively promote the articulation of the microclimates concerned—the Collio’s Vencò region for the whites, and Grave for the reds. The Grave zone is the focus of both the Borgo Tesis and Paron Mario lines, with the latter dedicated almost exclusively to red. Of particular note is Paron Mario’s work with the Refosco grape, which Fantinel is particularly devoted to, regarding it as the red that will distinguish Friuli and draw attention to its work outside reds. It is the grape, in fact, that estate founder Mario desired to promote.


Friuli’s indigenous varietals constitute the principal focus of La Roncaia, Fantinel’s estate in Nimis. Extensive research informs the production, as several of the bottlings constitute meditation wines. Of particular note are the Ramandolo and Picolit productions, the former of which is Friuli’s most historically significant production. Bearing the name of its DOCG region, Ramandolo is an unctuous dessert wine derived from a local clone of the Verduzzo grape. As the vineyards are treacherously steep in this area, all grapes must be harvested by hand. The distinctive character of Ramandolo is frequently maximized through both late harvest and partially dried grapes. Picolit is another distinctive meditation member of La Roncaia’s portfolio. This Friulian native is traditionally the subject of a dessert bottling, and Fantinel honors that form, leaving the grapes on the vine to dry and continuing the drying process for a period of eight weeks after the harvest.


Despite the significance of Fantinel’s indigenous efforts, the estate chose Merlot as the sole agent of its latest release, a Grave del Friuli bottling. It’s not as unusual a choice as you might think, though. Interestingly, until fairly recently, Friuli’s red natives had been somewhat overshadowed by Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon; in fact, their presence in the region actually dates back to the 1800s. Indeed, many Friulians regard Merlot—fifth on the region’s most-planted grape list—as essentially a local character. Thus, it is particularly appropriate that Merlot has been entrusted with the special cause informing this bottling. Formally known as Celebrate Life Merlot, this Grave del Friuli bottling is Fantinel’s contribution to the work of the Convention for the Use of Food Micro-Algae, Intergovernmental Institutional Spirulina Program (IIMSAM). The convention, designated as a Permanent Observer Mission by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, is dedicated to promoting the use of spirulina in efforts to ameliorate the physical damage inflicted upon children in third world nations who suffer from hunger and ultimately eradicating the disease. The Celebrate Life Merlot was released on the market in 2008: for every bottle of Celebrate Life Merlot sold, Fantinel will contribute 1 US dollar to IIMSAM. Marco Fantinel, the estate’s current president, serves as a Goodwill Ambassador for IIMSAM.



Wines:
Brut Rose
Cabernet Sauvignon Borgo Tesis
Celebrate Life Merlot
Merlot Borgo Tesis
Pinot Grigio Sant'Helena
Prosecco
Refosco Sant'Helena
Ribolla Gialla Sant'Helena
Rosso Platinum
Friulano Sant'Helena
Sauvignon Sant'Helena

Region: Friuli

DOC(G)s:
Collio
Colli Orientali di Friuli
Grave Friuli

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Fantinel Prosecco Brut Extra Dry NV 750ml Fantinel Brut Rose NV 750ml
Price: $16.00
Price: $19.80
Fantinel Prosecco Brut Extra Dry NV 750ml Fantinel Brut Rose NV