Josko Gravner is one of those producers who challenges you. He's more than a winemaker; he's a wine philosopher. There are two ways to make wine, Josko says. The first is to see what the market wants and make wine that fits it. The second is to look inside yourself. For years, he did the former; coming out of trade school, Josko threw himself full-throttle into modern winemaking, throwing away his forebears' botti and using nothing but stainless steel. But he had an epiphany, and he realized the wine was soulless, and the way he was making it was hurting the earth. So he slowly returned not just to the tradition of his Friuli forebears but to the ways of the ancient Romans: making all-natural wines in amphorae.
When Josko began making his wine in amphorae, giant clay pots buried in the ground, he made a real, lifetime commitment. For one thing, he has to travel into Georgia, once part of the former USSR, with armed guards to secure his amphorae. But the risk is worth it. Josko believes in the power of nature so completely that to interfere with nature would be sacrilege, so he grows his grapes naturally and makes his wines with almost no interventions. Gravner's wines look, smell and taste like no others--they are otherworldly. Today, I'm proud to feature a beautiful recent Gravner release, Josko's 2007 Ribolla Gialla Anfora. 2007 was warm throughout Italy, but it's a great vintage for ripe wines. This Ribolla Gialla is like drinking flocked silk velvet--it wraps your palate with almost unbearably beautiful texture. I can't get enough of it.
Along with Josko's Ribolla Gialla, a great white that drinks like a red, I'm delighted to offer allocations of two actual red wines: Cerbaiona's 2014 Rosso di Montalcino and Le Macchiole's 2012 Scrio. You probably love Cerbaiona's Brunello--and rightfully so--but the estate didn't make any in 2014, choosing to make only its Rosso. 2014 was a rough vintage, so Cerbaiona sorted the heck out of its grapes, and this very low production Rosso di Montalcino is the best of the best; it's a real "baby Brunello," and it's delicious. Finally, Scrio is Le Macchiole's mono-varietal Syrah, and this 2012 is seductive, restrained and silky. I don't know how Cinzia Merli and her team made a wine that screams while whispering, but they did, and it's spellbinding.