The 2011 Collio Prize

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Collio landscape.JPG

The vine-covered Collio hills of northeastern Italy, right on the Slovenian border, produce some of the country's best white wines.

True, it's not quite a Pulitzer. But it did mark the first time since the Premio Collio (Collio Prize) awards were launched, eight years ago, that the winning entries were written in English. John Brunton, the distinguished travel writer who lives half-time in nearby Venice, published a series of excellent pieces in the Financial Times over the past year.

And a second award went to the writer of a modest blog published in Seattle, First online winner ever! (The individual posts ran in December, 2010, and January, 2011. They're all together in this PDF).

Consorzio Collio e Carso (the marketing association of the region's wine makers) sponsored the awards, which also honored academic researchers and a film maker. Its acting director, Alessandra Gruppi (pictured below at the awards ceremony last Friday) who teaches marketing at the nearby University of Udine, recognizes the fierce competition of the world's wine regions, and is helping the Consorzio develop a brand, "I Love Collio," that goes beyond a simple wine label.

Outside theater, RH & Alessandra.JPGThe first element, the Consorzio now understands, is a signle "signature" wine that everyone can produce: Collio Bianco. As well as a distinctive Collio bottle. For European travelers, increased amenities like B&Bs and restaurants, better signage, bike and Vespa rentals. And for the rest of the world, international trade shows and an ambitious communications strategy to tell the story of Collio.

That's what brought me to Collio last winter. I had first visited seven years earlier and jumped at the chance to return. What I found were delightful wines that rivalled the best French and German whites (bright acidity, mouth-fillng flavors), produced in artisanal quantities by hard-working yet sophisticated families. They export two-thirds of their production and recognize the need for in-person marketing, so they send the younger generation off to the United States, to England, to Asia to pour their wines and tell their story..

And what a story! Collio is only 3,500 acres (one tenth the acreage of Napa Valley) with some 200 wineries producing 7 million bottles from a unique terroir. The soil, variously called marl & sandstone, flysh or ponca, contributes a unifying characteristic to all the wines from Collio: minerality. Even the lightest wines have backbone, and some, especially ribolla gialla, have so much potential that they are vinified and aged like red wines

And now I'm off, on a bright yellow Vespa, to scoot around the hills! If I were giving the Collio Prize, I'd give it to Collio.

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This page contains a single entry by Cornichon published on June 12, 2011 12:00 PM.

Venice in the Sun was the previous entry in this blog.

Collio on a Vespa is the next entry in this blog.

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