Loc Spessa, Cividale di Friuli, Friuli
The Friuli has long been a centre of artisan excellence, much of its genius is home grown and has developed through generations working the land, Lis Fadis however is that little bit different. This was a mixed farm, the wine was sold sfuso (fresh) to the local Osteria, there were cattle and olive groves, then in 2006 Alexander Marcorin and his wife Vanilla Plozner arrived and brought their resources to bear on this magical amphitheatre of vines.
What they have created is an ark, a temple for an epoch in Friulian history, there is no fiscal logic to Lis Fadis, this is a remarkable, part-philanthropic venture.
Alexander and Vanilla renamed the estate ‘Lis Fadis’ (the fairies tale in Friulano dialect). They built the cantina around a two thousand year old olive tree, the house to one side and cellar to the other. Both appear as though unchanged for centuries, a slight of hand, the stone is local and the architecture ancient, but the construction is all new. The cantina combines the best of old and new technologies, concrete is preferred to steel. Open oak barrels are used to ferment local red grapes and a mixture of small and large oak barrels bask in the underground vaulted cellar for ageing the wine.
What fascinated us was not the sympathetic architecture but the energy and research that has influenced the way in which the land has been cultivated. Ancient woodland covers the northern slopes, olive groves and fruit trees are planted amongst the vineyard, each variety chosen with great care, they are a living history of Spessa.
The vineyards are ten of the fifteen hectares, the vines are massal selections of historical varieties of the area (some have been there longer than others, but even Chardonnay has been cultivated in these hills for more than one hundred years). Each grape is individually matched to land. The diversity of plants make for a balanced ecosystem: the soil is alive; insect and wild-life is plentiful.
The vineyard is managed by Carlo Petrussi, a seasoned grower with invaluable knowledge of the old vines of the Friuli. A part of the land is in the parish of Prepotto, famed as the birthplace and home of Schioppettino, the rest is in Spessa. The native varieties of Schioppettino, Refosco and Friuliano are grown alongside Chardonnay, Sauvignon and an incredibly rare clone of Merlot. It is more like a kitchen garden than a vineyard, all work is done by hand with the absolute minimum of environmental impact.
Alexander was an antique dealer and he has given the labels a timeless charm, each wine twinned with a whimsical Rackham’esque fairy.
Their wines are made to be matured and the quantities made of each are tiny, the most plentiful being the Refosco (under five thousand bottles), this is not a winery you are ever likely to discover by accident.