Brandino and Marie Brandolini d' Adda sound too good to be true. They are young, good-looking, and live in a Venetian palace. He' s a count from Veneto. She's a chicly dressed Parisian. He makes terrific wine in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli. She has a Venetian-glass company, Laguna B, that produces uniquely crafted tumblers.
The gentle hills near Italy's border with Slovenia have become known in recent years for fine wine. Friulian vineyards typically grow white varietals like Pinot Grigio or Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc, or Tocai (not Tokay, but Tocai Friulano; it's light and floral, not especially sweet) and reds like Cabernet and Merlot, which here are lighter and fruitier than most Americans expect. The region has six major DOC production zones, the best known for quality being Collio and Colli Orientali.
Vistorta, the Brandolini d' Adda family estate, is in Sacile in the Grave area of Friuli. Close to the region's western border with the Veneto, it's not one of the more famous wine-making territories. But in the late 'Eighties Brandino brought fresh ideas about wine-making to Vistorta. He decided to make one wine, Merlot, which was already grown on the estate and did well in the heavy clay soil. 1990 was the first vintage to appear for sale; now they are selling the 1995. Vistorta's Merlot is lush, fruity, and tempting to drink young. It promises future pleasures.
Marie Brandolini, who never trained in glassblowing but always had a fine eye, loved Venetian glass and felt there was an empty space between inexpensive tourist kitsch and expensive art pieces. She was inspired by the traditions of Murano, an island in the Venetian lagoon famous for its mouth-blown glass. At the end of the workday, masters there would fuse leftover bits of swirly tubes onto squat tumblers called gotti. With this in mind, Marie began carefully combining colors and patterns to make her glasses beautiful, yet utilitarian, not precious. She works with glass master Davide Salvatore, designing gotti in different sizes. None, unfortunately, is suited to her husband's Merlot.
To plan a visit to the vineyard, or for more information, write, call, or see the Vistorta website.
August 4, 1998