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The Archaeologist of Friuli: Emilio Bulfon

Think of Emilio Bulfon as an archaeologist of lost grapes.

His 11 acres of vineyards in northeast Italy are home to native Friulian varieties. But what makes Bulfon’s vineyards different are that they’re planted with recovered Friulian varieties. Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, Tocai Friulano, and even Sauvignonasse—yeah, we know about those. They’ve stood the test of time and have become synonymous with the cool northern climes of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, making wines of verve and crystalline purity.

Bulfon’s “recovered” varieties are ones that are unfamiliar to even the most trained ears, hard to pronounce, and harder to come by in any market—let alone in our humble fly-over state. He currently has 24 native varieties planted, including Cordenossa, Cividin, Forgiarin, Ucelut, and three that are currently available to us: Piculit Neri, Sciaglin, and Cjanorie. Emilio has done what many other winemakers worldwide boast—to connect the old ways with the new—but he’s done it in a slightly different and, frankly, extraordinary way. He uses new technology and state-of-the-art equipment to produce the best versions of what these old, forgotten grapes can offer, and he pays homage to his homeland’s history by incorporating religious medieval artwork on all of his labels—in essence, truly and completely drawing together the Old and the New.

The winery has been qualified by ERSA (an organization advocating for the development and awareness of rural areas in Friuli Venezia Giulia) as a Teaching Farm which are, according to ERSA’s website, “a practical resource to raise awareness of the rural world its culture, its heritage and its activities.” This is clearly what Bulfon’s wines are all about: to educate and bring to light the little-known but thought-provoking grapes that are a deep, intrinsic part of Friuli’s winegrowing history.

Emilio Bulfon Sciaglin // $19.99

Meaning “originating from Slavia” or perhaps “from terraced vineyards” (or both), Scaglin is a white wine with a big personality. It gives off intense yet delicate aroma of elderflower, acacia and white pepper, and has a bright, crisp-edged acidity to offset the textured, waxy body and persistent finish. Drink with delicate fish dishes and herb-encrusted white meats.

Emilio Bulfon Cjanoros // $19.99

The Beaujolais of northern Italy! This fresh, fruit-driven wine has all the things we love about Gamay, without being Gamay: a friendly, soft-textured body, perfectly ripe fruit, and a gulpability factor that makes this red fruit-laden wine all too easy to consume. Pair with pasta and tomato sauce, barley and bean soups, white meats, salami, and cheese plates.

Emilio Bulfon Piculit Neri // $21.99

An herbaceous, wild wine with notes of forest berries, hints of smoke and spice, and a suggestion of warm vanilla in the background. This was the wine that first alerted us to the curious project of Emilio Bulfon, and has a special place in our hearts. The heartiest of the three offerings, this should be paired with red meats, pizza, or grilled vegetable dishes.