Tradition, Terroir and Toros – Exploring the D.O.C Collio 

Tradition, Terroir and Toros – Exploring the D.O.C Collio.

In the most northeastern area of Italy, bordering Austria and Slovenia, lies one of Italy’s most beautiful wine regions. For five generations, the Toros family has owned their estate in this region, where they have cultivated a winery specializing in wines that reflect the heart and history of Collio – Friulano.

At Dutch Wine Apprentice, we have had the privilege to meet the family and experience their wines and now it is time to share their story with you.

Friuli Venezia Giulia – D.O.C Collio

The Friuli Venezia Giulia region is nestled in the northeastern corner of Italy, known for its exceptional fresh and fruity wines. While predominantly known for white wines, the area also produces a small share of reds, often youthful and light.

Collio, a D.O.C within this region, lies near the Slovenian border and is characterized by its maritime climate, influenced by the nearby Adriatic Sea. The warm summers and mild winters create ideal conditions for viticulture. The region’s terroir is distinguished by ‘Ponca’ soils, rich in minerals and consisting of sandstone and marl. These soils, coupled with Collio’s hilly terrain, provide optimal conditions for high-quality grapes, with well-drained and ventilated slopes. Daily temperature fluctuations of around 10 degrees Celsius during the summer allow for sunshine during the day and cooling at night.

Winemaking in Collio dates back to Roman times, preserving the traditions of the area. Historic indigenous grape varieties such as Friulano and Ribolla Gialla thrive here, reflecting the region’s rich viticultural history. Collio’s wineries are mostly small, family-owned operations, emphasizing tradition and quality.

Compared to other D.O.C.s in the region, Collio’s landscape is hillier, distinguishing it from flatter areas like Friuli Isonzo, located closer to the Slovenian border. Therefore, Collio is known for its crisp, fresh white wines, while also producing elegant young reds from grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.

The Diversity of Collio’s Vineyards

The diverse terrains of the D.O.C Collio offer the Toros Winery a unique canvas, dotted with microclimates and varied soils that enrich their vineyard portfolio. The careful selection of grape varieties to match each vineyard’s specific conditions is a testament to the Toros family’s deep understanding of their land. Such precision in viticulture allows each grape variety to express the fullest potential of its terroir, creating wines with unparalleled depth and character.

This nuanced approach highlights the region’s versatility, showcasing Toros’ mastery over both white and red grapes, and inviting connoisseurs to explore the breadth of Collio’s viticultural offerings.

The Toros Estate and Vineyards.

The Toros Family

The Toros family has owned the estate for five generations. Initially cultivating a variety of crops, including grapes, it wasn’t until Franco, the current owner, inherited the estate from his father Mario that they focused solely on grape cultivation across their 15 hectares of land. Transitioning from selling grapes to local wineries, Franco recognized the potential of crafting quality wines on-site. Implementing changes in vineyard management to prioritize quality over quantity, they now produce only eight monovarietal wines, showcasing the finest expression of each grape variety.

Quality remains the sole focus for Toros, with Franco and his daughters refining their processes annually to optimize each vintage. The family has specifically chosen not to increase volumes or expand the estate to prioritize quality over quantity. With approximately 80,000 bottles produced yearly, the Toros winery stands among the largest wineries in the Collio D.O.C.

Franco Toros and his Family.

Four Splendid Toros Whites

Toros believes that crafting solely young wines, each using a single grape variety, best reflects the Collio terroir and tradition. All grapes are harvested by hand, and each vintage, the Toros family decides how to process the wines to optimize quality once again. Now, let’s explore their wines and evaluate them!

Pinot Grigio 2022

The appearance of this wine is light with a pale lemon colour indicating its youth and freshness. On the nose we find citrus notes like lemon and oranges, white peach, pear and yellow apples, providing brightness and freshness. Alongside, we also find some floral notes adding complexity to the wine.

On the palate we find a dry wine with medium to high acidity, which gives us a fresh, crispy wine. Flavors of ripe white fruits, including apple, pear, and peach, continue from the nose, with a touch of citrus adding vibrancy. There is a slight mineral undertone, reminiscent of crushed stones, characteristics of wines from the Collio region.

The wine has a light to medium body, with a smooth and rounded mouthfeel, balanced by the refreshing acidity. It finishes clean, leaving a refreshing feeling on the tongue. This Pinot Grigio is a classic example that showcases the Collio area, as interpreted by the Toros family.

We conclude by rewarding this wine a 91-point DWA score.

Sauvignon Blanc 2022

This Sauvignon Blanc displays a beautiful clean straw yellow color with a soft clear rim. On the nose, we find fruitiness with a touch of herbs. Citrus aromas with white young fruit such as white peach and a bit of pineapple combine well with some green aromas such as sage and pepper leaves.

On the palate, a dry wine, slightly high in acidity, which provides a crispy mouthfeel. Medium intense aromas of citrus and young tropical fruits continue from the nose into the taste. Again, combined with herbal, green notes such as pepper leaves and fresh grass. The finish, with a touch of minerality, retains the wines crispness and freshness, Toros was once again able to beautifully display the regions characteristics in this wine.

We conclude by rewarding this wine a 92-point DWA score.

The Four Toros wines we tasted.

Ribolla Gialla 2022

Even though the Ribolla Gialla grape is not very well known outside the Collio area, this indigenous grape is one of Collio’s signature grapes.

The wine presents an elegant pale straw yellow color showing fruitiness and elegance. On the nose, we find very delicate aromas of yellow fruits, peach, and white flowers. Subtle hints of herbs and blossom add elegance and complexity to the wine. On the palate, we find this dry wine shows the same elegance, with a medium to high level of acidity. Citrus dominates the palette, combined with subtle notes of white peach and white flowers accompanied with a herbal touch. The finish is elegant and refreshing, with a subtle crispness and minerality.

We conclude by rewarding this wine a 93-point DWA score.

Friulano 2022

The Friulano grape is another indigenous grape from the Collio area, one that results in a regional classic.

It shows a straw yellow color with a touch of gold, which gives away that this wine (in contrast to the others we tasted) had some barrique aging. On the nose, it reveals aromas of ripe stone fruit, such as apricot and peach, accompanied with white fruits and citrus, like apple, pear, lemon, and tangerine. The aging on oak results in a subtle touch of almonds.

The palate is dry, with a medium-high level of acidity, and can be described as round and juicy. Once again, you will find aromas of ripe stone fruit, combined with white fruit and citrus. Almond aromas add complexity and roundness to this wine. The long finish includes the typical crispness that the Collio area adds to all their wines.

We conclude by rewarding this wine a 93-point DWA score.

Exploring the Uncharted: The Wider World of Toros Wines

Beyond the celebrated varieties discussed in our article, Toros Winery’s repertoire includes intriguing wines that beckon for attention. The Malvasia Istriana, with its aromatic allure and historic roots, stands as a beacon of Toros’ dedication to reviving and perfecting ancient varietals.

Their venture into red wines, exemplified by the robust Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, demonstrates the winery’s adeptness at capturing the essence of both spectrums of Collio’s viticultural heritage. These wines not only enrich Toros’ portfolio but also serve as a bridge, connecting the past with the palate of the modern wine enthusiast.

Franco Toros and his Wines.

Tradition and Terroir: The Enduring Legacy of Collio’s Family Wineries

Investigating this area and tasting the wines we can conclude that the Collio area has a rich history, with traditions that are still alive today. Guarded by small family wineries, we are confident that these traditions will remain for many years, creating very distinctive wines, all with a typical ‘Collio crispness’.

As some areas step away from old traditions we are confident that due to the stable conditions in the Collio area, Toros, and other wineries in the region will be able to keep up the quality, traditions and therefore the typical and distinctive wines produced here. We look forward to being able to enjoy these great quality Collio wines for many more years!

This article is written by our own Michelle van de Vosse. We would like to thank Vinites, who is the Dutch importer of Toros, and Cristina and the Toros family for sharing their story with us. All mentioned wines are available through selected retail and hospitality partners of Vinites. Picture credits: Dutch Wine Apprentice and Vini Toros.