Founded by Marco Savian in 1925, Savian is a third generation wine family making Prosecco, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay amongst other varietals in a wooded and historical area of Veneto. After being granted a small holding of four hectares for his service during the First World War, Marco built a house and tended the tough and arid clay soils by hand, planting vineyards in a desolate stretch of countryside situated between the Livenza and Tagliamento rivers called Podere Bainsizza. He would then hand deliver wines he had made from the first vintages to the neighbouring farms by cart. The area was once known as Bandita after the bandits and brigands that roamed the nearby oak forest and Savian reputedly coined the phrase still repeated by his ancestors who run the winery today,
“Mine was the first fire of Bandida, once land of bandits”.
The now very modern winery estate which has been extended to 42 hectares is situated at a point where the provinces of Venice, Pordenone and Treviso meet, encompassing the Lison-Pramaggiore and Venice DOCs. Varieties that tend to flourish in the calcareous clay soils which proliferate the rolling hills around are Pinot Grigio, Friuliano (for Lison Classico) and Chardonnay as well as Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc. In 1993 all vineyards were converted to organic farming, due to Savian’s concerns about preserving the surrounding countryside and in 2007 the family installed a solar farm to produce their own sustainable energy to help power the operation. Other ecologically friendly methods championed by the winery include using bentonite fining (a kind of montmorillonite clay used for clarification purposes) to remove protein haze in white wines instead of animal derived products (their wines are vegan). Current owner operator and grandson of Marco Savian, William, uses stainless steel for maturation rather than wood in order to preserve the individual characteristics of each grape and describes the overall philosophy of his winemaking as being a balance between the quality of his product and protection of the environment.
As well as the international varieties, a lot of production is focused on indigenous grapes like Refosco and the green-tinged Verduzzo. The summery red wine Refosco is one of Savian’s most interesting wines. A relatively anonymous and lesser-known variety, referred to by wine connoisseur and educationalist Jancis Robinson as ‘bracing and underrated’, Refosco might be one to try if you are a fan of lighter bodied reds that conjure the warmth of a sunny Italian afternoon. A native to the Venetian area, this dark-skinned grape family is found in Friuli, Gavi, Trentino and Istria to name a few places and is also cultivated in Croatia and Slovenia (being related to the Slovenian Refošk) and producing similar wines.
Refosco has a long history in this area of Italy having once been praised by enthusiastic ancient botanist Pliny the Elder and reputedly producing the favourite wine of Livia Drusilla aka First Empress of the Roman Empire and third wife of Augustus Caesar (58 BC – 29 AD.) Livia lived until her late 80s and attributed her longevity to her daily glass of the wine Pucinum and although it is not possible to state for certain the consitituents of the blend, Pliny wrote that its provenance was “in the gulf of the Adriatic Sea, not far from the stony hill of the source of the Timavo river, where the sea breeze makes a few amphorae mature” and this area is the natual home of Refosco.
The area from which the Refosco is harvested for Savian’s Organic Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and the grapes come from a precious strain of low-yielding vines planted in the 1970s in Lison-Pramaggiore. Vineyards here are situated in a wide plain created by the Piave river as it descends from the hills of Conegliano and Montello.
Savian’s Refosco is relatively light in colour and body and unoaked. On the nose, a blast of sweet red fruit and floral influences including violet and iris complete the fresh explosion of flavours. What we love about Refosco is the fine balance of acidity and gripping tannins, providing structure to its natural fruitiness, sweet ripe plum, morello cherry, blueberry and blackberry all to the fore but kept fresh and clean by the wine’s frame. There’s a minerality to this as well as a certain softness, rounding out the tannins and providing a basis of extra complexity on the finish, Here is your chance to drink like a true Empress this summer and try Refosco or another of Savian’s ecologically sound, organic offerings.