You will find wine made in every region of Italy but none is as prolific as the Veneto which produces an astounding 120 million cases a year and has no less than 14 DOCG appellations. One of these is a white wine named after the tiny hamlet of Lison and nearby is the winery called A Mi Manera. Here, Antonio Bigai and his son, Carlo, produce their own take on this delicacy. The land here is an alluvial plain as flat as a billiard table and the soil here is predominantly clay and from seven hectares father and son produce around 42,000 bottles per year.
Antonio, known as Toni, graduated in agriculture and oenology before working in wine in Brazil, Argentina, and California. He has brought all this experience back to his native Veneto where he is always happy to experiment, using a range of different ways to mature his wines. He has traditional large oak botte as well as 500l tonneaux and 220l barrique but more than this, he also has cement tanks and terracotta amphorae.
He produces a range of white and red wines but if you talk to him about his Lison he will become very traditional and talk of the Tocai grape. This name was banned in 2008 when the European Court ruled that there was a risk of confusion with Hungarian Tokay and therefore today it is more commonly referred to as Friulano. However, Toni has it on his labels as the alternative name, Tai.
The production rules for Lison specify that it must be at least 85% Friulano but Toni does not blend his wine; he prefers to let this local grape do the talking. Harvest time is normally around the middle of September and is done by hand to avoid damage to the grapes. They are then soft-pressed for 24 hours under chilled conditions to allow the flavours in the skins to come through without extracting tannins. After a temperature-controlled fermentation, the wine then matures for eight months in stainless steel and a further two months in the bottle before being released. The result is a straw yellow with just a hint of green. On the nose it is full of the white flowers of spring – for me that is elderflower – with a hint of almond. On the palate it is full-bodied with soft fruits and a bright minerality. An obvious match for fish and shellfish, I would love this with a good spaghetti alle vongole or a plate of the best oysters.
Toni produces two other wines from his Tai, an IGT and, interestingly, one matured in terracotta amphorae. He also grows another local variety, Malvasia Istriana, which comes full of the aromas of peaches and apricots.
When you open a bottle of Toni’s wine you will notice that instead of corks he uses a special high-tech plastic stopper designed to allow just the right degree of oxygenation and each one with a different colour for each wine. Yes he really does it, a su manera, his way.
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