In the area north of Trieste on the Carso (Karst) Plateau in the northeast Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the land is made up of limestone caverns, rugged cliffs and soils... a perfect place to grow fine wines. The region is an ethnic blend of Italian, Slovenian and Austrian influences. In fact, some of this region used to be part of either Austria or Yugoslavia. The advantage to the Voyage here is having a blend of wines, cheeses, salumi and other gastronomic treats.
A great way to get a taste of the specialties produced in the area is to search out the many local Osmize (osmizza, ossmizeri), a sort of home-based tavern where you can sample the formaggio, prosciutto, meats, sausages, eggs, grappa, pickles, olive oil and other things produced by small scale farmers. And of course, there are the local wines: mostly Teran, Vitovska, Malvasia, both reds and whites served in carafes and in no-nonsense glasses without stems. The people serving you are the same people who grew, nurtured, bottled, aged and otherwise perfected the delights they offer. They will slice the prosciutto off the huge hams and make your omelette to order for you. These are small family farms, pretty much hidden in suburban areas, often having a series of picnic tables in their backyard, tables tucked under the olive trees or even rustic taverne built into their cellars or patios, complete with wooden wine barrels, overhanging arbors, fire grills and even musicians to entertain you with accordion, guitar or hand drum. Everyone joins in the singing, even if they don't know the words...
History of Osmize
The name itself is of interest: Osmize (also Osmizza, Osmica) is a word based on the Slovenian osem, which means "eight". A short history of the custom of Osmize will explain... Historians can trace the existence of osmize back to medieval times in a document from 1430 shows that wine sold in bulk by peasant producers near Trieste would not be taxed. This was reinforced in 1784 by Joseph II of Hapsburg who decreed that farmers could sell bulk wine from their homes for periods of eight days each year. The custom stuck, only nowadays, the farmers themselves decide when they are open or not. They are also opened all year round, with the warmer months being favored due to the beautiful weather to enjoy the al fresco experience.
How to Find an Osmiza?
This is where the fun starts. You see, Osmize don't advertise. They don't have prime locations on the main roads. They are located in the countryside and amid the suburban sprawl outside of Trieste and around the towns of Longera, Piscianzi and also across the border in Slovenia. As you drive trough the area by car or bicycle (a very popular way of seeing the area) you will start to see a small wooden arrows with a cutting of ivy branches tacked to poles, walls or fences. It's sort of like when you follow a series of signs in the U.S., like way-points, to find a remotely located barn sale. There will be several signs leading you to the osmiza. When you arrive, don't be surprised at how unassuming it might appear. You might at first think you're in the wrong place, and trespassing into someone's home. But that's the point. These are peoples' homes.
The wines grown in the Karst will include the sour, black-red Terrano with an intense flavor; Vitovska, a light, fragrant white wine with hints of almond; and the aromatic Glera the its deep yellow color and aromatic flavor. You will be able to buy cases of wine, bottles or simply enjoy a carafe and enjoy the wines in a more casual way.
So if you are looking for a more casual way to go wine tasting, consider a drive north of Venice into the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region and set out to "Visit the branches", as the locals say. Slow down... drink, eat, relax and discover that wine tasting doesn't have to be in a tall, thin stemmed crystal glass, slurping isn't necessary and you can enjoy the vino with the people who grew the grapes, aged the wine and bottled it. There are no pesticides on the food served. You can sit among strangers and feel like lifelong friends within the hour. The seasons change, the views can also change, but the feeling is all famiglia.