Featured wineries mainly from visits of Easter 2012:
Friuli (or Friuli Venezia Giulia to give its full name) is Italy’s most north easterly region. It borders Slovenia (with which it shares its key zone, the Collio) and Austria – of which it used to be a part up to the first world war. It is not a big producer, being totally overshadowed in this respect by its neighbour the Veneto but it focuses on quality. It produces just 2-3% of Italy’s wine but the wine it does produce is mostly of DOC quality. In Italy and elsewhere it is known as the region of quality white wines – as much for their absence in say Piemonte or Toscana as for their predominance here.
Local and French grape varieties jostle for attention in Friuli. The principal grape varieties for the famous whites are Friulano (ex-Tocai), Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, alongside the white Pinots and Sauvignon. The reds are mostly the Cabernets and Merlot with a small production of high quality wines from the indigenous Pignolo and Schiopettino, with Refosco represented at both quality and everyday levels. You only have to add that the region has a range of sweet wines, including its own Picolit, and a few sparkling wines from both international and local grape varieties and it becomes obvious that it has a rich and distinctive wine culture. The only regret from from our excellent visit of Easter 2012 was that we did not get to any of the wineries specialising in the oxidised ‘orange’ style – in complete contrast to most of Friuli’s unoaked modern whites. The fact that both exist is typical of Friuli’s richness.
The Collio (whose consortium has a good website), on the Slovenian border, and neighbouring Colli Orientali are the most important areas, but good and even the occasional excellent wine is made in the eight other DOCs. There are also, in that typically Italian way, four minor DOCGs, two for the sweet white Ramandolo and Picolit – but here the top wines are the DOCs. And as you can see from the pictures above, the Collio in particular is a very attractive region. The best introduction to this area is Carla Capalbo’s beautifully produced and informative Collio: fine wines and foods from Italy’s north east (2009) – or, of course, by clicking on the links to individual wineries at the top of this page!