Italian Wine Regions - Quattrocalici
Table of Contents for the Friuli-Venezia Giulia Region
The Friuli-Venezia Giulia Wine Region
Main Article Contents
- 1 The territory and the wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- 2 The history of viticulture in Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- 3 The Grape Varieties of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
- 4 The production areas and the wines of Friuli Venezia Giulia
- 5 The regional cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The territory and the wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia has always been the land of great white wines. The fame of these wines, even if with very different styles and expressions, has reached such levels as to push someone to define them as “superwhites“. Alongside the grapes of international varieties, which here have found in many cases ideal production areas, just as important is the presence of authoctonous varieties whose wines characterize the enology of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The region can be ideally divided into three zones: the flat area around the province of Pordenone and part of the province of Udine, with the DOC Grave and the DOC’s Aquileia, Annia and Latisana; the north-east area of the province of Udine and the province of Gorizia with the DOC Isonzo, Colli Orientali del Friuli and Collio, and finally the Giuliana area with the DOC Carso. Each of these macroareas is characterized by the style of specific native wines and varieties. Friuli-Venezia Giulia has recently been a battleground at European Community level, because of the diatribe with Hungary on the right to to call Tocai the wine produced with the Tocai Friulano grapes. In fact in Hungary there is a name of protected origin called Tokaji, a small village on the border with Ukraine known for its sweet wines. The cause was lost by Italy in 2007 with the consequence that as the Tocai Friulano grapes maintain their name, their wines have since been called respectively “Friulano” in Friuli-Venezia Giulia and “Tai” in Veneto. This defeat was partly offset by the victory over the protection of the name Prosecco, protected by a special DOC in 2009. This new DOC takes its name from a municipality near Trieste, which has little to do with the production of the traditional sparkling wine, which was unknown in the area, but its toponym allowed to protect the name Prosecco as a denomination. From then on, the grape variety always known as “Prosecco” changed its name to become “Glera“, an ancient Slovenian name for the grape.
The history of viticulture in Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Due to its geographical position, Friuli-Venezia Giulia has been a subject for territorial disputes since Roman times, followed by the Byzantines, Venetians and Habsburgs. Many of the grape varieties present in the region owe their spread to the peoples who have settled there. Initially the territory was conquered by the Romans, who called it Forum Julii. At that time Aquileia became one of the most important cities of the Empire. Important testimonies such as those of Pliny the Elder refer to the quality of the wines of the region. The cultivation of grapes and the production of wine experienced continuous developments during the Venetian domination, followed by that of the Hapsburg, until the advent of phylloxera towards the end of 1800. The spread of international varieties in Friuli-Venezia Giulia dates back to this period and during the following years they managed to overwhelm the production of native varieties. More recently, there has been a revival of the regional ampelographic heritage, and many of the region’s finest wines come from autochthonous grape varieties.
The Grape Varieties of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The rich heritage of autochthonous grape varieties of Friuli-Venezia Giulia has been enriched over time with many international varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon, Pinot Noir which have been introduced in the nineteenth century during the Habsburg domination. Tocai Friulano, Verduzzo Friulano, Picolit, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Schioppettino, Pignolo and Tazzelenghe are native grapes of Friuli Venezia Giulia, while Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia Istriana, present in the area for centuries, were probably introduced during the XIII century. Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling and Riesling Italico, Franconia (Blaufränkisch) were introduced into Friuli from Austria.
The production areas and the wines of Friuli Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia produces white and red wines, while rosés are very rare in the region. The wines from Verduzzo Friulano and Picolit grapes are among the most famous Italian dessert wines. In Friuli-Venezia Giulia there are currently four DOCG, ten DOC and three IGT. Let’s take a closer look at the most important production areas in the region.
Collio or Collio Friulano
Collio is located in the eastern part of the region, in the province of Gorizia, and is particularly famous for the production of white wines. Tocai Friulano and Ribolla gialla are the most important varieties cultivated in this area, along with international varieties such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Both varietal wines and interesting assemblies come from these varieties. They allow to harmoniously blend the characteristics of the different grape varieties. In Collio area, red wines are also produced, specially with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.
Colli Orientali del Friuli
Colli Orientali del Friuli is the second most important wine region in Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It is located further north-west, in the province of Udine. Here one of the most sought-after and famous passito wines of Italy is produced, the Picolit. Another sweet wine is produced from the grapes of Verduzzo Friulano, both passito and late harvest. As in Collio, the production of the Colli Orientali del Friuli mainly concerns white wines, in particular from Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. The red wines of the Colli Orientali del Friuli come from grapes of international varieties, such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, while among the indigenous black berried grapes Schioppettino, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Tazzelenghe and Pignolo are very interesting.
The Grave area (or Friuli Grave DOC) is the largest one in the region and extends from the province of Udine to the west up to that of Pordenone. Its name comes from the soil, rich in pebbles and gravel, suitable for producing excellent wines. The area represents over two thirds of regional wine production. Grave wines are generally less complex than those of Collio or Colli Orientali del Friuli, however the average quality level is among the highest in Italy. In the Grave white wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Tocai Friulano grapes are produced, while the production of red wines is mainly based on the international Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes and with the native Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso grapes.
The area of Ramandolo was before 2001 a sub-area of the denomination Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC. It was the first DOCG in the region, as today (2018) they are four. It produces the famous sweet wine from Verduzzo Friulano grapes, starting from both overripe and passito grapes.
The other production areas of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The denomination Friuli Isonzo DOC is also important. Here wines are produced that recall those of Collio and are located south of this area. The wines are mainly white and are made from Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon grapes. The red wines are produced with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In the flat southern part of the region there are the DOC Annia and Latisana, in which we can find mainly white wines, directly affected by the influence of the maritime climate.
The regional cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
The cuisine from Friuli-Venezia Giulia reflects the soul of the two territories, namely that of the Carnica and sub-alpine areas and that of the Adriatic coast. As starters, the Prosciutto di San Daniele PDO and the Prosciutto di Sauris PGI. Other typical appetizers are the granseola alla triestina and the smoked trout. As main courses there are soups such as the carsolina (with eggs and flour), jota (potato bean soup and sauerkraut), rice and potato soup and many others. The Adriatic coast is famous for its fish stews, while among the first pasta dishes we remember the Carnia’s agnolotti (with ricotta and spinach) and the cialzon of Timau (pasta stuffed with potatoes, raisins and herbs flavored with smoked ricotta and melted butter ). Typical gnocchi, seasoned with minced meat and liver and numerous risottos with seafood. Even for the main courses we can find the same difference between the typically alpine meat dishes and the maritime ones based on fish. Among the first, the veal shank in the oven, the carnaiola head (of veal, boiled, cut into strips and served with sauce) the goulash of Austro-Hungarian origin, the pork in raspberry sauce, the toc de purcit (stew of pork with liver, flavored with cinnamon and cloves) and frico (a single dish of Montasio cheese fried in butter, with potatoes and onions). Among the numerous game dishes we point out the hare Bohemian way (stewed with aromas) and the roe deer with the typical polenta pastizzada (obtained by adding milk and butter to the yellow flour and water). Among the seafood dishes, remember the cuttlefish alla granseola (stuffed with granseola pulp), the shrimp with sauce and the scallops au gratin. Among the side dishes, the brovada dop, (turnips soured in the marc and cut into strips) and potatoes in tecia. Some examples of typical desserts are the gubana (donut of leavened dough filled with raisins, pine nuts, walnuts and candied lemon and orange peel), the presnitz (typical dessert of Trieste based on rolled puff pastry with a filling of walnuts, almonds, pine nuts , figs, prunes, apricots, raisins, grated chocolate, sugar, cinnamon, cloves and rum), the strucolo (a strudel, both sweet, with apples, than salted, with spinach) and the pinza, a winter dessert based on stale bread, milk, sugar, eggs, dried fruit, raisins, apples and fennel seeds. Typical biscuits known as “esse” by Raveo, for their particular curved shape.