This northern region snuggled up closely with Slovenia has a long history (evidence suggests 20,000 years of human occupation) and with it a very interesting viticultural one too. The Friuli territory has been on the wine map for quite some time, being situated geographically just right to have some rather important port/trade cities throughout the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Venetian Republic, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Friulani today are very proud of their history, dialects/language, and of course wine!
Friuli is an important Italian wine region for a few reasons. For one, though its production is much lower than Tuscany or Piedmont, it ranks as highly as them in terms of the quality of their wines. Friuli is a quality vs quantity kind of place with its numerous and exceptional small vineyards (often family-run). A blend of innovation, tradition, and investment in winery equipment since the 1960s has resulted in a really impressive array of Friuli wines (especially so-called “super” whites). Friuli vintners tend to use lots of their indigenous varietals as well as non-traditionally Italian ones like Pinot Bianco or Riesling. The majority of wines produced are white but they do have some phenomenal reds too.
Geography: Situated between the Alps and the Adriatic, Friuli-Venezia Giulia has climatic variation between the north and south as well as some micro-climates. The northern half of the region is mountainous with a grape-friendly alpine climate while the southern half is characterized by smaller hills, flatter plains and a more maritime climate as it gets closer to the Adriatic sea. In general Friuli vines find themselves able to ripen well with the region’s favorable daily temperature variation (known as “diurnal range”, this difference between night/day temps helps grapes develop slowly and gain more complexity as sugar levels increase). The region has two principal rivers: the Tagliamento and the Isonzo. Some areas can occasionally be exposed to a strong and frigid wind called “la bora”.
Main Provinces and their Wine Regions:
- Udine: Colli Orientali del Friuli, Cividale del Friuli, Aquileia, Latisana, Annia, Friuli-Grave
- Pordenone: Friuli-Grave, Lison-Pramaggiore, Sacile, San Vito al Tagliamento, Spilimbergo
- Gorizia: Collio/Collio Gorziano, Isonzo, Cormons
- Trieste: Carso
Key Regional Grape Friends:
- Chardonnay (white)
- Cividin (white)
- Garganega (white), makes up a lot of the Soave wine blend in nearby Veneto
- Incrocio Manzoni (white), a crossing of Riesling and Pinot Blanc/Bianco
- Malvasia Istriana (white), a sub-variety of Malvasia (planted widely around Italy)
- Moscato Bianco (white), aka Moscato Canelli or Muscat Blanc à Petit Grain
- Müller-Thurgau (white)
- Pignoletto (white)
- Picolit (white), a prized local variety that has been documented as far back as the 12th century.
- Pinot Bianco (white), aka Pinot Blanc
- Pinot Grigio (grey), aka Pinot Gris
- Prosecco (white), aka Glera (see more about Prosecco sparkling wine made in the Veneto area in other posts)
- Ribolla Gialla (white), probably originally Greek but now associated with aromatic and crisp wines from this area and Slovenia
- Riesling (white), aka Riesling Renano
- Sauvignon (white), aka Sauvignon Blanc
- Tocai Friulano (white), now more commonly (and legally) labeled as “Friulano” due to confusion with the Hungarian dessert wine Tokaji and the Alsace wine Tocai. Genetically identified as the French grape Sauvignonasse or Sauvignon Vert.
- Traminer and Traminer Aromatico (grey), aka Gewürztraminer, the “aromatico” variety being more well…aromatic!
- Trebbiano/Trebbiano Toscano (white)
- Ucelut (white), local grape
- Verduzzo Friulano (white), a local grape aka Ramandolo
- Viognier (white)
- Vitovska (white), a local grape that is the second most widely cultivated in the region. Its name likely derives from the Slovenian city Vitolje.
- Aleatico (black), grown all throughout Italy often used for sweet red wines
- Ancellotta (black)
- Cabernet Franc (black), of French origin
- Cabernet Sauvignon (black), also of French origin
- Carmenere (black), French grape used sometimes in blends
- Cjanorie (black)
- Franconia (black), aka Blaufränkish
- Gamay (black), French grape famous for its light and fruity Beaujolais wines
- Incrocio Manzoni 2.15 (black), a crossing of Prosecco and Cabernet Sauvignon
- Lambrusco Maestri (black), one of the grapes famous for creating a red sparkling wine
- Malbech (black), aka Malbec
- Marzemino (black)
- Merlot (black), this French grape is among one of the most planted throughout Italy due partly to its amicable relationship in blends with other grapes
- Pignolo (black), possibly native to the Friuli area, this grape has been saved from extinction and makes spicy and dark wines.
- Pinot Nero (black), aka Pinot Noir
- Refosco and Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso (black), Refosco and a red-stemmed sub-variety, both making dark and tannic red wines.
- Sangiovese (black), more associated with Emilia Romagna and Tuscany
- Schioppettino (black), a native grape sometimes labeled as “Ribolla Nera” (but unrelated to Ribolla Gialla) or “Pocalza”
- Tazzelenghe (black), in regional dialect means “Tongue cutter” referring to it’s striking acidity
Ramandolo DOCG – $-$$, This was the first wine region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia to gain DOCG status. All of its wines are either white or dessert wines (made from Verduzzo Friuliano of course).
Friulano Colli Orientali DOC – $-$$, Friulano wines today tend to be medium-bodied, crisp, refreshing, and full of melon, peach, blossom, and almond flavors.
Pinot Grigio – $-$$, a varietal that is not solely grown or famous for being in Friuli BUT some very creative and excellent winemakers have made some excellent golden/coppery examples of this amazing grape. Try out Sot Lis Rivis to get an idea!
Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit -$$, Another sweet wine with delicate dried fruit aromas and a great reputation.
Ribolla Gialla – $-$$, this grape makes some refreshing dry whites loaded with exotic and tropical fruit armoas.
Schioppettino (Colli Orientali, Friuli Isonzo, Venezia Giulia IGT) – $-$$, sometimes also called “Ribolla Nera” on the label, this red grape is one of the Region’s red wine stars, making wines full of red fruits, floral, and sometimes peppery character.
DOCG Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia to Date:
- Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit
DOC Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia to Date:
- Carso or Carso Kras
- Collio Goriziano
- Friuli Annia
- Friuli Aquileia
- Friuli Colli Orientali
- Friuli Grave
- Friuli Isonzo
- Friuli Latisana
- Lison Pramaggiore
IGT Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia to Date:
- Alto Livenza
- Delle Venezie
- Venezia Giulia