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 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 36, December 2005   
Friuli Venezia GiuliaFriuli Venezia Giulia  Contents 
Issue 35, November 2005 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 37, January 2006

Friuli Venezia Giulia

Among the most renowned wine lands of Italy, Friuli Venezia Giulia is mainly known for its white wines, and its red and sweet wines are interesting as well

 In the scene of Italian white wines, an important place certainly is occupied by Friuli Venezia Giulia, a land associated to wine and traditions, geographically located in an area in which live and join different cultures since many centuries. The vineyard of this land are colored of white and red grapes, in which are being cultivated autochthonous varieties to which have been added many international grapes. Despite wines produced with the classic international grapes - Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon - have proven their excellent adaptation in this territory, one of the most interesting characteristics of Friuli Venezia Giulia is represented by wines produced with autochthonous grapes. The region is in fact mainly associated to its typical grapes - such as Tocai Friulano, Picolit, Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo Friulano, Pignolo, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Schioppettino and Tazzelenghe - whose origins are not always connected to Friuli Venezia Giulia, but however they proven to adapt themselves in the region and to make excellent wines.

 Because of one of its most renowned grapes - Tocai Friulano - Friuli Venezia Giulia has recently been protagonist of a debate with Hungary about the right on continuing to call this excellent grape with its typical name which, according to Hungarians, it is cause of confusion with their most celebrated wine, Tokaji Aszú. The European Court has already expressed its opinion and has recognized Hungary its rights while ignoring the evident historical facts which connect Tocai Friulano to the Italian region, therefore, as of March 31st, 2007, the grape must change its name. It should be noticed Tokaji Aszú and the other table wines produced in the same area, are mainly produced with the Furmint grape, which does not have any connection - not even genetic - with Tocai Friulano. However it should be remembered that in the thirteenth century, to the court of king Bela IV came some inhabitants of Friuli who brought with them some plants of a grape called furmint which they planted in the Hungarian territory. Moreover, it is likely the Tocai Friulano name derives from a creek flowing in the region called Toccai, whose name and existence are documented and proven by ancient topographical maps.


Friuli Venezia Giulia
Friuli Venezia Giulia

 In the course of centuries, Friuli Venezia Giulia - meeting point of Italian, Austrian and Slav cultures - because of its geographical position, was subjected to disputes and dominions by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians and Hapsburgs. The succession of these people in the dominion of the region, have largely contributed to the introduction of many grape varieties. Tocai Friulano, Verduzzo Friulano, Picolit, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Schioppettino, Pignolo and Tazzelenghe are considered autochthonous grapes of Friuli Venezia Giulia, whereas Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia d'Istria, despite they are present in the territory since centuries, were probably introduced during the thirteenth century. Gewürztraminer, Müller-Thurgau, Riesling, Welschriesling (here known as Riesling Italico), Blaufränkisch (here known as Franconia) have been introduced from Austria, whereas the French varieties Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir, were introduced in the nineteenth century during the dominion of Hapsburgs.

 Everything began when the troops of Julio Caesar conquered this territory and from that moment on it was called Forum Julii. Julio Caesar set his troops at Aquileia, therefore becoming one of the most important cities of the empire. The connection between Aquileia and wine is dated back to those times: Pliny the Elder mentioned in his most renowned work, the pulcinum - a grape which was probably similar to modern Prosecco, particularly appreciated by empress Livia and to which were also recognized some therapeutic properties. In the fifth century, even Cassiodore - prime minister of emperor Teodoricus - mentioned the wines from the gulf of Trieste were the most precious ones, moreover it is known queen Amalasunta had a particular preference for the wines from Cividale and Aquileia. The highest splendor for Friuli's wines was however reached in later times thanks to the commercial expansion of Venice, period in which wines of Aquileia were shipped to most of the Mediterranean countries.


 

 In the 1300's, the importance of Aquileia for the trading of wine was so high that in the city arrived - from every area of central Italy - wines of different qualities, including ordinary wines as well. Because of this, it was necessary the promulgation of special laws in order to safeguard quality, as to distinguish and safeguarding the best wines from the mediocre or bad ones. These laws also caused in 1324 the census of all the vine varieties on the area, in order to identify the grapes capable of producing the best wines. An important development in Friuli's viticulture happened in 1765, when Maria Teresa of Austria founded the Theresian Agricultural Society. The society, after having studied the territory in which a vineyard was to be planted, suggested the vintners the best varieties, as well as suggesting the best cultural practices in order to get the best results. The choices done by the Theresian Agricultural Society were very successful for the qualitative development of Friuli's enology, however this success will soon face the problems of oidium, downy mildew and - finally - in 1888, phylloxera which devastated vineyards.

 Damages caused by phylloxera - here as in other areas - determined the decay of enology and it will be only in 1930 when the first remedies were adopted against this parasite. It was after this period that in Friuli Venezia Giulia began to spread the international varieties - suggested by experts because of the better resistance - therefore determining a dominion in the vineyards and the decay of local varieties. A fundamental change for the enology of the region - an event that will change the history of Friuli Venezia Giulia and of Italy - will take place in 1960's, when Mario Schiopetto, after having traveled in France and Germany in order to learn quality production techniques, will be successful in applying innovative concepts for the production of wine in his land. The striking success and the remarkable results obtained by Mario Schiopetto, will mark the end of rustic and ordinary wines and the beginning of the enological greatness of Friuli Venezia Giulia, that quality which still distinguishes the wines of the region and changed forever the way of making wine in Italy as well.

 

Classification of Friuli Venezia Giulia

 Wines of Friuli Venezia Giulia are classified according to the quality system in force in Italy. The production of the region is mainly about white, red and sweet wines. The production of sweet wines is pretty interesting thanks - in particular - to the use of autochthonous grapes and authentic rarities in the worldwide enological scene, such as Verduzzo Friulano and the rare Picolit. The production of rose wines is marginal and represents a pretty low percentage. In Friuli Venezia Giulia is currently defined a DOCG area (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita, Denomination of Controlled and Guaranteed Origin) recognized to Ramandolo, a sweet wine produced with Verduzzo Friulano grape. In the region are currently defined nine DOC areas (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata, Denomination of Controlled Origin) and precisely: Carso, Colli Orientali del Friuli - which includes the subzones Cialla and Rosazzo - Collio, Friuli Annia, Friuli Aquileia, Friuli Grave, Friuli Isonzo, Friuli Latisana and Lison-Pramaggione, this latter area shared with Veneto.

 

Production Areas

 The wine production of Friuli Venezia Giulia is mainly oriented to white wines, however the production of red and sweet wines is very interesting as well. Despite some of the DOC areas (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata, Denomination of Controlled Origin) include the production of rose wines, this style of wine represents a pretty marginal percentage. The cultivation of vine - also because of environmental and climate conditions - is mainly done in the central-southern area of the region. In vineyards of Friuli Venezia Giulia are being cultivated both autochthonous and international varieties, which are now distinguishing the wines of the region. The wines are usually produced as mono varietal - that is wines produced with just one grape variety - as well as wines result of the assemblage of many grapes. The main white berried grapes cultivated in Friuli Venezia Giulia include: Chardonnay, Malvasia Istriana, Picolit, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Ribolla Gialla, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Tocai Friulano, Traminer Aromatico (Gewürztraminer) and Verduzzo Friulano. The main red berried grapes include: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Franconia (Blaufränkisch), Merlot, Pignolo, Pinot Noir, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Schioppettino and Tazzelenghe.

 

Collio

 Collio is one of the most important and famous wine areas of Friuli Venezia Giulia. Located in the eastern part of the region, in the province of Gorizia, Collio is particularly renowned for the production of white wines. The most typical wines in this area are mono varietals and, in particular, the ones produced with autochthonous grapes such as Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla. In this area are also produced mono varietal wines with international grapes, such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Among DOC white wines (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata) is being produced Collio Bianco, generally from Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla and Malvasia Istriana grapes. The most representative white berried grapes of Collio are Tocai Friulano and Ribolla Gialla, two grapes which have always proven with their wine the quality and the good adaptation in the territory. Besides the huge production of white wines - both in quantity and in quality - in Collio are also produced red wines, in particular with Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

 

Colli Orientali del Friuli

 North from Collio is located Colli Orientali del Friuli, one of the most representative areas of the region and characterized - together with Collio - by the quality of its wines. Thanks to the composition of the soil and to the geographical position, Colli Orientali del Friuli benefits from excellent viticultural conditions. In this area are cultivated international and autochthonous varieties, and here it is being produced one of the most looked for and renowned sweet wines of Italy, rare and special just like the grape with which it is produced: Picolit. As for table wines - just like in Collio - the production is mainly about white wines, in particular Tocai Friulano, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Among sweet wines, it is also produced Verduzzo Friulano, whose results - in the best cases - are as charming and amazing as to deserve a place in the category of the best sweet wines of Italy. The production of red wines in Colli Orientali del Friuli is mainly made with international grapes, such as Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, grapes which - thanks to the climate of the area - are capable of giving good results. Among autochthonous red berried grapes, very interesting are the wines produced with Schioppettino, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, Tazzelenghe and Pignolo.

 

Friuli Grave

 The wine area of Grave - or Friuli Grave - is the widest of the region and it spreads from the territories in the province of Udine westward to the province of Pordenone. The name derives from the type of soil characterizing the area, rich in stones and gravel, capable of producing - provided low yields cultural criteria are being used - very good wines. Despite the wines of Grave are being characterized by a lesser complexity than the ones produced in Collio or Colli Orientali del Friuli, this area certainly is capable of producing interesting and quality wines. The production of Grave - which thanks to the extension of its territory represents more than two thirds of total production in the region - is mainly about white wines from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Tocai Friulano grapes. Despite they are not very common, the wines produced with Riesling are pretty interesting, characterized by a good crispness and finesse. The production of red wine is mainly based on international grapes such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Good results are also obtained with the autochthonous grape Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso.

 

Ramandolo and Other Production Areas

 Ramandolo, which belonged to the Colli Orientali del Friuli until 2001, is today the only DOCG area of Friuli Venezia Giulia (Denominazione d'Origine Controllata e Garantita). Here it is being produced the homonymous sweet wine with Verduzzo Friulano grape, capable of great matchings with desserts and with hard cheese. Among the other production areas of Friuli Venezia Giulia, it should be mentioned Friuli Isonzo - or simply Isonzo - where the wines resemble the ones produced in Collio and which is located south from this area. Isonzo's wines are mainly white and in particular produced with Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes, whereas reds are mainly produced with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. In the southern part of the region are found Annia and Latisana areas, in which are being produced pretty similar wines - mainly whites - and which are strongly influenced by the sea climate. In the area of Annia, of particular interest are rose wines, produced with red berried grapes specified in the production disciplinary.

 




 Editorial  Share this article     Summary of ABC Wine column Wine Tasting 
  ABC Wine Issue 36, December 2005   
Friuli Venezia GiuliaFriuli Venezia Giulia  Contents 
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