FRIULANO grape in a nutshell
  • Formerly known as Tocai Friulano, this white variety mainly grows in Friuli Venezia Giulia. It is also present in Slovenia, Veneto, Chile, and California.
  • A semi-aromatic grape, synonyms include Sauvignonasse and Sauvignon Vert. However, it has no ties to Sauvignon Blanc.
FRIULANO wine in a sip
  • The wines display a light straw color, anticipating aromas of peach, pear, white flowers, and herbs.
  • Medium to low-acid, the viscous texture and underlying salinity allow Friulano to be a perfect match to a wide variety of foods.

What is Friulano?

Only a few grapes have changed their name over the years. Friulano is one of them: its former name, Tocai or Tocai friulano, was banned from use after Italy lost a trial with Hungary, where Tokaji is a sweet wine made with the Furmint grape.

Friulano covers roughly 3500 hectares at a global level, most of which lie in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, followed by adjacent areas of Slovenia, Veneto, Chile, and California.

Synonyms of Friulano include Sauvignonasse and Sauvignon Vert but the grape has no ties to the namesake variety from France. Defined by a thin skin that makes it susceptible to rot, it is classified as semi-aromatic but the quantity of molecules like terpenes, thiols or pyrazines it contains is considerably lower than that of Sauvignon Blanc.

What are the origins of Friulano?

Part of Friuli Venezia Giulia was under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and it is likely that the name Tocai was given to the grape by a Hungarian monarch. Abbot Vinciguerra of Collalto is the first to mention Tocai in Friuli in the 12th century and, until the early 20th century, the variety was also spelled “Tokaj.” It isn’t, however, the only grape that was identified with this misleading name: in Alsace, Pinot Grigio was also known as Tokaj or Tokay.

Where is Friulano grown in Friuli Venezia Giulia?

The grape is widely grown across most wine-growing areas in Friuli Venezia Giulia. However, the vast majority of plantings lie on the hills on the border with Slovenia. Collio and Friuli Colli Orientali are the most important appellations for Friulano.

What does Friulano taste like?

Friulano is a versatile variety, producing a wide range of still dry whites.

Classically-styled versions undergoing fermentation and aging in stainless steel are characterized by a light straw color with greenish hues, and display delicate aromas of peach, pear, white flowers, and herbs. Oaked ones develop richer nuances of apricot, cinnamon, acacia honey, and menthol.

At times producers may add a dollop of grapes affected by noble rot, which imparts extra complexity to the aromatic profile.

The main problem with Friulano is it tends to be medium to low-acid, so planting it in cooler sites and on limestone-rich soils is essential to achieve optimal balance. Alcohol by volume normally exceeds 13% but the wines taste lusciously rich and viscous rather than heavy.

The best versions also display an enticing savory quality.

The thin skin makes it challenging to produce skin-contact Friulano but the best examples of this style are extremely captivating – just a bit lighter than orange Ribolla Gialla and more perfumed.

Does Friulano age well?

The fact Friulano tends to have low acidity may mean it is best enjoyed sooner rather than later.

While that holds true for entry-level examples, the best Friulano-based wines have a long track record for aging gracefully.

Honeyed sweetness and darker hints of flint, struck match undergrowth emerge over time, while salinity keeps the creamy structure in check.

What kind of wine is similar to Friulano?

Friulano is often compared to Sauvignon Blanc but the truth is only the lightest, more minerally and less herbal versions of the French grape have something in common with it.

Examples with a bit of noble rot may also remind you of similarly-styled Chenin Blanc.

What food does Friulano pair with?

Friulano has all it takes to be one of the food-friendliest white wines in Italy. The good palate weight makes it a perfect pairing with vegetable and fish soups, gratineèd and oven-baked sole, and spaghetti with shellfish.

Prosciutto Crudo di San Daniele and lightly aged Montasio cheese are other perfect matches with unoaked Friulano, the refined aromatics of the wine complicating their flavors.

Oak-aged versions go well, instead, with creamy risotto and chicken with white wine sauce.


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