friuli venezia giulia

friuli venezia giulia
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Viticulture in Friuli Venezia Giulia

Dozens of different grape varieties are planted throughout the region, and many producers market each of them as a single-varietal wine. Historically, however, white grapes like Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia, Verduzzo or Picolit would be blended into a single wine, and a few artisanally-minded producers still stick to this tradition.

On the other hand, pioneers of quality winemaking like Jermann and Livio Felluga have successfully innovated the art of blending, also adding dollops of international grapes.

As for red varieties, Terrano, Refosco, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon have always been little more than a drop in the ocean of whites. However, the quality of the wines they give has improved consistently over the last few years, and the revival of forsaken grapes like Schioppettino and Pignolo has further contributed to the rediscovery of Friuli Venezia Giulia as a red wine-producing region.

What are the grape varieties of Friuli Venezia Giulia?


Key native grapes:

  • Friulano: also known as Tocai Friulano, Friulano is the most widely grown native white grape in the region. The equally “Sauvignonasse” or “Sauvignon Vert”, it gives fruity and floral wines with just a touch of herbal freshness – but far from the vegetal exuberance of Sauvignon Blanc. Medium to full-bodied, these wines tend to be crisp and seductively fruity at the same time, with skin-contact often intensifying peachy aromas and allowing to extract tannins from the thick skin of the berries, while oak aging can impart a slightly creamier and velvetier texture.
  • Ribolla Gialla: the other key white variety Ribolla Gialla is neutral and highly versatile. While it can produce almost any kind of wine – including bright and easy-drinking tank-fermented sparkling wines that rival top-notch Prosecco – orange versions usually get the most recognition, coming close to fine red wines in terms of complexity and age-worthiness.
  • Malvasia Istriana: native to the Istria region, Malvasia Istriana is also widely grown in Collio and Carso. It produces either non-macerated whites that combine attractive floral aromatics with a minerally mouthfeel or perfumed and exotic orange wines. 
  • Refosco dal Peduncolo rosso: the difficult name of this grape hints at the red stalk of the bunches, and refers to a specific grape belonging to the Refosco family that gives the majority share of quality reds from Friuli Venezia Giulia. Aromas of sweet dark fruits, herbs and spice, medium-high acidity and slightly astringent tannins are typical features of this variety, the best versions of which originate from the Colli Orientali area.
  • Terrano: According to many experts, Terrano is a biotype of Refosco dal Peduncolo. Producers in the Carso area and neighbouring Slovenia, however, often treat it as a different variety, and the wines tend to be slightly lighter and more minerally, 
  • Picolit: the rare Picolit grape suffers from a genetic anomaly known as “floral abortions”, resulting in low yields and high sugar concentration. For this reason, it is mainly employed in the production of sweet wines, some of which are truly world-class.
  • Verduzzo: this rare grape is mainly grown in the Ramandolo subzone of the Colli Orientali area. While sweet wines are the most common typology, (…).
  • Schioppettino: a rare red grape characterized by a high content of rotundone, which result in exuberantly spicy. 
  • Tazzelenghe: Tazzelenghe means “cutting the tongue” and refers the high tannin content of this little-known red variety. Similarly to Sagrantino from Umbria, it can give excellent reds if the tannins are properly managed.
  • Pignolo: another rare red variety producing complex full-bodied red wines that are slowly garnering attention (despite extremely low volumes). 

Other key grapes:

  • Sauvignon Blanc: Collio and Isonzo are the most important areas in Italy for the production of Sauvignon Blanc, yielding a considerable number of award-winning examples. Mostly aged in stainless steel, these wines are a happy medium between the tropical and leafy style of the New World and the lemony and minerally versions of the Loire, usually display compelling herbal and floral aromatics without being too aromatic or too green. 
  • Pinot Bianco: while Pinot Bianco from Alto Adige is better-known at an international level, versions from Collio and Colli Orientali are also worth seeking out, usually displaying a richer and creamier mouthfeel while retaining excellent acidity. 
  • Chardonnay: the Isonzo and Collio regions produce some of Italy’s best Chardonnay – varietally accurate but also showcasing terroir-driven energy and minerally verve.
  • Merlot: the largest share of premium red wines from Friuli Venezia Giulia is made with this international grape. They different substantially from Merlot grown in Tuscany or other parts of Italy: generally more restrained, with moderately ripe fruit and good acidity to balance.
  • Glera: used to produce Prosecco DOC.

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