The best wines from Friuli Colli Orientali to try

The following wines were tasted by Raffaele Mosca in Friuli Venezia Giulia in March 2024.

Five stars – top wines ***** +

Ronchi di Cialla – Colli Orientali Sottozona Cialla Schioppettino di Cialla 2018

Red wine – Cult winery 

The translucent and trasparent color anticipates an intoxicating nose of slightly candied strawberries, wild roses, green tea and bergamot, all wrapped in a veil of rotundone-derived oriental spice. Sucrose red fruits follow up on the palate, flowing seamlessly among peppery echoes and floral touches, while energetic tannins and a savory tang extend the long and multifaceted finish. This stunning wine has a long life ahead of it – as proven by a pristine 1992 poured alongside.

Importers and retailers: Soilair Selection / Volker Wine Co. (United States) 

Five stars 

Marco Pinat – Friuli Colli Orientali Ognicost 2021

White wine – Up-and-coming winery

Mostly old vine Verduzzo Friulano with dollops of other native grapes, Ognicost is strikingly perfumed, displaying flinty and spicy notes over apricot, honeysuckle, menthol, curry, and saffron. A touch of phenolic astringency underlies the viscous core of Noble rot-like poached pear and acacia honey, while tangy minerals and spices linger on the long and suave finish. Only 900 bottles produced.

Importers and retailers: –

Valentino Butussi – Colli Orientali Pinot Grigio Ramato Madonna d’Aiuto 2019

Ramato / Orange wine – Up-and-coming winery

Fermenting on the skins and spending 8-10 months in 700-liter casks, the intense copper color anticipates charming aromas of wild strawberries, yellow peach, sandalwood, ginseng, cinnamon, and candied orange rind – not unlike those of a young and light Pinot Noir. Lovely Ponka salinity cuts through a rich and creamy, red-fruited structure, while light tannins add to its tactile texture, leaving the palate pleasantly dry. 

Importers and retailers: Tannico (UK)

I Clivi – Colli Orientali Clivi Galea 2021 

White wine – Natural wine producer

Mostly Friulano with a dollop of Verduzzo from a 70 year-old, Clivi Galea offers an almost Burgundian take on this grape. Puligny-like touches of vanilla, menthol and struck match complicate varietal florals and sweet stone fruits. It flows on the palate with great elegance – viscous and creamy yet light on its feet thanks to cooling acids and invigorating salinity. A touch of oak spice complicates the ample and minerally finish. 

Importers and retailers: Oliver McCrum / Soilair Selections (United States) / Lea & Sandeman (UK)

Four stars plus **** +

Valentino Butussi – Friuli Colli Orientali Sauvignon Genesis 2021

White wine – Up-and-coming winery

The pale straw color anticipates youthful aromas of grapefruit jelly, jasmine, lemongrass, and a hint of passion fruit. Unmistakably varietal without being too green, crisp acids underpin the rich core of nectarine and exotic fruits, while the typical salinity of Colli Orientali gains prominence on the minerally finish. Aging occurred 12 months in a mix of stainless steel and 700-liter oak casks. My recommendation is to let it rest for a year or two.

Importers and retailers: Tannico (UK)

Specogna – Friuli Colli Orientali Sauvignon Duality 2021

White wine – Up-and-coming winery

French biotypes of Sauvignon Blanc and partial aging in tonneaux shape a refined Sauvignon Blanc that displays delicate aromas of mimosa, chamomile, grapefruit, flint, a hint of pineapple and a whiff of lemongrass on the back. It is once silky and bright, with zippy acids and almost chalky minerals underlying a rich core of ripe orchard fruits, herbal flavors and a floral touch lingering on the refreshing finish. 

Importers and retailers: Friuli Italian Wine Import / VOS Selection (United States)

Zorzettig – Friuli Colli Orientali Friulano Myò 2021

White wine – Big winery 

From an over 40 year-old vineyard in the highest reaches of the estate, this conveys the innate elegance of Friulano through a seductive mix of jasmine, white rose, sage, and nectarine. It soothes the palate with its juicy mix of ripe stone fruits and florals, while sound acids and a mineral smack extend the suave finish.

Importers and retailers: Acnam LLC / Decanter and Coupe (United States)

Tenuta Rieppi – Colli Orientali Tazzelenghe 2019

Red wine – Up-and-coming winery

Deep and dark in the glass, aromas of earthy red cherries, geranium, leather and a lick of botanical herbs hint at optimal phenolic maturity have been achieved. Bright acidity takes center on the palate but it’s refreshing rather than fastidious as the name Tazzelenghe (“cut-the-tongue”) would suggest. Delicate tannins further contribute to shaping a mid-weight and energetic progression with a pleasant herbal tang lingering on the finish.

Importers and retailers: –

Specogna – Colli Orientali Malvasia Riserva 2017

White wine – Up-and-coming winery 

The best Malvasia Istriana usually come from Carso but this expression from old vineyards in Corno di Rosazzo is especially intriguing. Apricot, orange blossom, lavender and an increasingly prominent briny note anticipate a broad palate with cheek-puckering minerals and zippy acidity cutting through layers of super-sweet orchard fruits and nectarine, hints of herbs and terpene-derived florals extending the long finish. 

Importers and retailers: Friuli Italian Wine Import / VOS Selection (United States)

Ronchi di Cialla – Friuli Colli Orientali Ciallabianco 2021

White wine – Cult winery

Picolit imparts lovely aromatic exuberance to this barrel-aged blend, which also contains Ribolla Gialla and Verduzzo. Apricot, lemon custard, jasmine, acacia honey and cinnamon mingle with flint, iodine, and menthol. Zingy minerals underpin a lusciously creamy core of pear compote and sweet spice, while balsamic touches add to the elegance of the silky finish. While delicious right now, Ciallabianco also has a long track record of aging gracefully.

Importers and retailers: Soilair Selection / Volker Wine Co. (United States) 

Four stars ****

Aquila del Torre – Friuli Colli Orientali Oasi Bianco 2021

White wine – Natural wine producer 

This barrel-fermented dry Picolit is intensely aromatic without being banal: pear compote, lavender and intense florals mingle with exotic spice and a whiff of white pepper. Equally perfumed on the palate, savory minerals and an discreet touch of volatile acidity frame the rich core of candied peach, echoing on a long and perfumed finish.

Importers and retailers: Marc De Grazia Selections (United States) 

Flavia e Umberto di Gaspero – Refosco di Faedis 2015

Red wine – Up-and-coming winery

Medium-dark ruby with light garnet hues, the nose features intense aromas of morello cherry and dark spice fused with undergrowth, quinine, and botanical herbs. Rich layers of sweet red and black fruits incorporate slightly dusty tannins, while ripe acidity and a herbal twist keep the bold structure in balance, leading to a surprisingly fresh finish. Very distinctive – if not extraordinarily refined. 

Importers and retailers: —

Zorzettig – Friuli Colli Orientali Pignolo Myó 2016

Red wine – Big winery

Requiring extended bottle and oak aging to achieve optimal balance, Pignolo stands out for its ability to oxidize slowly. After six and a half years, the nose still focuses on tart cherry, spicy herbs, geranium, pot-pourri, and licorice, with only a subtle touch of earthiness. Mighty tannins give an impression of power yet the wine manages to stay surprisingly light on its feet, with well-integrated acids and refined flavors of red apple, redcurrants and balsam herbs lingering on the long finish.  

Importers and retailers: Acnam LLC / Decanter and Coupe (United States)

Petrucco – Friuli Colli Orientali Friulano 2022

White wine – Up-and-coming winery 

Lying on the western outskirts of the Colli Orientali area, the township of Buttrio is one of the warmest in the appellation. Nonetheless, the significant presence of limestone in the soils favors the retention of excellent acidity, shaping well-calibrated wine like this Friulano from a 50 year-old vineyard. Charming florals, apricot and balsam herbs anticipate a creamy and textural mouthfeel with saline undertones adding tactile depth, lively acids extending a broad and creamy finish.

Importers and retailers: —

I Clivi – Ribolla Gialla A Tessa 2022

White wine – Natural wine producer 

One of the most delicious of non-macerated Ribolla, A Tessa undergoes hyper-oxygenation of the juice before pressing, allowing to get rid of excess phenolics. Aged for 6 to 8 months in stainless steel, it displays simple but compelling aromas of chamomile, anise, white flowers, honeydew melon, and iodine. Zesty and taut yet possessing above-average concentration, subtle nutty touches and hints of candied ginger and lemon pith make for a moreish finish.

Importers and retailers: Oliver McCrum / Soilair Selections (United States) / Lea & Sandeman (UK)

Marco Sara – Friuli Colli Orientali Monte della Guardia 2020

White wine – Up-and-coming winery 

Mostly Friulano with a dollop of Picolit, Monte della Guardia undergoes fermentation and aging in large oak casks. Picolit-derived aromas of yellow flowers, lavender and sweet spice complement nectarine, licorice, and flint. Malolactic fermentation made for a creamy texture but lively acidity keeps everything in check and extends the zingy and slightly smoky finish.  

Importers and retailers: Bowler Wine (United States) / Lay and Wheeler (UK)

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