Friuli White Wines: Refreshing (and Sometimes Quirky)

Summer is approaching and like many wine buffs, my thoughts turn to refreshing white wines. My wife and I love to drink them on the front porch watching the sun descend after a day of work and continue with them at the dinner table. There is a wide variety of wonderful whites made all over the world. Some of the best values and best white wines in general hail from the northern regions of Italy. Some of the best of the best of those come from the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

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In the northwest corner of Italy, along the border of Slovenia, sits the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (hereinafter referred to simply as Friuli). About 2.5% of all wine produced in Italy is created here. The influence of centuries of rule by the Romans, the Byzantines, the Venetians and Hapsburgs (Austria) has left telltale signs in the cuisine of the region. The gastronomy of Friuli reflects these various cultures and retains a more international style than much of the rest of Italy. Of course, viticulture has been important part of that food culture for centuries. Possibly due to this continual socio-economic turmoil, this area seems adept at change. Even in the last 40 years, Friuli has been a leader in Italy for incorporating modern winemaking techniques while not losing sight of the past (something the whole world has struggled with). Friulian white wines were re-invented again in the 1960’s and 1970’s with an early (for the Italian wine scene) push toward quality. In many ways, these wines and their winemakers were and still are the trendsetters in the rebirth of Italian wines as quality wines on the international wine scene.

Friuli is blessed with a climate and geology that is beneficial for white wines. It is bordered on the north and east by the Alps. The Adriatic Sea and its breezes are not far off to the southeast. The vines tend to get a lot of sun along with cooling breezes that keep the grapes from over ripening as well as free from mold and rot. Friuli has ten recognized wine sub regions known as DOC’s (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), which make red, white and dessert wines. There is also one DOCG (the highest level of wine classification in Italy) called Ramondolo that makes a wonderful dessert wine. White wine varietals often include a mixture of international and indigenous grape vines including Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon, Tocai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Blanc, Vitovska, Picolit, Malvasia Istriana, and Ribolla Gialla.