Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Udine In Italy’s north eastern corner lies Friuli-Venezia Giulia. This little region sits on the Adriatic coast, with the Alps bordering it with Austria in the north and Slovenia in the east. The region has an outstanding reputation for its white wines which account for just over 60% of its output. A mixture of local and international grape varieties are grown with great success here. The region’s winemakers are forward-thinking, even pioneering the "Friuli method", a modern technique for getting juice off the skins quickly.

The major towns in Friuli include the central city of Udine, Gorizia on the Slovenian border and the seaport city of Trieste. The major wine regions lie east and south of Udine, among them Carso nestled between the Adriatic Sea and Slovenia, Isonzo to the north of Carso, Collio running east-west along the Slovenian border and Colli Orientali del Friuli north of Collio in the foothills of the Alps. Since much of the region is near Slovenia, you will find many signs in both Italian and Slovenian and many Slovenian influences on the Italian side, everything from the cuisine to the ancestry of local residents. Winemakers from both countries sometimes own plots of land on both sides of the border, which was de-controlled in 2007, allowing for free movement from both sides.

There are ten DOCs in Friuli although two of these are considered to be exceptional – Collio Goriziano, which is usually known simply as Collio, and Friuli Colli Orientali, which runs from Gorizia along the Slovenian border to Tarcento. Quality is also excellent in the Friuli Isonzo DOC area, where some stylish dry whites are made from Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio and Riesling as well as some off-dry and sparkling wines. Some excellent reds are also made from the Cabernets and Pinot Nero, as well as sweet vendemmia tardiva wines, either as single varietal whites or blends. Carso is a DOC whose red Terrano wines and whites from Malvasia Istriana show great class. In the other DOC zones, varietal wines are favoured. The largest area is the Friuli Grave. Tocai Friuliano has been an important variety historically. The grape is now commonly known as Friuliano following a European court ruling to avoid confusion with the Hungarian wine Tokaji.

The region has had great success with its single varietal white wines. Friuli’s own Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla Gialla and Verduzzo show great elegance, whereas Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco from the region tend to be stylish and refined expressions of the grapes. Oak aging has not been common among whites: most of the wines are delicately fragranced with a very pure character and would not benefit from it. Some producers are experimenting with oak aging and blending grapes for a more complex style, with great success.