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Spotlight on Friuli, Italy
Cool-climate wines from Northeast Italy

Let me introduce you to a region which, for me, has been an exciting discovery over the last 18 months. Over this period I've managed to track down a reasonable spread of wines from this area, and here are my verdicts. 

  • Where is it? The north east corner of Italy, bordering Slovenia and Austria. Until the end of the First World War this was part of the Austro–Hungarian empire.

  • What is it famous for? Fruili has a reputation for producing Italy’s best white wines. And on the basis of this extensive tasting from a wide range of producers, I’m not going to argue with that.

  • Which grapes are grown here? Whites represent some two-thirds of production. As well as traditional varieties Tocai Friulano, Picolit, Ribolla Gialla and Verduzzo, there are the international varieties Pinot Bianco, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Reds are made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Schiopettino and Refosco.

  • Different subregions? Collio and Colli Orientali are smart hillside addresses for whites, Friuli Grave is predominantly a red wine zone. Friuli-Isonzo is another name to watch out for: an upcoming subregion on the plain.

  • Any problems? Well, some people complain that the technological squeaky clean approach taken in the cellars leads to slightly boring wines, and that they don’t justify the relatively high prices asked for them.

  • What do I think? I’m a fan. There are some slightly dull wines in this line-up, but overall the whites are personality filled and nicely poised, often with a lovely minerality underlying the fruit. Some are thrillingly complex. And compared with other leading European regions, the prices look pretty sane, still. The reds tend to be decidedly cool-climate, but they are still appealing.

See producer profiles:

Jermann Pinot Bianco 2001 Friuli
Intense, creamy mineralic nose with some lemony fruit. Lively crisp palate shows great concentration; savoury and rich with lemony fruit, and a bready edge. Very good/excellent

Jermann Vintage Tunina 2000 Friuli
A profound white wine. Complex minerally, lemony nose with bready, toasty notes. Full flavoured, rich-textured palate is savoury and mineralic with nutty complexity and good acidity. Very good/excellent

Specogna Tocai Friulano 2001 Friuli
20% barrel fermented. Pure, intense herby nose with lots of fruit. Good concentration on the intense, crisp, clean palate, which displays a mineralic edge and good acidity. Some herby complexity. A serious dry white wine. Very good/excellent

Marco Felluga Carantan 1998 Friuli
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, aged for 18–20 months in Slovenian oak. Very deep red/purple colour. Intense nose shows complex spicy blackcurrant fruit and new oak. The palate displays a good concentration of complex berry fruit supported by good acidity. Sophisticated in a modern style. Very good/excellent

Vie di Romans Flors de Uis 1999 Friuli
Restrained but attractive savoury nutty, herbal nose. Lovely density of rich textured, savoury nutty fruit on the palate with a crisp, clean edge. Quite rich and concentrated. Very good/excellent

Borgo del Tiglio Collio Chardonnay 1999 Friuli
Lovely lemony, herby nutty nose with some toasty oak notes. Appealing palate is broad, nutty and toasty with an attractive freshness. Impressive stuff. Very good/excellent

Pecorari Pieropaolo Isonzo Pinot Grigio 2000 Friuli
Very interesting intense nose: rich, almost meaty, with a spicy, bacon fat edge. Richly textured palate shows lovely varietal character and good concentration. Lovely wine. Very good/excellent

Borgo del Tiglio Collio Bianco 1999 Friuli
Taut nutty herby nose with a waxy edge. Lovely rich, chunky palate is fresh with some subtle nutty oak influence. Very good+

Dario Raccaro Tocai Friulano 2001 Collio DOC, Friuli
Unusual, intense nose with savoury, herby richness and some toastiness from the oak. Vivid, high-acid palate with intense, savoury fruit. Crisp and pure, this finishes very dry. Very good+

Livio Felluga Sharjs 2000 Friuli Venezia Giulia
60% Chardonnay, 40% Ribolla Gialla, with the Ribolla portion fermented in small oak barrels. Restrained nutty/herby nose. Nutty, savoury palate with good acidity: a rich, rounded style. Tasty. Very good+

Walter Filiputti Broili di Filip 2000 IGT Friuli
50% Merlot, 50% Refosco, unoaked. Bright cherry and blackcurrant fruit on the nose. The palate displays pure, bright fruit with a nice savoury edge and good acidity. Quite impressive. Very good+

Walter Filiputti Pinot Grigio 2000 Friuli
Crisp and clean with a nutty edge. Pleasant and some depth to it. Very good+

Conte Attems Collio Sauvignon 2001 Friuli
Fresh, crisp, grassy nose: quite light with a herby edge. Vivid, grassy, herby fruit on the palate. Good intensity here. Very good+

Tercic Chardonnay Collio 1999 Friuli
Nice, savoury nutty wine. There’s quite a butterscotchy edge to the palate. Good intensity here. Very good+

Marco Felluga Russiz Superiore Tocai Friulano 2001 Collio DOC, Friuli
Intense, crisp lemony nose is quite rich and full. Modern fruity, spicy palate with good intensity. Pleasant white wine. Very good

Valpanera Refosco d’Aquileia 1999 Friuli
Lots of ripe red fruits with a toasty, roasted edge. Juicy, rich palate with bright fruit and a chocolatey richness. Good acidity but a rather short finish. Very good

Pavan Pinot Nero ‘Terre Magre’ 2000 Friuli
Herby, cherry fruit on the nose. Brightly fruited palate is fresh with good acidity. Attractive. Very good

Pavan Sauvignon Blanc ‘Terre Magre’ 2001 Friuli
Crisp, modern nose is grassy with a boiled sweets character. Fresh, attractive but simple on the palate. Clean and crisp. Good/very good

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