Castello di Spessa, Friuli

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Volcanic Mount Etna in Sicily

Keystone Contacts –

During recent wanderings in Sicily and Tuscany I met a pair of New Yorkers who also happen to have a house in Nerja, Spain, where my parents also once owned property. They write bestselling books about wine, which look enticing. It was good to meet these ‘world wine guys’ Mike and Jeff, who are also regular contributors to The Wine Enthusiast Magazine. I also met Syrah Queen Rupal Shankar—whose Instagram account is on fire with excellent photos of vino and geography. Together we spent time with Ryan O’Hara, who writes The Fermented Fruit blog, and is also a co-owner of a grand new restaurant in Washington D.C. And it’s always good to spend time with Sicilian wine friends Salvatore and Andrea …

Friulian vineyards

Friuli –

This post will be relatively short—but I wanted to mention the beautiful white wines of Friuli, in northeastern Italy.

Frico food in Friuli with a lively Pinot Grigio rosé wine

‘Friuli Venezia Giulia’ is one of 20 administrative regions within Italy. Those from Friulia, however, will adamantly tell you that they are not Venezians or Giulians. Friuli has its own language, a conglomeration of influences from Celtic, Lombards, Visigoths and others because the region was basically the geographical door mat for invaders during the decline and fall of the Roman Empire.

Ribolla Gialla grapes from Collio grow over acidic ‘ponca’ marine sandstone

Historical relationships between Friuli and the adjacent country of Slovenia were described to me as that of a ‘cat and dog.’ Because of successive waves of invaders, the Friulian people from the mountains learned to be reserved and somewhat secretive. Apparently even getting a neighbor to share a recipe can be difficult.

Sardine appetizer with Ribolla Gialla wine

Friulian white wines include those made from Ribolla Gialla grapes (which poet Boccaccio once listed as enticing gluttony among sinners). Other frequently grown white grapes include Pinot Bianco, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio. I tasted a handful of wines made by Attems (owned by the Frescobaldi family) and although I’ll expand on those in a longer article for a publication, the impression was emphatically positive.

Fresh fruit and grappa after dinner

I even considered some Friulian Sauvignon Blanc tasted to be ‘Burgundian’ (even though that grape is little grown in Burgundy) because of its overall creaminess, quality and balance. Pinot Grigio from Friuli can include florals as light and distinct as those from wines made from Viognier grapes, while wines made from Ribolla Gialla—sometimes aged exclusively in acacia casks—can combine the creaminess of oatmeal in the mouth with the acidity of plump gooseberries. Delicious.

Winemaker Daniele Vuerich inspects acidic marine sandstone ‘Ponca’ soils within Friuli

Some Friulian vines grow over ‘ponca’ soils—marine marl and sandstone laid down some 50 million years ago when the terrain was below the ocean. These easily breakable soils can result in slopes disintegrating unless they are anchored with vegetation, such as apple trees. The soil’s high acidity combined with cool night temperatures contributes to mallic acidity of wines.

Clio Cicuto, a Friulian and Tuscan wine guide

Food in Friuli is also excellent. Whereas fish, pasta and rice were historically abundant in Venice and Trieste (a sea shore city in Giulia), the more mountainous Friuli region historically produced potatoes, cheese, barley and beans. Dishes here are complemented by meats, typically secured by locals who hunt wild boar, deer and pheasants. One winemaker I spoke with, Gianni Napolitano, told how it took him four years of taking courses and exams before he could be licensed to hunt. Such is the thinking in Friuli—that quality and capability in any endeavor—whether learning to hunt or to make wines— takes time and patience.

Winemaker Gianni Napolitano

Again, I shall write more about specific Friuli wines in another publication. I just wanted to highlight the beauty of the wines and food from this region.

Finally, a Big Thank You to Jill and Jim McCullouch of New Zealand, who visit Bordeaux every year, and en route through the UK always buy me copies of Decanter Magazine’s special Bordeaux summer issues! Much appreciated …

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Thanks again for tuning in.





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