Friuli-Venezia Giulia is one of Italy’s 20 administrative regions. Its name implies Venice (Venezia) forms part of the region but this is not the case.
It is known that vines in Friuli were brought by the Eneti population between the thirteenth and twelfth centuries BC, but the area became famous for its wines during the rule of ancient Rome and in the Middle Ages, when the wines from Friuli became key for trade and for everyday life. A document dated 1307 reports the sale of a vineyard plot with the name of “Urnas Rabioli” that is Ribolla wine; other documents from those days speak of Terrano, Pignolo and Picolit. Oidium (1850), mildew (1881) and phylloxera (1888) almost completely destroyed the local vines, leading to French vines being planted. This is why Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Bianco grape varieties, though non-native to Friuli, are certainly a traditional variety, unlike Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
The first DOC was Collio in 1968 and then “Colli Orientali del Friuli” and Aquileia. Overall, Friuli-Venezia Giulia makes the best white wines in the country. It is a hilly region for almost 50%, with about 20% of mountainous territory and less than 40% of flat areas, and about 20,000 hectares of land planted with vines. White grape varieties account for about 50% of the total, and the vineyards are more than 60% in lowland areas and 35% in hilly areas. The area to the north is mountainous and no vines are planted there. The most important areas for wine making are the hills and the areas adjacent to the sea. The climate is very different throughout the region: in the north it is cold, while in south temperatures are mitigated by the sea. The two most important waterways are the Tagliamento and Isonzo rivers, where vines find a good climate to mature. The rains are very abundant and so is the fog in the plains in late autumn.
The most important areas for wine production are: Friuli Grave (the name derives from the pebbles that cover the ground; this DOC is characterized by a highly gravelly, well draining soil, a good thing since in many parts of the Grave , but not all, it rains quite a bit); Collio (or Collio Goriziano); Colli Orientali del Friuli (Eastern Hills of Friuli); Isonzo and Carso.
An interesting peculiarity is that Rauscedo, a small town, is home to the largest global center for the production of rooted grafts and baby vines, the Vivai Coop- erativi Rauscedo VCR that made available the grape bunches photographs in the previous section of this book.
The DOC Friuli Grave is the largest in the region and represents more than half of the wine production in Friuli. It is a flatland DOC, but the particular shape of the land, characterized by a moraine layer with stones and pebbles, favours water drainage and gives the right amount of water stress to the plants, hence enhancing the richness of berry extracts. Other DOC Friuli flatlands are: the inter-regional DOC Lison (Lison-Pramaggiore), with the province of Venice; Friuli-Latisana; Friuli-Aquileia; Friuli Isonzo; Friuli Annia. The qualitatively most important DOCs are: Colli Orientali del Friuli and Collio (or Collio Gorizia), though Carso and Isonzo are also very high quality. They are located in the area between Udine and Gorizia and extend beyond the border in the Slovenian Collio.
The DOCGs are Rosazzo (previously a sub-area of COF), Picolit and Ramandolo. While the other two are region wide appellations, the Rosazzo area is very well defined, located between Udine and Gorizia, and is characterized by a very warm microclimate. It is not by chance that Rosazzo is considered a grand cru for bot Ribolla Gialla and Picolit, two varieties that like both heat and sun.
For the most part, Friuli Venezia Giulia is synonymous with great white wines, especially those produced with indigenous varieties. Though international grapes like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc fare well, the best results are obtained with Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco. Friuli’s best white wines have historically been blends of internationals/native grapes.
Denominations–DOCG: Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit. | Lison. | Ramandolo. Rosazzo.
Denominations–DOC: Carso or Carso-Kras DOC. | Collio Goriziano or Collio DOC. | Friuli Annia. | Friuli Aquileia. | Friuli Colli Orientali DOC. | Friuli Grave. | Friuli Isonzo or Isonzo del Friuli. | Friuli Latislana. | Lison-Pramaggiore DOC (in the provinces of Pordenone, Udine, Gorizia, Trieste. Shared with Veneto). | Prosecco DOC (in the areas of: Pordenone, Udine, Gorizia, Trieste).
Denominations–IGT: Venezia Giulia.
Native grapes: Curvin (r). | Fumat (r). | Malvasia Istriana (w). | Picolit. | Pignolo (r). | Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso (r). | Refosco di Guarnieri. | Ribolla Gialla (w). | Sagrestana (w). | Schioppettino (r). | Siora (w). | Tazzelenghe (r). | Tocai Friulano (w). | Ucelut (w). | Verduzzo Friulano (w).
Ian D’Agata: 2014, p.39-40.