The source of some of Italy’s best and most distinctive white wines, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is where Italian, Germanic and Slavic cultures converge. The styles of wines produced in this region of Italy's far north-east reflect this merging of cultures. Often shortened to just “Friuli,” the area is divided into many distinct subzones, including Friuli Grave, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Collio Goriziano and Carso. The flat valley of Friuli Grave is responsible for a large proportion of the region’s wine production, particularly the approachable Pinot grigio and the popular Prosecco. The best vineyard locations are often on hillsides, as in Colli Orientali del Friuli or Collio. In general, Friuli boasts an ideal climate for viticulture, with warm sunny days and chilly nights, which allow grapes to ripen slowly and evenly.
In Colli Orientali, the specialty is crisp, flavorful white wine made from indigenous varieities like Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano), Ribolla gialla and Malvasia Istriana.
Red wines, though far less common here, can be quite good, especially when made from the deeply colored, rustic Refosco variety. In Collio Goriziano, which abutts Slovenia, many of the same varieties are planted. International varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc are also common, but they tend to be Loire-like in style with herbaceous character and mellow tannins. Carso’s star grape is the red Teranno, notable for being rich in iron content and historically consumed for health purposes. It has an earthy, meaty profile and is often confused with the distinct variety Refosco.
Persistent with jasmine aromas and tropical fruit flavors, both grape and name are far-reaching. Approximately 70 registered grapes contain Malvasia as part of their name or are listed as a synonym. The French call it Malvoisie, Germans call it Malvasier, British say Malmsey and confusingly one variety double-times under the alias, Boal, on the island of Madeira. In any case, Italy has more forms of Malvasia than any other country: Malvasia Bianca di Candia, Malvasia di Candia Aromatico and the red-skinned Malvasia di Casorzo from Piedmont. The list goes on. Somm Secret—The actual name could stem from an Italian mispronunciation of Monemvasia, a southern Greek port.