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Friuli- Venezia Giulia

Large numbers of varieties grown. Recent revival of red grape growing. Quality vineyards in east region. Hillside sites bordering Slovenia benefit from airflows from the Alps and the Adriatic.


Friuli Grave DOC

Largest quantity of Production. Flat plain vineyards predominately red production, light fruity styles produced from Bordeaux blends. Refosco, local variety giving wines with high acidity, red fruit flavours, developing plum and dark chocolate with age. White blends and single varietals grown on hillside sites, some cask ageing used. High reputation, wines show a crisp fruitiness with a depth of complexity.


Colli Orientali and Collio Coriziano DOC

Steep hillside sites. Expressive white wines. Local and international varieties, including Fruiliano, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Gewürztraminer, Rhine Riesling and Chardonnay. Picot makes prestigious and expensive dessert wine.



The north-easternmost region of italy, borders on Austria to the north and slovenia to the east and has long been a confluence of three distinct peoples and cultures: Italian, Germanic, and Slavic. (See map under italy.) Despite endorsements of local wines by the usual succession of popes, emperors, princes, and princelings, Friuli’s history of distinctive wines remained largely hidden until the late 1960s, when the introduction of both German winemaking philosophy and temperature control—innovations usually credited to producer Mario Schiopetto—gave Italy’s first, fresh, fruity, internationally styled white wines. This created a fashion which has waned as Friuli’s international varietals became less distinctive, and as interest in indigenous varieties waxes. This style of (predominantly white) winemaking is one of the characteristic features of the region’s production; the other is the large number of wines produced by each single estate. Friuli’s geographical position on land successively disputed by Romans, Byzantines, Venetians, and Habsburgs ensured that a large number of varieties would be available for planting. The white tocai Friulano, ribolla, malvasia di Istria, verduzzo, picolit and red refosco, schiopettino, pignolo, and the acidic Tazzelenghe are considered indigenous (although see robola, for example). riesling, welschriesling (here called Riesling Italico), traminer, müller-thurgau, and blaufränkisch (locally called Franconia) are imports from Austria. The French varieties pinot bianco, pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon, cabernet, merlot, pinot nero, and carmenère were introduced during the 19th century Habsburg domination (and greatly expanded during the replanting of Friuli’s vineyards after the ravages of phylloxera), a domination which lasted until 1918 in the case of the province of Gorizia. The result has been the multiplicity of single varietal wines in each doc: 18 for the 2,000 ha/ 4,942 acres of the colli orientali, 17 for the 1,500 ha of collio. If the proliferation of DOC wines with varietal names attached to specific zones has created some confusion among consumers, the geography of Friuli’s DOC structure is actually fairly easy to understand. Udine marks the northern border beyond which low temperatures make viticulture an impractical proposition in most cases: to the south of Udine exist two distinct bands of territory for the growing of grapes: the two hillside DOCs of Colli Orientali and Collio with calcareous marl soils, and the alluvial plain with plentiful quantities of sand, pebbles, and rocks deposited by the various rivers—the Tagliamento, the Natisone, the Judrio, the Isonzo—which criss-cross the plain. These flatlands are divided into five DOCs, moving from west to east: lison-pramaggiore (shared with Veneto), latisana, grave del friuli, aquileia, and isonzo. The hillside vineyards give wines of greater personality. The white, and red, wines of this latter zone have shown a real suitability for small barrel maturation. Isonzo, which borders on Collio, stands out among the DOCs of the plain and, in the 1990s, began to produce wines which, from the best producers, can challenge those of the hillsides. The region’s overall production was about 2.2 million hl in 2011, more than twice as much as its challenger as a source of crisp international varietals trentino-alto adige. Plans exist to elevate the entire region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia to DOC, although the advantages of doing so are unclear.


Colli Orientali

Del Friuli, literally the eastern hills of the friuli region in north-east Italy, comprise about 2,000 ha/4,942 acres of vineyard. The territory of the DOC begins, as its name implies, to the east of the city of Udine near the slovenian border and continues to the border of the province of Udine. The dividing line between the Colli Orientali and Collio is neither geological nor climatic, but simply historical: Udine and its province became part of Italy in 1866 while the neighbouring area of Collio, in the province of Gorizia, was not reunified with the rest of Italy until the end of the First World War. The contiguous zones in fact have the same sort of soil: the so-called ‘flysch of Cormons’, with alternating strata of calcareous marls and sandstone. Wine has a documented history here, as in most parts of Italy, since the days of the Roman empire, but the zone first began to attract significant attention in the 1970s, when cold fermentation techniques began to produce here, and in the Collio DOC, significant quantities of fresh, fruity, and aromatic white wines, predominantly based on international varieties, especially Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, pioneering efforts for Italy. Significant development of red wines came in the 1980s as producers began to move away from lighter, fruitier styles, while planting Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir, producing a fuller, more structured style, frequently aged in small oak barrels for the then prevalent international taste for such wine. A certain number of these reds were released as an ambitiously priced vino da tavola, because individual producers wanted to either distance the wines from their allegedly more facile antecedents, or to make an unorthodox blend of varieties, or, more often than not, to copy the international success of the highly priced supertuscans. White versions, particularly from Chardonnay or Pinot Bianco, were also either fermented or aged in barriques and these wines were also marketed as vini da tavola to distinguish them from the fresher style of whites, which remained the backbone of production. This century, increased international competition has kindled renewed interest in Colli Orientali’s unique indigenous varieties, linked to five subzones where historically these local varieties were cultivated: Cialla for ribolla Gialla, verduzzo, refosco dal penduncolo rosso, and schioppettino; Rosazzo for Ribolla Gialla and pignolo; Prepotto for Schioppettino; and Faedis for a scented local grape known as Refosco Nostrano. Although international varietal wines, especially whites, still prevail, producers have begun to focus on the specifics of local terroirs instead of producing a certain wine style to order. The red Schioppettino, saved from extinction in the 1970s, is now cultivated by 22 producers who have founded an association dedicated to its promotion. Colli Orientali del Friuli has not one but two historic sweet wines, based on the local white Verduzzo and picolit grapes, either late harvest or dried-grape wines which can be complex and long-lived, their greatness recognized by their elevation to DOCG. DOCG Colli Orientali del Friuli Picolit includes the subzone Cialla, while DOCG Ramandolo applies to sweet Verduzzo and more or less covers the same area as DOC Colli Orientali Friuli. Although Verduzzo is planted throughout Friuli and in parts of neighbouring veneto, nowhere else produces wines as great as Ramandolo.


Grave del Friuli

Vast DOC zone in the friuli region of north-east Italy which sprawls across the southern portion of the provinces of Pordenone and Udine (with the largest portion in the former). This is flatland whose gravel- and sand-based soil has been deposited over the millennia by the many rivers and streams that cross the territory before adding their waters to the Adriatic. It owes its name to the same etymological root as the gravelly graves region of Bordeaux in France. The DOC, with 4,300 ha/10,620 acres of vineyard, is responsible for more than 50% of Friuli’s output, and is so large (it includes seven out of the ten Friuli DOCs) that it is more akin to an igt than anything else. Exceptionally high permitted yields (13 tonnes/ha or 91 hl/ha) make it difficult to see how the DOC contributes to good-quality wine production here. And although it encapsulates other, smaller DOCs, their production rules are generally not much more restrictive so that Grave del Friuli cannot even be used by producers for declassified wines. Almost all international varieties are grown here, with piercingly herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc once being the DOC’s flagship but now encountering fierce international competition. That is not to say that the DOC is unsuitable for the production of high-quality wines, but its formidable size precludes generalizations.



Is a group of distinct red varieties cultivated in north east Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia producing very similar wines. The finest variety is known in Friuli as refosco dal peduncolo rosso but others include Refosco d’Istria (also called teran, Terrano, and Refošk).



Promising red grape variety native to the friuli region of north east Italy, probably first cultivated in the hills of Rosazzo in the colli orientali. Pignolo is a very shy bearer and it was generally ignored by local growers who preferred other, more productive grape varieties until, like schioppettino, it was given a new lease of life by a eu decree of 1978 authorizing its use in the province of Udine. Total plantings of Pignolo Nero were only 93 ha/230 acres according to the 2010 vine census.



Old Friulan name for sauvignonasse, now replaced by friulano. California grows a few hundred acres of the variety they still call Tocai Friulano which is also produced by Millbrook in the Hudson Valley, new york. Tocai Rosso is used as a synonym for grenache noir in the veneto.



White grape variety also known as Ribolla Gialla to distinguish it from the less interesting Ribolla Verde, best known in friuli in north east Italy but also grown, as Rebula, in slovenia. It is distinct from the robola of the island of Cephalonia in greece. Ribolla's first historically documented appearance in Friuli was in 1296, as Rabola. The grape lost ground steadily in the 19th and 20th centuries, however, in the wake of the phylloxera epidemic and Friuli's subsequent enthusiasm for international (French) varieties when vineyards were replanted. In the mid 1990s, Ribolla accounted for less than 1% of all the white doc wines of Friuli, but by 2010, Italy's total plantings were 435 ha/1,075 acres, and there were champions of the variety on both sides of the Slovenian border. Rosazzo and Oslavia are generally considered Friuli's two classic areas for Ribolla Gialla but there is even more planted in western Slovenia, in both Brda and Vipava. Extended contact with the variety's particularly yellow skins is increasingly common and the wine produced can have firm structure and, neatly, yellow-fruit flavours. Ribolla Nera is the schioppettino grape.



Wine made from verduzzo friulano and/or verduzzo trevigiano, principally in friuli and in the piave DOC in the bordering province of Treviso in Veneto in seven different DOC zones: aquileia, colli orientali, grave, isonzo, Latisana, friuli Annia, and lison-pramaggiore. Only the Grave and the Colli Orientali produce significant quantities and the latter is qualitatively far superior, the grape showing a decided preference for hillside vineyards. The wine exists in a dry, occasionally sparkling, and regularly sweet version, although the latter, obtained either by late harvesting or by raisining the grapes (see dried-grape wines), can frequently be more medium dry than lusciously sweet. Sweet Verduzzo, less common than dry Verduzzo, is the more interesting wine, golden in colour, and often with a delightful density and honeyed aromas, even if it lacks the complexity of an outstanding dessert wine. Dry Verduzzo is less characterful, and the grapes’ tannins often impart an odd astringency which is more noticeable when it has been fermented dry. Ramandolo, to the north of Udine, is considered the classic zone for fine sweet Verduzzo, but the Colli Orientali di Friuli DOC, when first established, permitted the use of the name Ramandolo for any sweet Verduzzo in the production zone, converting, as it were, a place-name into a generic name. This anomaly has been corrected with the establishment of a separate Ramandolo DOCG for generally sweet wines, with maximum yields of 8 tonnes/ha (as opposed to the 11 tonnes/ha permitted for Colli Orentali Verduzzo) from anywhere in the Colli Orientali di Friuli zone.



Also written Piccolit and Piccolito in the past, fashionable and audaciously priced sweet white varietal wine made in the friuli region of north east Italy, one of the more commercially successful of the dried-grape wines. The grape variety derives its name from the small, or piccolo, quantity of grapes it produces, thanks to its exceptionally poor pollination rate in the vineyard. The variety probably originates in Rosazzo in the colli orientali. The wine was already famous in the 18th century but was almost extinct when the Perusini family of the Rocca Bernarda of Ipplis worked to identify and then reproduce hardier clones with a reduced failure rate. Some better estates still make the wine much as it was in the past—Fabio Asquini left copious notes on his working methods—with the bunches, harvested late in mid October, left to dry and raisin on mats before pressing. Other producers have opted for a late-harvest style, with the grapes left even longer in the vineyard, picked with higher must weights, but not raisined after picking. The use of small oak barrel maturation is an innovation introduced in the mid 1980s. Although Picolit is generally considered a dessert wine, it is not luscious and is best considered a vino da meditazione, a wine to be sipped alone in order to appreciate its delicate floral aromas and its light sweetness which suggests peaches and apricots. The wine became the object of a cult enthusiasm in Italy in the late 1960s and 1970s, fetching extremely high prices that non-Italian connoisseurs find difficult to understand or justify; the Picolit boom has also resulted in frequent and illegal blending of the wine with the more neutral verduzzo, which has stretched the quantities available but has done no service to the wine’s reputation. The Italian vine census of 2010 found only just over 125 ha/309 acres of the variety in total. A small amount is grown in western Slovenia.


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- History

Historical change of hands between Roman, Byzantines, Venetians and Habsburgs -> vast array of varieties

Until late 60s: little commercial history in wine

Late 60s: Mario Schiopetto introduced Friuli to temperature control along with German wine-making philosophy o1980-90s: innovative fresh varietal styles + Pinot Grigio craze. Oak-aged whites coming out since mid 90s.


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Climate and Weather

Cool continental with cold winters and hot summers

West of Udine (formerly conquered by Venitians) – sunshine and 15C avg annual temp

East of Udine: air flow from the Alps and Adriatic sea creates cooling effect & higher diurnal temperature range

High rainfall w 1,500mm/yr


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Topography and Soils

Extreme North-east of Italy, on hillsides bordering Austria (north) and Slovenia (east) oNorthern half is mountainous while the terrains get flatter on the plains towards the sea

2 vineyard bands:
- Northern hillsides (i.e. Colli Orientali & Collio): soils are calcareous marls w layers of sandstone
- Plains with 5 DOCs crisscrossed by rivers: soils are mainly sand, clay and gravel

Best vineyards located on the south-facing slopes at the foothills of the Alps in the east


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Merlot

In Friuli since 1800s

Most are simple, fruity, often leafy

Best are dense & concentrated


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Cabernet Franc

Herbal, earthy cherry-scented reds

Often made in Bordeaux style


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Cabernet Sauvignon

Mix of Californian and Bordeaux

Most with distinct tarry, smoky Italian


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Refosco dal peduncolo rosso

Refosco: most planted native grape producing often light, purple and Beaujolais like wines

This is the best clone; vigorous late ripening variety w good resistance to rain and rot.

Cultivated in the hillside vineyards & flatter parts

Gives deeply coloured wine with medium to full body, high acidity plum flavours

Best in Colli oriental


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Pignolo

Promising native grape from Colli Orientali

Low yielding but high quality

Deep coloured, it makes some of the
most densest and ageworthy reds in Friuli


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Schioppettino

Rare native grape

Deeply coloured, medium body, hi
tannins, Syrah-like flavours with violet
and peppery notes

Mainly in Prepotto (Colli Orientali)


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Other Red Grapes

Tazzelenghe, Terrano


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Friulano (Sauvignonasse)

20% of all plantings

Most planted in Friuli and North-east of Italy

Previously called Tocai (banned since 07)

Productive, late-budding

Light-coloured & -bodied wines w hi acidity and stone fruit (peach/pear) as well as floral aromas and notes of almond; to be drunk young


What percentage of red grapes are in Friuli- Venezia Giulia?



What percentage of white grapes are white in Friuli- Venezia Giulia?



Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Pinot Grigio

Friuli’s Pinot Grigios are the best in Italy: fuller, rounder, nuttier than typical neutral style


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Sauvignon Blanc

From grassy and Loire-like to richer, peachier characters


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Chardonnay

Best have a mineral flintiness and creamy texture similar to Burgundy whites


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Pinot Bianco

Hi acidity, slightly spritzig non aromatic white for early consumption

Better used as blending grape but some good examples of varietal bottlings


Friuli- Venezia Giulia- Picolit

Native grape used as a dried grape for dessert or meditation wines w delicate floral aromas, light sweetness and peaches/apricots flavours

Mainly grown in Rosazzo, its original home