The region of Friuli Venezia Giulia is famous for its wine production, which dates back many centuries before the birth of Christ. The grapevines were imported into this area from the Greek world around the year 1000 B.C. But it is certainly in the Roman period that the cultivation of grapevines was developed and carried out with technical criteria, especially with regard to wine making.
In Pliny the Elder’s (23-79 A.D.) work Naturalis Historia, in the thirty-seven books which he dedicated to the Emperor Titus, he wrote, for example, that the Pucinum wine was considered to be rich in therapeutic qualities. This is so much true that Augusta Giulia attributed her eighty-six years to that wine produced “in the gulf of the Adriatic Sea, not far from the rocky hills of the source of the Timavo, where the sea breeze matures only a few amphorae”.
In the fifth century A.D. the historian Cassiodorus, minister of Emperor Theodoric, spoke of Istria, rich with vineyards. Theodocius, the horrible Ostrogoth king, elegised the abundant and prized production of Cividale and Aquileia.
During the medieval period, winemaking in the region flourished, even if the period was very troubled. The exportation of wine never ceased, especially into the Venetian Republic, which already knew of the most notable products such as Rabbiola dell’Istria and del Collio, Pinella, Clorinda, Turbiano and Malvasia.
In 1307 Gorizia, to defend itself from the external competition of other wines and so favour the consumption of those wines produced in its own territory, imposed a duty on foreign wines. This was reported in the Annals of Friuli, which also cite a document from Udine from 1324, in which the most widespread grapevines of the era are assessed.
During the Renaissance, the wines of Friuli maintained their status. Andrea Bacci, in his De Naturali Vinorum Historia, points out that Rosazzo wine was more esteemed by the Germans than Falerno wine was esteemed by the Romans.
In the meantime other new grapevines, such as the Terrano, the Romania and the Pignolo, entered into production and began to spread in the region. Then, around the sixteenth century, Picolit appeared. It is a great grapevine from which an excellent wine is made, difficult to imitate in its organoleptic qualities.
Great changes were coming for vine growing in Friuli and in 1765 the Societa’ Agraria Teresiana (The Theresa Agrarian Society) was founded, taken from the name of the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria. It was the first in a series of institutions created with the idea of bettering the vine growing and winemaking in the region through technical assistance.
Vine growing and winemaking, therefore, are a culture and a tradition which characterised and still characterise the production history of this land. It is a land which still preserves various habits such as the ancient Udinese tradition of receiving important guests by offering them the best and most excellent wines of their own production.
The wines of this region are divided by area, considering the types of DOC wines, which differ notably due to their geographic position, the climatic conditions and the nature of the land.
In Carso the following wines should be remembered:
Carso has an intense ruby red colour, a distinctive vinous aroma, and a dry flavour. It has a harmonious body and a minimum alcohol content of 10.5 percent.
Terrano has an intense ruby red colour, a vinous odour, and a distinctive aroma reminiscent of raspberries. It has a dry, agreeably acidulous flavour and a harmonious body with a minimum alcohol content of 10 percent.
In Gorizano, between the Isonzo and Judrio rivers, Collio wine is produced. It is a production rich in variety in both white and red wines.
There are twelve white wines, all with a minimum alcohol content of 11.5 percent, except for the yellow Ribolla with an 11 percent minimum alcohol content and Picolit with 14 percent. These are the Chardonnays with their delicate, distinctive aroma and their dry, full-bodied, harmonious flavour. Malvasia has an agreeable, distinctive aroma and a dry, well-rounded harmonious flavour while Müller-Thurgau has a more intense aroma and a dry, harmonious yet full flavour. Picolit, on the other hand, has a delicate, subtle, pleasing aroma and a sweetish or sweet, warm, harmonious and delicate flavour. The Pinot Bianco has a distinctive aroma and a dry, full-bodied, harmonious flavour. The Pinot Grigio has a distinctive aroma and the same flavour as the Pinot Bianco. The Yellow Ribolla also has a distinctive aroma and a dry taste but it is also racy and fresh. The Riesling has an intense, delicate, agreeable aroma and is also dry to the taste, but distinctive and aromatic. The Riesling Italico has a special, distinctive aroma and a dry, harmonious flavour. The Sauvignon has a delicate aroma, a dry, full-bodied and harmonious flavour and a distinctive, delicate, agreeable fragrance. Tocai Friulano has a dry, warm, full-bodied, bitterish and harmonious flavour. Traminer Aromatico has a typically characteristic aroma and a dry, aromatic, intense, full-bodied flavour.
There are six red wines from Collio, all with a minimum alcohol content of 11.5 percent and a ruby red colour.
The red wine has a slightly herbaceous, vinous aroma and a dry, full-bodied, round, harmonious flavour while the Cabernet has a distinctive, decidedly herbaceous aroma which becomes etheric over time, and a dry and harmonious flavour. The aroma of the Cabernet Franc is distinctive, herbaceous and agreeable, with various hints in the flavour, which is dry, well rounded and harmonious. The Cabernet Sauvignon also has a distinctive, agreeable aroma, but is more intense, and is accompanied by a dry, well-rounded, harmonious flavour. The Merlot also has a distinctive, agreeable aroma, but at times with an herbaceous backdrop. It also has a dry flavour, but slightly bitter and zesty. The Pinot Nero has an intense, distinctive aroma and a dry but agreeable, velvety flavour.
The wine production in the Eastern hills of Friuli is also interesting. Of note are the Sauvignon, with its delicate aroma tending toward the aromatic and its dry, fresh, harmonious flavour, and the Verduzzo Friulano, which may be dry or sweetish to sweet and fruity.
In the area of Ramandolo, a wine with the same name is produced. It has a golden yellow colour, typically sweetish or sweet and a minimum alcohol content of 14 percent.
The red wines of the Eastern Hills all have a minimum alcohol content of 11 percent.
The Cabernet has an intense red colour, like that of aged garnet. It has a vinous, intense and distinctive aroma. Its flavour is dry, aromatic, full-bodied and slightly herbaceous. In the Cabernet Franc, on the other hand, the herbaceous element is more accentuated in the aroma while the flavour is dry. It has an intense ruby red or garnet red colour if aged. The Cabernet Sauvignon has a lighter shade of colour, an agreeable, distinctive, intense aroma and an aromatic, dry flavour. The Merlot has the same ruby red colour, a distinctive and agreeable aroma and a full, zesty, dry flavour.
The Pinot Nero has a not very intense ruby red colour, or garnet red in the aged variety. It has a marked, distinctive, delicate aroma and a dry, agreeable, slightly bitterish flavour.
The Refosco from the red bunch stem has an intense ruby red colour with hints of violet or garnet red in the aged variety. It has an intense, distinctive aroma and a dry, full-bodied, bitterish flavour. The Schioppettino has a ruby red colour or a garnet red colour if aged, a distinctive, intense aroma and a full, herbaceous, typical, dry flavour.
Friuli Aquileia, with its various types of wines, is produced in the city of the same name. It is a city rich in evidence of the Roman era, such as the river port, the forum, the houses, with its legacy of mosaic floors of rare splendour.
The background to this artistic beauty is the vibrant green of the countryside where, in addition to fruits and vegetables, very fine wines are produced.
The zone of wine production includes seventeen municipalities in the province of Udine. The central point of reference of the area is, of course, Aquileia.
The white Friuli Aquileia wines have a minimum alcohol content that varies from 10.5 to 11 percent, and the spumante has a minimum alcohol content of 12 percent. The white wine has a straw yellow colour more or less intense in tone. In the spumante, Chardonnay, Sauvignon and Riesling, the colour is lighter and in the Pinot Grigio it is golden or coppery.
The white wine has an agreeable, delicate aroma and a harmonious, velvety flavour. In the Tocai Friulano, the aroma is delicate, agreeable, and yet distinctive. The flavour is dry and harmonious with an aromatic aftertaste. The Pinot Bianco has a distinctive, light aroma and a velvety, distinctive flavour. The Pinot Grigio has the same characteristics of flavour and aroma, but is also dry, full and harmonious. The aroma of the Riesling is also distinctive, and the flavour is dry but also slightly acidulous and harmonious. The Sauvignon has a distinctive yet delicate aroma and a dry, harmonious flavour while the Traminer is aromatic, with a specific aroma and a full, aromatic, robust flavour. The aroma of the Verduzzo Friuliano is vinous, delicate, agreeable aroma and the flavour is dry, or sweetish or sweet is certain types, full and slightly tannic. The Chardonnay has a slightly distinctive flavour and a dry, velvety, soft, harmonious and racy flavour in specific types. The Malvasia Istriana has an agreeable aroma and a dry, velvety, light bodied. The Müller-Thurgau has an intense, distinctive, agreeable aroma and a dry, round, harmonious and racy flavour in specific types. The spumante has a delicate, persistent froth, a distinctive, delicate aroma and a dry, agreeable flavour.
The Friuli Aquileia red wines have a minimum alcohol content of 10.5 percent, as do the rose’ wines, with a ruby red colour, sometimes with various tones: garnet red in the red wines or the Cabernet Sauvignon, intense violet in the Refosco, Carnet, etc.
The red wine has a vinous, intense, delicate aroma and a dry, soft flavour, while the new wine has a vinous and fruity aroma and a zesty, distinctive flavour, which in the Merlot is dry, soft and slightly herbaceous. The Cabernet also has a vinous aroma, but more intense, agreeable and herbaceous, while its flavour is dry and harmonious. The Cabernet Franc has very similar characteristics of aroma and flavour. The Cabernet Sauvignon has a distinctive, agreeable, intense aroma and a dry, round, harmonious flavour. The Refosco from the red bunch stem is also dry, but full and bitterish with a vinous aroma.
The Friuli Aquileia rose’ has a rose colour, tending toward light cherry red, a vinous, intense, agreeable aroma and a dry, harmonious, full, racy flavour in specific types.
In Grave as in all of Friuli, the cultivation of grapevines goes back to the Pre-Roman era, but the production of wines was able to assert itself only in the Roman era.
Under Venetian rule, from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century there was an awakening in the cultivation of grapevines in the area. These grapevines are held in great esteem and are considered among the best in Italy for the high quality of the wines they produce.
Between Sacile and Casarsa, Pordenone and Spilimbergo, between Codroipo and Palamonova, between San Daniele and Tricesimo, all of the typical wines of Friuli, the production of which is approximately half of that of the entire region, can be tasted
The very high quality of the product must be attributed to the favourable conditions offered by the land and the climate, to the vast selection of grapevines and the admirable passion and ability of the vine dressers. The types of wine produced in the vineyards in the hills, called “ronchi” in close comparison with the French “cru”, are highly esteemed for their marked characteristics of flavour and aroma.
The white wine has an agreeable, delicate aroma and a harmonious, velvety, dry flavour. The Chardonnay has a distinctive aroma and a dry, harmonious flavour. The Pinot Bianco presents a dry, harmonious flavour to the palate, racy in specific types. The Pinot Grigio has a light straw yellow colour, sometimes with coppery reflections. It is distinctive in aroma and harmonious and dry in flavour, while the Riesling is slightly aromatic in aroma and dry in flavour. The Sauvignon has a distinctive aroma and a harmonious, fresh, dry flavour. The flavour of the Tocai Friuliano is also dry and harmonious and the aroma is agreeable and distinctive. The Traminer Aromatico is delicate, distinctive and dry in flavour and aromatic and intense in aroma. The Verduzzo
Friulano has a distinctive aroma and a dry flavour, or sometimes sweetish or sweet flavour in specific types. The Grave spumante has a delicate, persistent froth, a distinctive aroma and a rich, harmonious flavour.
The rose’ has a rose colour, a delicate aroma and a dry, harmonious flavour, racy in specific types.
The red Friuli Grave wines, with the exception of the new wine, the Cabernet and the Cabernet Franc, have a ruby red colour tending toward garnet red if aged, and an intense, delicate aroma. The red wines have a dry, harmonious flavour. The new wine has ruby red colour, a fruity, vinous aroma, and a rich, distinctive flavour. The Cabernet has a more or less intense ruby red colour, tending toward garnet red if aged. The aroma is agreeable, distinctive and sometimes herbaceous and the flavour is harmonious and dry. The Cabernet Franc has a more intense colour than the Cabernet and a distinctive, herbaceous aroma. It has an agreeable, delicate, dry flavour, while the Cabernet Sauvignon has a harmonious, dry flavour and an agreeable, distinctive aroma.
The Merlot has an agreeable, distinctive aroma and a dry, harmonious flavour while the Pinot Nero has a dry flavour and a delicate, distinctive aroma. The Refosco from the red bunch stem has a dry, full-bodied flavour and a distinctive aroma.
The Friuli Grave wines, with the exclusion of the new and rose’ varieties, may bear the name “riserva” on the label after being aged for at least two years.
The same types of wine, even if with some variations, are produced in other areas of the region such as the old fief of the Earls of Gorizia Friuli Latisana and in the area of the village of Gradisca d’Isonzo. This village is famous for its fortifications, the plans for which were worked on by Leonardo da Vinci and, in 1473, the Venetians had a fortress built there to combat the Earls of Gorizia and the invasions of the Turks.
From 1509 onward, after various military actions, the city of Gradisca and all its territories passed to Maximilian Hapsburg and these lands remained in the hands of the Hapsburgs until the First World War.
The wines of this zone were always highly appreciated by rulers and nobles, and they soon began to be exported.
The region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, therefore, is a region of great wine production, a production famous throughout Italy and even abroad. This is especially true of the white wines, which are absolutely among the best (and not only among Italian wines) still produced today.
As a source of riches, wine production has always been the only door open to other lands, the only way to leave the confines of this zone and a source of pride for all of Italian wine production.