DINING & WINE | May 25, 2005
By ERIC ASIMOV
Few places on earth have such a concentration of determined, individualistic winemakers as the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy.
(…) “At the core of all this is the fact that these people are all about identity and not about ideology,” said Fred Plotking, author of “La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia” (Broadway Books, 2001). “You find your identity in the soil, in what you produce from the soil and in what it says about you.”
Few areas in Italy embody so many paradoxes. From its southern extreme, the regional capital of Trieste, on the Adriatic, Friuli-Venezia Giulia stretches north through snow-capped Alps to Austria. The region itself is actually the combination of two areas: Friuli, which accounts for much of the land, and Venezia Giulia, in the extreme southeast.
More than any other region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia continues to make wines from indigenous grapes, among them ribolla gialla, a beautifully floral white; tocai friulano, which can be crisp, refreshing and minerally; and refosco, which produces dark, fruity reds. Yet many wines carry familiar names like merlot, cabernet franc, sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and chardonnay, French grapes that were introduced 200 years ago by Napoleon`s army. (…)
Today some of Italy`s best white wines, clean crisp and fragrant, come from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, from winemakers like Schiopetto in the Collio wine district, Lis Neris and Vie di Romans in Friuli Isonzo, Scarbolo in Friuli Grave, and Livio Felluga and Bastianich in Colli Orientali del Friuli. Reds, too, can be striking, although aggressively herbal style of merlot, for example, that is favored in the region is far from the chocolate-covered-cherry style embraced by much of the world. (…)