Saturday, August 12, 2006

Wines of Friuli - Heirloom wines

Heirloom wines, also known as autochthons, are made from indigenous vines. Italian producers have realized that planting the Merlot, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignons they face ever-increasing competition from large multinational producers who employ methods and processes that result in cheaper wines. This has led the Italian producers to return what they know best, traditional or heirloom wines where their end product is without rivals.

Tuscan wines are great, they are famous, and they are numerous, but my favorite Italian wine region is Friuli. Other regions will have 2 or 3 wines that I like and I will look for them in and keep them in my cellar. I have just the opposite emotion with the wines of Fruili, there are only 2 or 3 Friuli wines that I do not like. When given a choice most often I will choose a Friuli wine and if I do not know the wines on the list I will always go for the region I like best, which again means Friuli.

The wines of Friuli, generally very high quality, can be very different from one another. The area in which the grapes are grown will have different minerals in the ground, the amount of sun the grapes receive will be different and the vineyards may receive different amounts of rain at different times in the season. These factors are very important and come into play more in Friuli than other traditional Italian wine regions. With the Alps just a hop, skip and a jump away climate can play tricks on the growers. Their expertise and generations of experience are what makes Friuli wines so special.

All the areas of Friuli are great wine producers, but grapes grown in Collio are predominately the best across all varieties. It should also be noted that while Friuli does have some very big international growers that sometimes choose quantity over quality generally Friuli specializes in heirloom wines made by medium, small and micro growers.


As Alder at Vinography said, “the large quantity wines that are made with more industrial methods cannot be compared with wines made with natural yeasts and artisan methods. It would be stupid to even try to compare them.” Alder intended with this statement to say that these are different wines, not better or worse simply better and should not be compared. I agree, it would be similar to comparing Raffaella’s homemade ravioli or my fresh pasta with ragu’ and Chef Boyardee. Surely there are some people who would support that Chef Boyardee is better. Mmmm, mmmm, good!

Personally, I see the introduction of industrial production methods in wine similar to what has happened in the food industry. To reduce cost they added many things that have little to do with good food. Certain additives, banned in Europe because of health hazards, are widely used in boxed, frozen, prepared foods here in the US. They are tasty but result in heart disease, obesity, liver failure, and cancer.

The most interesting thing about these great wines is that quality does not mean costly. Traditional methods of production will not allow for a 7$ bottle of wine, but it will allow for the same quantity served in a flask at your table during dinner for 7$. I suggest you look for these wines, they are some of the best in the world and you can find them at a very reasonable price.

Heirloom Wines

Malvasia
Picolit
Pignolo
Ramandolo
Refosco dal peduncolo rosso
Ribolla gialla
Schioppettino
Tazzelenghe
Terrano
Tocai Friulano
Verduzzo Friulano
Vitovska

The DOC and DOCG Regions

Carso
Colli Orientali del Friuli
Collio Goriziano
Friuli-Annia
Friuli-Aquileia
Friuli-Grave
Friuli-Latisana
Friuli-Isonzo
Lison-Pramaggiore (Pordenone)
Ramandolo

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6 Comments:

Anonymous david said...

Hola, namesake-
(como se dice 'tocayo' en Italiano?)
...followed yr link but found no information on th two Friuli reds
I've had access here in Puerto Rico-
a Refosco from Gianni Vescovo in Isonzo,
a Cab Franc from Livo Zorzettig...forget th Denominazione,
think th distributor is clearing inventory...are these guys
out of business, swallowed up by some beverage conglomerate
or another?
Thank you for some inspirational writing!
(Hope i will finally visit la Bella, focusing precisely on
th NE-- depending on time & monetary resources, between Dolomiti
& Trieste- next year...!)

10:34 PM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

David I am glad to see you here.

I believe the Tocayo you are talking about is Tocai Friulano.

Refosco is one of my favorites also. This post was not about individual wines, instead it is about the wines (and only the vines native to Friuli).

I think it is valuable to understand the flavors of the individual grapes and the areas they come from. Often while travelling I find that I do not know the wines on the list so I have to choose based on general knowledge. That is where knowing the vines and the regions becomes very important.

I will be doing individual wines later on in the year.

Unfortunately, this does not work with US producers as most California wines have little to do with the original grapes once it goes through all of the processing.


I would not worry about wines on sale. It usually has to do with end of season, overstocking, or they have kept the bottle for too long or in an inappropriate manner so the distributors move it out as quickly as possible. I am not aware of any producers "going under" this year.

For your trip you have chosen well, there are so many things to do and see. To stretch your money I would follow one of the wine trail tours. They are often very reasonble and can take you into areas you would not see otherwise. The local producers can also take you to the best (and usually cheapest) food establishments around!

6:18 AM

 
Blogger Tracie B. said...

eviva l'autoctono! i am sicksicksick of seeing merlot and cabernet mixed with the indigenous local grapes and being called "super." i told italian wine guy recently about some revived indigenous campanian grapes: casavecchia and paragrello nero. ever heard of 'em? they're making some powerful age-worthy reds...

give me a ribolla giallo over "chard" any day :)

9:36 AM

 
Blogger Tracie B. said...

eviva l'autoctono! i am sicksicksick of seeing merlot and cabernet mixed with the indigenous local grapes and being called "super." i told italian wine guy recently about some revived indigenous campanian grapes: casavecchia and paragrello nero. ever heard of 'em? they're making some powerful age-worthy reds...

give me a ribolla giallo over "chard" any day :)

9:36 AM

 
Blogger Tracie B. said...

hmm, that's pallagrello nero...i just can't remember it correctly!

9:39 AM

 
Blogger Travel Italy said...

Tracie B. Glad to see you back!!!

While many think the "Super" indicates the best it actually is a only a way to differentiate from a common tablewine which has no "heritage".

I also prefer the heirloom wines. This is more true when aging the wine or combining different wines during the same meal.

I will be, over time, doing a series on all of the heirloom vines as I think that understanding the wine helps understand both the mono-fruit and the designer wines.

9:46 AM

 

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