Wine Pages

Mike Steinberger's Wine Diarist


WBW# 41 - Friuli-Venezia Giulia Whites

This month's installment of Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by Jack & Joanne at Fork & Bottle. They sent participants on a mission to uncover examples of some of Italy's most distinctive white wines... those of the northeast region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Distinctive whites of Italy, you ask? You thought all Italian whites were thin, light, crisp, tart, and simple? Don't they all just taste like Pinot Grigio (which all tastes the same, anyway, right)? Well, in a word, NO! Italian whites often get undeservedly short shrifted. There are many brilliant examples of exciting, engaging whites from Italy - and chief among them may be those from Friuli-Venezia Giulia.

The region, borders the Italian state of Veneto, but more importantly it borders Austria and Slovenia. Throughout history, it has taken many cultural and culinary cues from these counties. During the 19th and 20th centuries, it also was influenced by French viticulture, supplementing many of the local indigenous varieties with plantings of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Roesling, Cabernet (both Sauvignon & Franc), Merlot and others. Many of the wines of the region have a broader mouthfeel than you might expect from Italian whites. Some are aromatic, some are fleshy or creamy, and some are purposefully oxidized. These are wonderful food wines, and worth seeking out - particularly those made from the native varieties like Tocai Friulano (which will soon be officially known as Friulano), Malvasia Istriana, Ribolla Gialla, and Vitovska.

For my part of this monthly tasting, I chose the Vigna Traverso Ribolla Gialla 2006. The producer is reasonably young, having started in 1998, but they are growing some great fruit, and the wine, which I picked up for about $19, was beautifully aromatic (lemon and tart citrus fruits), texturally creamy with a tingly acidity, and fresh. At one point, I had the feeling I was licking the pith of a lemon (and liking it!). The Vigna Traverso was a starter wine for a dinner party that included several other delicious wines (produced by the likes of von Schubert, Grivot, Nicholas Joly, Lopez de Heredia, among others) and it kept pace with nearly all of the other wines that evening.

This is a region I've explored before, and will continue to. Many producers there are progressive (and even unique - Gravner & Radikon) and will deliver experiences unfamiliar to many. Thanks jack and Joanne for bringing me back to Friuli-Venezia Giulia.