Posted by: tomciocco | December 28, 2010


Set like a hub with Veneto, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and The Adriatic as the spokes is the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia. As Italy began to make its oenological presence felt outside its own borders, the first nods to fine WHITE winemaking went to this region that is a heady mix of Italian, Germanic, and Salvic cultures. And until Campania began to peek its head above the wall, the nods continued to go in that direction, and justifiably so. Friuli did and still does make great white wine.

But among the wide golden fan of accolades bestowed on wines made from grapes like Tocai (now officially known as Sovran or Friulano, by the way) Ribolla Gialla, Sauvignon Blanc, and others, the distinctive red grapes of Friuli have been and continue to remain in the shadow of their white cousins. The winners here are those drinkers with a bit broader palate, and access to these wines, because they can really deliver a unique experience at very fair prices.

Of all the great but unfortunately obscure reds from Friuli, Refosco is the one that is easiest to get your hands on. Grown in several appellations around the region, but also in nearby Romagna under the name Cagnina, and oddly, in Savoie, France under the name Mondeuse, pretty clear documentation links this grape to Friuli going back to Roman times. Refosco makes a dark and smooth, but prominently acidic wine that goes really well with rich or rustic foods, especially if some pork item or another is in the mix.

Due to the BLIZZARD we got hammered with here in New Jersey, I was a limited to what I had around the house. What I eventually came up with was a chickpea and pasta soup with rosemary and bit of tomato, and then a crock of polenta pasticciata which is sort of a layered and baked polenta pie, in this case with roast chicken pickings (from Christmas), mixed with leftover leeks stewed with tomato and thyme, and some chunks of gorgonzola dolce…

Marco Cecchini Refosco Colli Orientali del Friuli 2007

Rich, saturated purple color, with a deep ruby rim. Clear aromas of walnut danish, dark berries, sap, black licorice, menthol, and a touch of sandalwood. The medium body is smooth and round, but with a broad, slashing acidity backing up really clean plum, blackberry, and black cherry fruit flavors, with sweet black coffee and toasted whole clove notes on the finish. This is a thoroughly modern wine that is nonetheless very true to the variety.



  1. hi, I just discovered your blog while doing google searches for “asturias wine”. I used to live in New Jersey, but now I live in Italy, and a few months ago I made my first trip to Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and I’ve been drinking Refosco ever since – plus other great F.V.G. wines when I can get my hands on them. It is easier to try new wines in New Jersey than it is in Italy.

    I’m commenting to suggest that if you don’t have a copy of Fred Plotkin’s “Terra Fortunata”, which is all about F.V.G., including lots of recipes, track one down. It’s now out of print, so it can be pricey, but I think really worth it.

    I’m planning a trip to Asturias, Galicia and the Pais Vasco for the spring. I’ve only been to San Sebastian, so I’m looking forward to the rest. Never tried sidra — and I’m a bit wary! — so I was googling around to see if there was any local wine to try. I got hooked browsing through your other entries, and have now bookmarked the blog, so thanks! Stay warm in all that snow cover!

  2. Hi Althea,

    Thanks for the note. Where do you live in Italy? I’ve already got Plotkin’s book, but thanks for the tip, and I agree – it’s a great book. If you don’t also know his book on Ligurian food (“Recipes from Paradise”), it’s just as good.

    As you might be able to tell from the blog. I LOVE the Basque country, but I’ve never been to either Galicia or Asturias, but would very much like to go. Give us a report on your trip when you return…Yeah, Spanish cider isn’t for everyone, but once (if) you acquire the taste for it, there’s no susbstitute…Thanks again for the comment. Looking forward to hearing about your trip!

  3. Hi,

    I live in Liguria, but Plotkin’s cookbook about the region is one I’ve never gotten my hands on. I’m going to try harder the next time I’m in the states. I really like off-the-beaten track travel, so I’m really looking forward to the next visit to Spain. The other place I’d really like to go is Molise/Basilicata, and I hope to get up into the hinterlands of Sardegna sometime soon too. Stay warm in NJ.

    • Funny! My family is from Molise. It’s one of the wildest, old-timiest, spots on the boot – they say that there are tracts of the Matese range between Molise and Campania that very few people have EVER trekked through.

      I’ve never been to Sardegna either, but it’s high on my list too. Where do you live in Liguria?

  4. thanks for the nice review on the refosco.
    are you on twitter ??? ciao e vienimi a trovare in friuli venezia giulia

    • Hello, Marco and thanks. No, no Twitter for me…Si ringrazio per l’invito…Fa per caso un Schioppettino? Mi piacerebbe molto assaggiare la sua interpretazione!


      • I am sorry but no schioppettino per me. But when you’ll come to Friuli venezia gIulia we could taste some 😉 have a nice day

        marco cecchini

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