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.