Posted by: tomciocco | March 29, 2012


If there was any doubt that the grape formerly known as Tocai is now the unofficial top variety in Italy’s northeastern Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region, you need look no further than its new moniker: Friulano. Some years ago, officials representing Hungary’s world-renowned wine region Tokaji (pronounced TOH-kai), appealed to the European Union  wine body, and astoundingly ultimately won the exclusive rights to the use of that name, as well as the right to forbid the use of any name that remotely looks or sounds like “Tokaji” to any other region in the EU (i.e. Friuli’s “Tocai”, as well as Alsace’s “Tokay Pinot Gris” ).

So, in the face of the loss of the name “Tocai”, the powers that be in Friuli decided to rename Tocai after themselves, i.e. Friulano (or sometimes seen as “Furlan” as well, which is “Friulano” in the Friulian language…confusion germinates quickly in Italy). And this despite the heartbreaking blow dealt to the Friulani some years prior by the unforgiving probe of DNA analysis, which proved unequivocally that Friulano (the grape) was not Friulano (the ethnicity/nationality) at all, but rather the rare French Sauvignon Blanc relative known as Sauvignonasse, which was later determined to have come from the Loire to Friuli early in the 19th century…

Which brings us to what should be Friuli’s signiture white grape variety: Ribolla Gialla. A few weeks back, I posted about a wine made from Ribolla Nera (more commonly known by the name Schioppettino) made by the same producer as this white, by the way. As you can infer from the similarity in the names, these two varieties are siblings, with one being well pigmented, the other, a lot less so. The fact that these varieties, which surely were once one, has morphed into two, distinct, and now differently colored grapes, is a testament to this vine’s deep roots in Friuli (as well as in Slovenia, just over the location of the current border). And though Friulano is still Friuli’s most famous white, Ribolla Gialla’s numbers continue to grow in the vineyard, as well as in support from the market. Maybe some day…

Dinner consisted of a Friulano pasta classic of egg tagliatelle with a sauce of cream, minced prosciutto, grated Montasio cheese, and poppy seeds (yup – Austria’s a close neighbor, and a former ruler), and then my sauteed adaption of a traditonally stewed chicken recipe made with white wine, bay leaves, celery, parsley, garlic, and a side of baby peas and diced yellow pepper.









Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Gialla Colli Orientali del Friuli 2010

Pale, golden yellow color. Complex and “natural” aromas of pear, lemon curd, hay, peanuts, subtle herbs, marzipan and honey. In the mouth the wine is medium-weight, with a round, springy core, and a freh, piercing, minerally acidity that reveals flavors of ground ginger, citron, canned peaches, vanilla bean, stewed quince, white pepper, and fresh sheep cheese. The finish shows a nice, slightly limey bitterness.


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