Exploring the wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the Northeastern wine region of Italy
The red wines of Friuli are known for their tannins and structure. International varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet posses a fruitiness of wild berry and little herb. The local varieties produce a nose of ripe fruit and an elegant mouth feel with notes of spice and pepper, but are not jammy. Many of the red wines are blends. Different areas within Friuli, known as districts and sub districts, blend different grapes so it is difficult to generalize the production of the region. It’s complicated!
We drove to Moschioni Vineyards, located in Civadale, and visited winemaker Michele Moschioni and his wife Sabina with Wayne Young acting as our interpreter. We drank wine and ate prosciutto as they shared stories about the wines of Friuli.
Michele is a very passionate winemaker and in many ways a guardian of the indigenous red grapes. In the hands of a master artisan, he brings Refosco, Pignolo, Schiopettino, and Rosso Reâl to life. We were joined by his family and sat by the fogolar, the center of family life in Friuli, as Michele, for five hours, shared his love of winemaking, the challenges of the region, and sincere desire to preserve the uniqueness of Friuli. Grazie mille! Michele.
One of the more unusual single varietal wines we tasted was Schoppettino. We tasted this wine from several vintages while visiting Michele. This is a wine that was a real surprise. In its youth it left a lot to be desired, but after just one or two years of bottle aging the wine rounds out, the aromas of ripe berry emerge, the fruit develops and explodes on the palate. Stunning, when aged just a few short years.
Michele spoke passionately of the need to preserve these indigenous varieties and how they represent this region of the world. He also spoke of the different techniques used by different vintners and how the microclimates of the region result in different winemaking opportunities. Friuli is not trying to be France or Tuscany, but rather showcase its own style. Michele was an ardent supporter of the individual styles of wine being produced in the region. We really appreciated the difference and I no longer want to compare wines but rather enjoy them for what they are.
When we try and copy those that are successful, we end up inviting comparisons and in the process lose our own voice or identity. The next time you visit your local wine store, ask for a wine from Friuli. If you purchase a Cabernet, don’t compare it to a California Cab, or if you purchase a blend, don’t think how it compares to a Bordeaux or Meritage, but enjoy it for its uniqueness. If you are lucky, they will have one of the regional single varietals like Friulano, Refosco, or Schoppettino.
We want to thank Lidia Bastianich for the invitation to visit and experience this beautiful region of Italy and to Wayne Young for giving us an insider’s look at Friuli.
Buon Vino. Buona Salute.
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