ANOTHER Fall White!
Ok I guess this has officially turned into an obsession – full bodied whites for fall – it’s my jam! This past weekend’s full bodied white pick was inspired by an innocent question from my partner when I mentioned I was teaching our Intro to Italian Wine class: “What are some Italian whites?”
Pretentious wine nerds might shake their heads, but I think it’s a totally bonafide question for many folks. Let’s face it most people turn to Italy for earthy reds that pair well with pasta! But yes, there are delicious whites as well. And I took home one of my favorites for our Sunday supper: Friulano! This is the star grape (in my opinion) of northeastern Italy’s Friuli region.
The Friulano grape has an interesting backstory just with its name alone… Up until 2007 you would most likely hear Friulians refer to the grape as Tocai Friulano, and for hundreds of years there has been documentation of wines called “Tocai” in this region. However, there also happens to be the famed Hungarian wine region known as Tokaj, which has long made mostly sweet wines from the Furmint grape. So, perhaps Friulians at one point used the Furmint grape? To muddy matters further, several other regions appropriated the “Tokaj/Tokay/Tocai” name to attach to their own wines. Confusing, to say the least!
In reality, Friulano is of no relation to the Furmint grape of Tokaj, and thankfully all of this mess was put to rest when Friulians dropped the Tocai prefix – allowing us to simply enjoy the gorgeous wines rather than losing our minds in the minutiae!
You will only see Friulano planted in a few other regions of the wine world, and really Friuli clearly has a bit of magic going. Here, in northeastern Italy you will find a cooler climate and more alpine terrain. You will also find the magical limestone bedrock that has an alchemical effect on so many grapes!
I have had the pleasure of enjoying several Friulanos and Friulano blends during my wine career, but I had actually not yet sat down with one of the greats: Vignai da Duline. This producer is imported by Kermit Lynch, and I had often seen the wines featured in the Kermit Lynch newsletter. Yet, I hesitated to bring them into the shop as they all hit at the $40 and up price point that is slightly challenging for a lesser known region!
I was finally sold on the idea when one of our great regulars visited the winery on a cycling trip through the region. He swore up and down that these were THE best wines they tasted on their trip. I took a chance and brought in the Friulano for a Friulian tasting last summer, and folks loved the entire lineup.
But it took my obsessive search for full bodied fall whites to inspire bringing home the Duline Friulano for myself. It poured viscous and somewhat golden (just as I remembered and hoped for!) and smelled of apricots and hay. On the palate it was mouth coating and tasted of more apricots but with a strong backbone of minerality. It was love at first sip! And it just kept unfolding.
Of course, this should not be surprising given the pedigree of this Friulano in particular. It is the passion project of Lorenzo Mocchiutti and his wife Federica Magrini. In the late 1990s they inherited a few hectares of vines from Lorenzos’ grandfather. While the vineyards had been neglected, they were filled with old vine plantings of many local grape varieties including Friulano. Today, they take a holistic approach in the vineyard and clearly conjure up magic from vines dating back to 1920 and 1936!
Splurge on a bottle today! At $40ish, it’s definitely a treat, but I promise it will live up to my hype!
P.S. Pair with braised white beans from Rancho Gordo -- see above :) -- for maximum enjoyment!