Traveling Friuli – A Friuli Wine and Food Experience
Apr 25, 2013, Updated Dec 05, 2023
After my brief time in Croatia I headed to a region in Northeast Italy I had never been before — Friuli–Venezia Giulia (Friuli for short). Friuli’s tourist board describes this land best in this description:
Alps and the Adriatic symbolize the two extremes of a multi-faceted and changing landscape, Italian, Slavic and Germanic cultures meet in a sort of melting pot of traditions, languages and religions.
You can feel this, see this, and taste this when you visit Friuli.
I’ve had many of the wines, seen pictures, and read about it, but spending nearly a week traveling through this region gave me a depth of knowledge and sense of appreciation that was missing. I’ve always said this, and still believe it to be true — It is difficult to understand a wine region until you have visited it, tasted the food, stood in the vineyards where the grapes were grown, and learned directly from the people who made it.
Over the next several weeks I hope to share with you some of the insight I gained from my time there, the wines I tasted, and the people I met. And hopefully you, too, will gain a deeper knowledge for this special region and perhaps even be motivated to try some of the wine and food from here.
What I have discovered from my time traveling in Italy is that each region is very different from the next (in terms of food, geography, and wine). One thing that has been consistent, however, is the incredible hospitality everywhere I’ve been and the people who make that happen.
Below is a preview of what’s to come.
Friuli–Venezia Giulia, Italy
Friuli, a land of world-class white wines, is home to three DOCG zones, eight DOC zones, and one interregional DOC zone. This region boasts approximately 1,500 vineyards that produce 80 million bottles a year. They produce white, red, sparkling, and dessert wines (though they are most famous for their still white wines).
DOCG: Ramandolo, Picolit, Rosazzo
DOC zones within the region: Carso, Colli Orientali del Friuli, Collio, Friuli Annia, Friuli Aquileia, Friuli Grave, Friuli Isonzo, Friuli Latisana
Interregional DOC zone: Prosecco
For more information on Italian wine laws and regulations (i.e. what does DOCG and DOC refer to), please see this post I wrote on the subject for reference.
Though this region is small, there is a wide range of styles of food given its geographical location and border influences. Two products most popular are its cheeses and prosciutto.
DOP Montasio cheese, many will tell you is “synonymous with Friuli”, and comes in three different styles – fresh, soft, and young; semi-aged, and aged, which tastes close to an aged Parmigiano-Reggiano with its texture and sharpness. I wrote about one farm that produces such cheese here.
DOP Il Prosciutto di San Danielle (i.e. the best, and most fresh prosciutto I’ve had in my entire life) is also a staple of Friuli. Made in the town of San Danielle where I was told is the ideal environment with best micro-climate for curing this meat. Locals are very proud of their prosciutto and every single winery and restaurant will have some on hand! I’m pretty sure I ate enough prosciutto for a lifetime while I was there. Will that stop me from eating it again? Heck no! I crave it now.
Humble, warm, friendly people.
I don’t know why, but I was surprised to see how rural and vast the land is here. You won’t find bustling crowded city life here, but rather beautiful endless green spaces, small charming towns, dramatic mountain views as well as rolling hillsides.
The parts of Friuli I visited were small towns and rural spaces. I did not see a commercial chain hotel once in the five days I was there. Instead we stayed in agriturismos (similar to B&B’s). You will find examples of these throughout the region. Something I can’t wait to share with you!
If there is anything specific you would like to know about Friuli; it’s wines, food, people, etc, please let me know!
Mary (a certified sommelier and recipe developer) and Sean (backyard pitmaster) are co-authors of the critically acclaimed cookbook, Fire + Wine, and have been creating content for the IACP nominated website Vindulge since 2009. They live in Oregon on a farm just outside Portland.