Prosciutto and Fennel Salad: Recommended Wine Pairing

I would suggest that with Francesca’s intriguing prosciutto and fennel salad you pair a white wine from Italy’s Northeastern region Friuli Venezia Giulia, particularly a Friulano or a Malvasia Istriana. Below are a few recommendations of some of the best that the winemakers of that region can offer, all with a very interesting price point for their excellent quality.

Friulano is a varietal white wine made from Friulano grapes: these are the same grapes that up until 2007 used to be called Tocai or Tocai Friulano, but now cannot be called like that any more because of the outcome of a dispute before the European Court of Justice between Hungary and Italy as to the right to use the word Tokaj or similar (such as Tocai). Specifically, in 2005 the Court held that, despite Tocai Friulano’s long history, “in consideration of the Hungarian geographical denomination ‘Tokaj’, the appellation of the Italian grape variety ‘Tocai Friulano’ [could] not be used anymore for the designation and identification of some Italian wines” starting from 2007.

Genetic testing showed that there are two different clones of Friulano grape: one is the Sauvignon Vert grape and the other one originated from a French grape called Sauvignonasse that has not been planted in France since the XIX century but is still grown in Chile. Friulano has no relation to and is not to be confused with Hungarian Tokaji wine, an extraordinary botrytized raisin sweet white wine made of Furmint grapes in the Hungarian region of Tokaj.

An excellent example of Friulano wine is Borgo San Daniele’s Friuli Isonzo Friulano DOC, a varietal dry white wine made of 100% Friulano grapes, with pleasant aromas of white peach, almond, wildflowers, and a slight smoky touch.

A quality alternative would be Blason’s Friuli Isonzo Friulano “Casa in Bruma” DOC, another white wine made of 100% Friulano grapes, with scents of white peach, pear and almond.

In the U.S., a commendable attempt to grow and make wine out of Friulano grapes is that of the Millbrook winery in NY State, whose Tocai Friulano, Hudson River Region, has pear, lemon, grapefruit and slight smoky aromas and is worth a try if you come across a bottle.

Instead of a Friulano, you could opt to pair Francesca’s prosciutto and fennel salad with a Malvasia Istriana, another traditional varietal white wine made in Friuli from Malvasia Istriana grapes. Malvasia Istriana is one of the many varieties of Malvasia (in Italian), Malvoisie (in French) or Malmsey (in English) grapes that exist in various parts of the world and centuries ago originated from the name of the Greek town of Monembasia.

A phenomenal example of Malvasia Istriana is Doro Princic’s Collio Malvasia Istriana DOC, a varietal dry white wine made of 100% Malvasia Istriana, which displays a complex bouquet of scents, including honey, peach, almond and magnolia and linden blossoms, coupled with delicate smoky hints and a long aftertaste.

An equally satisfying alternative would be Dario Raccaro’s Collio Malvasia DOC, another white wine made of 100% Malvasia Istriana, with aromas of magnolia and broom blossoms, white peach, citrus and pineapple as well as a slightly smoky finish.

Unfortunately, as of October 2012, neither of the two preceding wineries have a Website, in spite of the excellent quality of their wines. Should you wish to visit or reach out to them, feel free to drop me an email.

And if you have already tried out any of the wines mentioned above or wish to recommend another one that you think would go well with a dish like the prosciutto and fennel salad, please let us all know by leaving a comment to this post.


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