Tag Archives: Friulano

Saffron "Milanese" Risotto – Recommended Wine Pairing (and a bit of trivia re Tocai)

Blason, Friuli Isonzo Friulano "Casa in Bruma" DOCSo, yeah, I’m still in catch-up mode with my wine pairing recommendations… Sorry if it took me a while, but here we go: these are my suggestions in terms of what to pair with Francesca’s wonderful Saffron Milanese Risotto (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite risotto’s!)

To complement this luscious dish, you should pick a wine with good acidity, fairly intense aromas and flavor, noticeable minerality and decent structure, as in a medium-bodied wine.

Based on the above, I am going to recommend a Friulano wine, from the Italian Friuli Venezia Giulia region. Before we go to the actual recommendations, however, let’s just say a few words about this wine, including a bit of trivia 🙂

Friulano is the relatively new name for the grape variety that used to be known as Tocai. The change in name was due to the outcome of a dispute before the European Court of Justice that in 2005 prohibited Italian winemakers, starting March 2007, from using the word Tocai to identify their wines or grape varieties, on the grounds that the use of the word “Tocai” by the Italians could be confusing with the very famous (and delicious!) Hungarian sweet botrytized wineTokaji“, which is a word that started being used to identify such wine before anyone else used any similar term, including Tocai in the Friuli and Veneto regions of Italy. Incidentally, note that in Hungary “Tokaji” is only the name of the wine, not that of the prevalent grape variety it is made of, which instead is called Furmint.

Ronco del Gelso, Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte Friulano "Toc Bas" DOCAs a result of the aforesaid European Court of Justice decision (and despite, let me note, Italian Tocai being a dry white wine and therefore completely different from Hungaian Tokaji, which is a sweet wine), Italian authorities and Tocai producers from the two affected regions (Friuli and Veneto) needed to come up with a different name to call their own grapes and the wine made out of them.

In one of the best examples of Italian bureaucracy at its finest, a decision was made to call the same grape variety in two different ways: “Friulano” in the region of Friuli and “Tai” in the region of Veneto. As if being required to drop the Tocai designation altogether had not brought enough confusion in the market… 🙁

Regarding Friulano (or Tocai) as a grape variety, DNA profiling has shown that it is identical to Sauvignonasse, an old white-berried grape variety that originated in the Gironde region of France and that (despite what the name would make you think) is not related to Sauvignon. Sauvignonasse vines were brought to the North-Eastern Italian region of Friuli in the XIX century where it was given the name Tokai, which later on muted into Tocai, in the first quarter of the XX century (information on the grape varieties, cit. Wine Grapes, by Robinson-Harding-Vouillamoz, HarperCollins 2012).

Vigne di Zamò, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano "Vigne Cinquant'anni" DOCLet’s now focus on a few recommendations of quality Friulano wines that you may consider pairing with a saffron Milanese risotto (all of the options below are varietal wines, made of 100% Friulano grapes):

  • Blason, Friuli Isonzo Friulano “Casa in Bruma” DOC, with aromas of peach, almond and minerals
  • Livio Felluga, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano DOC, with a bouquet of citrus, almond, herbs and minerals
  • La Tunella, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano DOC, with aromas of white flowers, pear, almond and mineral hints
  • Le Vigne di Zamò, Colli Orientali del Friuli Friulano “Vigne Cinquant’anni” DOC, with a wonderful bouquet of apple, citrus, tropical fruit and minerals
  • Ronco del Gelso, Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte Friulano “Toc Bas” DOC, with aromas of white flowers, peach, apricot, almond, hazelnut and mineral hints.

As usual, if you get to try out any of these wines, let us all know how you liked it by dropping a comment below!


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.