The Friulano Grape: A Hidden Italian Gem

Welcome to the intriguing world of Friulano, a white-wine grape variety that’s like a secret handshake among wine enthusiasts. Nestled in the vineyards of north-eastern Italy, this grape may not have the fame of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, but it’s a true gem for those who discover it. Let’s dive into the world of Friulano and find out what makes this varietal so special.

A Brief History

The Friulano grape has a story that’s as rich as its flavor. Originally known as Tocai Friulano, it’s deeply rooted in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region of Italy. There was a bit of a name game due to a legal tussle with Hungary over the use of ‘Tocai,’ leading to the streamlined ‘Friulano’ we know today. This grape is a part of the local fabric, intertwined with the region’s history and culture for centuries.


Friulano is a grape that doesn’t shout; it subtly whispers its qualities. It’s typically characterized by a medium body, moderate acidity, and an alcohol content that’s comfortably in the middle of the spectrum. The grape’s skin contributes a hint of bitterness, which is a signature trait of Friulano wines.

Flavor Profile

Now, let’s get to the fun part – the flavors. Imagine a symphony of almonds, ripe apples, and a touch of wildflowers. Some say that the flavor profile Friulano sits somewhere between Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. There’s often a delightful herbal note, sometimes compared to sage. In the more mature wines, you might detect a hint of honey. The best part? That unique almond aftertaste that lingers long after your last sip.

Styles of Wines

Friulano is versatile. Most commonly, you’ll find it in crisp, fresh, young wines that are best enjoyed in their youth. However, some winemakers are experimenting with aged Friulano, which offers more complex, nuanced flavors. There are even some late-harvest versions for those who fancy a sweeter profile.

Winemaking and Maturation

Traditionally, Friulano is vinified in stainless steel tanks to preserve its fresh, fruity characteristics. However, a trend is emerging where winemakers are using oak barrels, which impart additional complexity and longevity to the wine. The aging potential of Friulano is often underestimated; well-made examples can age gracefully for several years.

Important Regions

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is the heartland of Friulano. Here, the grape benefits from the region’s unique microclimate, influenced by the Adriatic Sea and the Alps. Within Friuli, look for wines from Collio, Colli Orientali del Friuli, and Isonzo. Each of these areas brings out different nuances in the Friulano grape, thanks to variations in soil and climate.

Food Pairing Suggestions

Pairing Friulano with food is an adventure. Its herbal and almond notes make it a natural ally for prosciutto and other cured meats. It sings alongside seafood, particularly shellfish. For a vegetarian option, try it with risotto flavored with spring vegetables. Friulano also complements Friulian traditional dishes like frico (a cheese and potato pancake). And for a simple pleasure, enjoy it with a fresh Caprese salad.

Friulano may not be the first grape that comes to mind when you think of Italian wines, but it deserves a spot in your wine repertoire. With its subtle complexity, delightful flavors, and versatility, Friulano is a variety that rewards those who seek it out.

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Written by

Bernard Marr has a deep passion for wine. He has written hundreds of articles on wine, including features for Forbes, covering wine-making and industry trends. Away from the world of wine, Bernard is a world-renown business and technology futurist. He is the award winning author of over 20 best-selling books and has a combined audience of nearly 4 million people across his social media channels and newsletters.

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