Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #41: the Whites of Friuli-Venezia

Wine Blogging Wednesday, the monthly online tasting event started by Lenn Thompson of Lenndevours, goes Italian for its 41st installment. Hosts Jack and Joanne from Fork and Bottle asked us to try a white from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. When many of us think of Italian wines we think hearty reds or sparklers, but Italy has a great tradition of white wines which range from crisp, unoaked whites that are perfect for calamari to rich wines made with rare, native varieties aged in barrels. The white wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia can fall in either side of this divide, and be arranged at various points on the spectrum in between. It's one of the reasons that I'm really looking forward to the round-up when it's posted.

For those of you wondering where Friuli-Venezia Giulia IS, it's a north-eastern Italian wine region sandwiched between Slovenia and the Veneto. As I learned from the the first chapter of the February Wine Book Club selection, Vino Italiano!, this geography explains, in part, the great variety of wines made in the region, since there is everything from wild, mountainous terrain to frontage on the Mediterranean. Some Friuli wines go great with fish; others are perfect partners for prosciutto di San Daniele, and other cured pork products. (map from Italian-Flavor.com)

My pick for this WBW was the 2006 Blason Tocai Friulano from the Friuli Isonzo appellation. (K&L Wines, $9.99) For those keeping track, this is grape variety #88 towards my Wine Century, since once upon a time I think I had a glass of Tocai Friulano at an Il Fornaio regional dinner, but cannot recall the experience with enough clarity to put it on my form! One thing to know about Tocai Friulano: the name has been contested in Europe, since Hungarian winemakers fear that people will confuse the grape with Tokai. The litigators are still sorting out what the grape-formerly-known-as-Tocai-Friulano is to be called, but odds are it will become Friulano.

So what did I think of it? The 2006 Blason Tocai Friulano was a nice clean wine, that reminded me of a lightly-oaked, super-structured sauvignon blanc. It was straw-colored, and had abundant acidity which made it very refreshing. Jack recommended decanting 2005 and 2006 vintages and this really helped to open up the delicate apple and pear notes that were at first hiding behind lots of citrus flavors, and the merest hint of white flowers (the smell reminded me of a chestnut tree in bloom) that was also first hidden by the oak. At this price point it would be perfect for parties. Jack recommended that we shoot for a wine that cost $18 or more in order to really experience the specialness of Friulian whites, I must say I was pretty satisfied with how I spent my $10. This wine did not reach the heights of "unforgettable," but it is definitely one that I'd buy again, in part because this was such a great food wine and so very easy to enjoy. Very good QPR.

The grapes for this wine were grown just four miles from the Slovenian border, so I decided to make some panini stuffed with prosciutto, asiago, mozzarella, basil, and tomato to go with the 2006 Blason Tocai Friulano. I liked the way the salty richness of the prosciutto played off against the acidity in the wine, and the way that same acidity kept the mozzarella from tasting vapid. And the wine picked up some interesting herbal notes from the basil in my grilled, pressed sandwich.

Giovanni Blason is known for making top-quality, well-received wines at highly afffordable prices, so he's a name to watch out for when you're in the store. Thanks to our hosts for setting such an interesting theme for the first tasting of 2008. As always, I'll have details about WBW #42, and the roundup for WBW #41, as soon as they are posted.

4 comments:

Jack at Fork & Bottle said...

Glad you found a find! I may have to pick up some next time I'm at K&L - I haven't found that a good value at a retail store.

I'm so surprised you hadn't had this grape before. Now you need to Ribolla and Vitovska before leaving Friuli. :)

Sean Sellers said...

Finally, someone else with a positive Friuli experience.

Based on some of the other WBW posts, I was getting a little worried. Jacob and I really liked our Sauvignon Sol from Ronco del Gnemiz. So much so, I'm thinking of trying to pair it with a recipe inspired by the ones in Vino Italiano — whenever it arrives in the post — for the review.

(Had to order it from Amazon in the States; the UK site wasn't sure it could get before the book club deadline. Still, I've cleared the calendar so that I can get tucked in as soon as the postman delivers it. And, good things come to those who wait.)

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks, Jack. It did get 2 glasses from GR, I just discovered, so I guess I'm not the only one to think it's worth it. And I'm going to get to Schioppettino before Ribolla I'm afraid. Sean, that book is worth the wait. Here's hoping it arrives soon with all its great recipes.

marcel said...

Can you suggest me some other Tocai from Friuli maybe more authentic than this one?
(I find Blason very..sounvignony..)