Which Italian wine region is best known for its whites rather than its reds?
In a country where “real” wine generally means red wine, Friuli (officially Friuli -Venezia Giulia) is acclaimed as one of Italy’s few sources of racy whites. During the 1970s and 1980s, while almost every up-and-coming wine region in the world was focused on creating unctuous, barrel-fermented, oak-aged wines, notably chardonnays, Friulian producers were committed to making the opposite—taut, kinetic whites with a spring-loaded urgency of acidity, and flavors devoted to the purity of the grapes. In particular, Friuli’s pinot grigios, sauvignon blancs, and ribolla giallas can be stunning, as can its chardonnays. Each of these grape varieties is made into single-varietal wines and is used in the region’s numerous white blends. While many pinot grigios are about as exciting as tap water, the top Friulian versions can soar with delicate peach, almond, and green apple flavors, or be so voluptuous and rich they seem to be descended from ice cream. But if any white wine has captured the Friulian heart, it is one that is theirs alone: friulano. Ranging from smoky, resinous, and white peppery to lush and vanilla-y to spiked with minerals and exotic spices, wines made from friulano have earned this intense variety a reputation among Friulian winemakers as the “most masculine” of the white grapes. Above all, however, Friulian whites have presence. Rarely plain-Jane or frail, these are concentrated, complex whites with enticing aromas and pronounced fruity-spicy-earthy flavors.