There is no greater English-language authority on the food and wine of Friuli than the inimitable Fred Plotkin (left). His monograph devoted to the region, La Terra Fortunata: The Splendid Food and Wine of Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Italy’s Great Undiscovered Region (Broadway, 2001), is widely considered by Italian food and wine insiders to be the most comprehensive work to date on the region.
I’ve never met Fred personally but I recently wrote to him asking for permission to repost a passage from his landmark Italian travel guide, Italy for the Gourmet Traveller (originally published in 1997). Graciously, he has allowed us to repost the below passage.
Colli Orientali. The term means “Eastern Hills,” and they run along the north-south border with Slovenia. While the names here may not always be as famous as those in Collio, and the scenery a little less idyllic, the wines are every bit as goo. One finds a few wineries named for the families that run them — Dorigo, Dri, Danieli, Collavini, Pighin, Zamò, for example — many others have names of land, estates, or castles. These include Abbazia di Rosazzo, Ronchi di Cialla, Ronco del Gnemiz, Vigne del Leon, Torre Rosazza, Rocca Bernarda, and others. Many in the latter group have benefited from the advice of Walter Filiputti, a journalist, enologist, and proud Friulano who is dedicated to raising the quality of his area’s wines and the visibility of Friuli’s wines elsewhere in Italy and abroad. Another leader of viticulture in the Colli Orientali is the Nonino family, producers of some of Italy’s finest grappa. Because the family members understand that better-quality grape skins make better grappa, they have carefully influenced the wine producers in the area from whom they purchase the skins. The largest grape nursery in the world is in Rauscedo, and Friuli growers go there and elsewhere to find the best clonal varieties so that they get the most out of their soils.