Regional virtual tour of Italy through Food and Wine – Friuli

Chapter 7 – Friuli Venezia Giulia

So this week’s region is a pretty special one for me. Why ? Because its border lands are birthplace of my favourite wine style ever: orange wines.

Food Pairing with Frico ! Carlotta’s food story

At the end of this article I will share with you my recommended producers from this region, read until there!

Wine Story by ManuPaper_somm

Friuli and Karsus area are the place that started one of the most influential and vibrant natural wine movements in Italy. Josko Gravner, Stanko Radikon and their group of young and determined wine makers initiated a revolution in the years between 1990 and 2000 that completely changed the perception of Friuli wines around the world. 

They went back to the origins of wine, when the tradition was to make white wines in contact with the skins of the grapes and that was something Josko and many of these guys learned from their grandparents. But at a certain point Friuli’s wine makers completely abandoned this tradition. Around the mid 90s the new trend was more into clear, pale lemon white wines, fermented in stainless steel tanks, filtrated, clarified, made with all the technology possible, to give a floral and fruity bouquet and a thin palate. 

When Gravner made his first macerated wine in 1997, with a dark amber colour, non filtered, aged in amphora jars, everyone, also the journalists that used to give to his wines very high scores, started to think he was totally a fool.

Today Orange wines are gaining more and more the respect, which sometimes translate even into high ratings from the critics, but especially the favor of the wine consumers. With that said, we have to honestly admit that there is still a consistent part of the wine lovers which has not fallen in love with them. I made my personal mission to spread the word of orange wines all around the world 🙂

The Karsus area, an impervious, windy and rocky area, on the border between Italy and Slovenia, is one of the renowned areas for orange wines. Here is where you can find another great wine personality, the producer of the wine I chose for today’s region: Sandi Skerk. 

He is a reference for natural wines since when he started in 2000, with the belief to go back to the old tradition of making wines in a very genuine way. 

The cellar itself is very impressive, a cave dug into the limestone rock which, by ensuring the right balance between humidity and temperature, allows the wines to mature perfectly in oak barrels.

The six hectares of vineyards, located in barely accessible areas, enjoy a mild and temperate climate, due to the proximity of the sea and their red, barren and stony soil is rich in limestone and iron, essential elements for the production of quality grapes.

He grows Vitovksa and Malvasia, two native grapes of that area plus Sauvignon blanc and Pinot Gris which are cultivated there since ages. 

His Vitovska 2018 is a true symbol of the elegance that this grape variety can reach. It’s fermented with natural yeasts in big oak barrels and macerated in contact with its skins for a few days (around 7). After the raking the wine stays in big oak barrels again for 12 months before being bottled. 

The colour is deep golden, a vivid expression of the personality of the wine. The nose is a kaleidoscope of notes that changes in the glass minute after minute. Stone fruits explosion, dried flowers, pout-pourri, dried fruit, dried apricot, acacia honey, hazelnut, herbaceous scent, tea leaf, eucalyptus, wet stone and wax. The complexity of the nose is well represented in the mouth by its structure which is at the same time powerful and elegant. The acidity is medium high but the minerality of this wine is incredible and it gives an absolute long finish. Probably one of the best expressions of Vitovska ever. 

Each glass of this wine transports you into its impervious lands, inhabited by strong people, sometimes a bit gruff but true revolutionists. 

The Frico dish which Carlotta prepared for this week is a very structured one. I absolutely love the way the wine, with its aromas and its tannins accompanies the texture of the cheese from the Frico perfectly. For me it’s one of the most successful traditional pairings. I personally love frico and I always like to drink macerated wines with it, they never disappoint. 

If you liked our regional food and wine pairings and you would like to propose the next region or the next wine/food choice please feel free to contact me or Carlotta directly.

Carlotta’s food story: Frico

Like many of Italy’s northern regions that sit on the border with another country, Friuli has a very unique history, entwined with the culture of its neighbouring countries: Slovenia on the right and Austria above. The mix of history and culture with its neighbours translates into the languages and dialects spoken in Friuli, which besides Italian are: Friulian, Venetian (in the towns close to Veneto’s border) and in the southeastern part of the region a dialect called Bisiaco, which has origins in Venetian dialect, Friulian and Slovenian. German-related dialects are also spoken in a few ancient areas of the region. 

A wonderful, historic book on Italian regional cuisines, Le Ricette Regionali Italiane by Anna Gosetti della Salda introduces Friuli Venezia Giulia by stating that in order to understand why its regional cuisine is so austere and without frills, one must first paint a picture of the region’s inhabitants. Compared to its neighbour, Veneto, which has a rich cuisine full of delicate elegance and colour, Friuli only absorbed its mountain food culture and recipes, traditions which had to do with living in pastures, among cattle, in solitude. This perfectly explains the presence of so much polenta, paired with high pasture cheese, such as Montasio, one of the key ingredients of this week’s recipe. 

It is interesting to note that most Friulian dishes are rudimental, robust and very flavoured, elegance and refinement do not interest the keepers of regional culinary traditions, the traditional dishes in fact point to the concept that it is a male cuisine, rather than a feminine one. 

I could talk for hours about customs of Italian traditional cuisine and what the plates which survived generations symbolize, but let’s not get too carried away, it’s time I introduce you to today’s dish: Frico, or fricò in Friulian. 

The dish consists of three main ingredients: high pasture cheese, onion and potatoes, all slowly cooked together to form a thin, crunchy crust on the outside, quite similar to a Swiss/Alpine rösti, if you’re familiar with the dish. 

A dish which used to be originally prepared as a way of using leftover cheese rinds, it then developed into a slightly richer dish which used the main part of the cheese. All the melted cheese, slow cooked onions and fried potatoes make the dish quite heavy, so it must be paired with a wine which cleans your palate and removes part of the greasiness associated to Frico, and I know Manu found a perfect wine for the job – which happens to be one of my favorite wines from Friuli too!

Click here to see the full recipe of the Frico

Other recommended producers:

Ronco Severo and its pinot grigio amber version

Damijan Podversic and its Ribolla Gialla in particular

Dario Princic and its Ribolla Gialla and Jakot (Tokaj friulano)

Evangelos Paraschos and its Malvasia

Matej Skerlj and its Vitovska

Josko/Mateja Gravner the father of orange wines in Friuli, now he only produces Ribolla Gialla while the blend called Breg was produced last time in 2012

Paolo Vodopivec and its elegant wines which he does not like to define orange but are macerated

Sasa Radikon and its wines with no added sulfur

Benjamin Zidarich and its amazing quality/price wines, the Vitovska especially is amazing

Published by ManuPaper

Born in Sardinia, living in Tuscany - Montalcino. Certified Italian Sommelier and WSET. Brunello addicted 😊 I am a wine enthusiast and blogger, I love to share my wine discoveries and wine reviews online, on my blog and social profiles. Travel is my second passion together with wine, that's why I enjoy visiting wine regions around the world 🌎 I have a strong experience in Hospitality and can help you in organizing your future trips in Tuscany and Italy. Wine Travel Advisor 🍷 👉🏽Social Media Content Creator and Blogger

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