Wine of the Week
Friulano from northeastern Italy
If the name Friulano doesn't ring a bell, don't worry. You would have to be a wine geek to be up-to-date on Friulano's vivid history. The grape's best wineries sit right in the middle of an area that has been contested during almost every European war. At the end of the Hapsburg domination, Europe segmented and suddenly a lot of previously quiet Hungarians decided they no longer enjoyed the dominating control of the Austrians. Seeing the writing on the wall, the Austrians decided to create a treaty with the rebellious Hungarians, which ceded some power in return for unity. The resulting Austro-Hungarian Empire held enormous power over the poor Italians. Still, it would take the Hungarians 140 years to finally get the Italians to stop using their trademark name Tocai. Winemakers in Friuli have grown Tocai Friulano (aka Sauvignon Vert) since the early 17th century. The name stubbornly stuck until just a few years ago; now it is simply called Friulano.
Friulano wines usually run $15 and up. Their main characteristic is a completely unique combination of aromas that include pears, flowers, and white pepper, along with a stony minerality. The most important part of the wine's profile is its food friendliness. Match it up with a pasta, a light cream sauce, and either prosciutto, veal, or seafood. The particular brand that I'm recommending is Livio Felluga's, but the state of the art in Friuli is so high that it's hard to find a bad Friulano. Livio's runs about $27. His brother Marco makes a slightly less expensive version. The least expensive I can wholeheartedly recommend comes from New York's Bastianich family, and it sells for about $16. The Livio Felluga Friulano is often available at Central Market, Uchiko, and the Driskill Hotel.