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Fantinel Sant'Helena Friulano 2012
Viticulture has thrived in Colli Orientali del Friuli since the reign of ancient Rome and today its verdant, rolling hills support a long list of autochthonous varieties, each playing a unique and important role in the modern Colli Orientali wine scene.
The region is primarily recognized for its white wines. Its indigenous varieties of Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo, Picolit and perhaps most importantly, Friulano are made into single variety wines or blended, and often blended with the international varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco. The latter are not a new addition but have been flourishing in the area since the 1800s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s when producers started using cold fermentation techniques to produce fresh, fruity, crisp and aromatic whites that this area began to attract international attention.
While reds only make up about a third of the area under vine, Colli Orientali is home to some of Italy’s most exciting and rare red wines. Refosco, Schioppettino, Tazzelenghe and Pignolo are among the autochthonous varieties while Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir also have a stronghold.
Colli Orientali holds much in common with its neighbor, Collio; the only thing dividing them is a political line. Both are influenced by the cooling effects of the Julian Alps and moderated by the Adriatic Sea. A unique soil of alternating marine layers called flysch also dominates Colli Orientali, providing a mineral-rich environment for vine roots and optimal water drainage.
High-pitched, delicately perfumed and vibrant, Friulano thrives in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia near the border of Slovenia. The Friulano grown today, while named for its present home of Friuli, is actually the Sauvignonasse grape, a minor cultivar from Bordeaux.
Extensive in the area by the early 1930s, Friulano can be found in all major Friulian DOC zones: Colli Orientali, Collio, Grave del Friuli, and Isonzo. It is usually, but not always, bottled as a single-varietal wine, which are light in color and body. White peach, honeydew melon and citrus peel flavors prevail and its texture ranges from light and smooth to fresh and fine-grained. Contemplative aromas of jasmine, mint, ginger, almond and spicy herb can come into play. Friulano wines are usually best when drunk young and make great starter picks or pairings for light courses. Try it with prosciutto and other delicate cold cuts as well as any dish including the earthy spice of horseradish.