Malvasia and Friulano ‘superior’ to Pinot Grigio

The terroir of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is better placed for growing the lesser known varieties of Malvasia and Friulano rather than the oft-planted Pinot Grigio, believes one export director.


The steep but beautiful vineyards of Venica & Venica

Speaking to the drinks business HK in Tosca, an up-in-the-clouds restaurant in Kowloon’s Ritz-Carlton, Giampaolo Venica extolled the virtues of his estate Venica & Venica’s more unusual wines “which you won’t find on every wine list.”

The wines which include Malvasia, Pinot Grigio, Friulano (formerly Tocai Friulano), Ribolla Galla and Sauvignon Blanc are grown on seven steep hills 300-400 metres above sea level which Venica believes adds a minerality and complexity that suit the lesser-known grapes of Malvasia and Friulano best.

“Our Malvasia is of limited production; only 200 cases and it’s superior in terms of breadth, flavour, aroma and complexity but it’s a shame because we plant more Pinot Grigio. It’s what people want but Glera and Pinot Grigio are in danger of being overproduced when really to make quality wines, you need money. Unfortunately there is now a race between all the different producers as to who can make the cheapest Prosecco.”

Venica’s steep hillsides are not suitable for such mass-plantings but is “perfect” for Friulano which Venica sadly notes has declined in popularity – possibly due to its name change in 2006 when it had to give up the “Tocai” prefix.

Since Hungary joined the EU in 2004, it successfully lobbied to obtain the exclusive use of the name Tocai for its famous sweet wines which left Friuli winemakers scrabbling around for another name. Sauvignon Vert and Sauvinonasse were rejected for being “too French” before Friulano won.

“Malvasia and Friulano are the flagship grapes of our region, but remain overshadowed by Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s true that they are not as easy to drink as there is more depth, concentration and high acidity but they can stand up to bigger dishes than Pinot Grigio.”

Despite Venica presenting a 1993, 2002 and 2004 Sauvignon Blanc from his personal cellar which all showed the excellent ageing potential of high-quality Sauvignon, he is wistful that he would like to be able to do the same for his Malvasia and Friulano.

“I want to sell these wines when they are 10 years old. They really express what our vineyards are capable of. But if people are happy to drink Pinot Grigio then we will of course grow it for them. Pinot Grigio is a stepping stone to other wines in Friuli so I am optimistic that soon we will find the likes of Malvasia and Friulano on more wine lists.”

Venica and Venica Tosca


2 Responses to “Malvasia and Friulano ‘superior’ to Pinot Grigio”

  1. Kent Benson says:

    Isn’t it Friulano, not Fruilano?

  2. Kent Benson says:

    You still missed 5 misspellings of Friuli and Friulano, in each of the last 4 paragraphs.

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