Friuli with frills: a weekend tour of Italy’s white wine heartland

8 months ago 130

The Picech family’s cosy B&B, known simply arsenic Casa Picech, sits astatine the apical of the sleepy winemaker hamlet of Pradis. It looks down implicit the historical Mitteleuropa municipality of Cormons, unofficial superior of Friuli’s Collio region, wherever immoderate of Italy’s top achromatic wines are produced. As I unfastened the woody shutters of my room, the aboriginal greeting prima floods successful to uncover an idyllic pastoral landscape. There’s furniture connected furniture of rolling hills, the little plains covered successful a airy mist, dilatory revealing never-ending graphic lines of vines whose leaves are glowing autumnal reddish and orange.

The grape picking present is conscionable coming to its end, and for the locals, the astir important quality of this post-lockdown epoch is that the harvest looks similar being the champion truthful acold this century. Additional origin for solemnisation is that tourism seems to person bounced back, drawn by the premix of vino tasting, large cuisine, hiking, biking and festivals that marque an autumn interruption appealing. Visitors conscionable request to beryllium prepared to amusement an NHS wellness walk (or European pass) erstwhile eating oregon drinking indoors, watching a performance oregon checking into accommodation, and deterioration a disguise successful shops and connected nationalist transport.

Roberto and Alessia Picech marque a superior fuss of their guests, opening successful the evening aft checking in, erstwhile this talented winemaker, whose vineyards situation the B&B, opens his latest crisp whites, made from the distinctive autochthonal grapes. Then astatine breakfast, Alessia prepares a feast of section specialities: smoked ham and salami from the section artisan prosciutteria D’Osvaldo that rivals much good known San Daniele oregon Parma ham, and tasty integrated cheeses and yoghurt from the adjacent Zoff workplace and dairy, which she advises america to visit. This is not our archetypal enactment with the Picech family, and the portion was apical of the “return to” database erstwhile we came retired of lockdown successful Venice, wherever we live. So far, a interruption present feels small antithetic to earlier the pandemic.

Down successful bustling Cormons, archetypal halt is the section tourism office, located connected a expansive piazza lined with stately pastel-coloured mansions and a towering religion operation with distinctive greenish bulb dome. The bureau suggests a scope of eco-ways to research without a car; the surrounding hills, vineyards and forests tin easy beryllium seen connected a rented electrical Vespa (€60 per day) oregon e-bike (€35 per day), each successful Collio’s hallmark agleam yellow. And for walkers mounting disconnected connected the well-marked hiking paths, determination is the caller inaugural of Collio Windows, dozens of woody picnic tables acceptable wrong a elephantine yellowish model frame, each 1 looking retired implicit a spectacular vista arsenic acold arsenic the borderline with neighbouring Slovenia, with directions to a adjacent winemaker, osteria, artisan brewer oregon workplace to sojourn (via a QR barcode connected the picnic table).

The Collio Windows picnic area
The Collio Windows picnic country – each array looks implicit an outstanding vista. Photograph: John Brunton

Next doorway to the tourism bureau is the legendary Enoteca di Cormons, wherever everyone meets up – a packed locale that I retrieve heaving with a premix of raucous winemakers trying retired each other’s vintages and tourists busily tasting earlier deciding which wineries to visit. Today, societal distancing means acold less people, the marble-topped barroom is sadly disconnected limits with array work only, and the singular vino database is lone viewable by scanning your smartphone. But our accustomed waitress, Federica, is inactive here, arsenic affable and adjuvant arsenic ever. “Many tourists person returned here, and I find that everyone accepts they indispensable travel the caller rules truthful we each debar different lockdown,” she says.

Enoteca di Cormons, wherever  everyone meets up.
Enoteca di Cormons, a vibrant gathering place. Photograph: John Brunton

There is the aforesaid affirmative vibe erstwhile we beryllium down for luncheon astatine the adjacent Al Giardinetto, a historical trattoria that has been tally by the Zopolatti household for 120 years. It makes specified a alteration from the past doom and gloom to perceive Giorgio Zopolatti state that, “since our June reopening we person breached each records, and I would accidental that 30% of our guests are caller tourists, who person ne'er been present before; I americium definite they volition go loyal caller customers. So the aboriginal yet looks precise positive.”

The past clip I was here, Joe Jackson and his set were seated astatine the adjacent table, enjoying a feast of cook Paolo’s Friulano cuisine, dishes specified arsenic goulash with spinach gnocchi, porcini and scampi soup, and successful a motion to the territory’s Habsburg roots, kaiserfleisch – succulent smoked pork smothered with tangy freshly grated horseradish. Jackson’s set had conscionable performed astatine the Cormons Jazz & Wine Festival, a superb lawsuit that takes spot from 21 to 25 October, spanning not conscionable performance halls but intimate performances successful wineries.

Also astir this clip the Roman metropolis of Cividale is transformed into a immense open-air antiques market connected the past Sunday of each month, teeming with bargains; and the adjacent Natisone Valley hosts a foodie festival dedicated to chestnuts astatine weekends (the past connected 23-24 October). During the Cantine Aperte play celebrating San Martino’s festival (6 to 7 November), winemakers crossed each of Friuli unfastened their cantinas to contiguous their wines and determination cuisine.

The Aquila del Torre vineyard estate
Aquila del Torre vineyard estate. Photograph: John Brunton

The roadworthy retired of Cormons successful the different absorption from the Collio and Slovene borderline leads up towards Austria and the Julian Alps, into the Eastern Hills (Colli Orientali), little visited by tourists, but wherever determination are again immoderate terrific wines to discover, including potent reddish refosco and pignolo. To get an thought of wherever the antithetic wineries are, we sojourn the Collio Orientali’s tasting academy, housed successful a majestic 17th-century villa, past caput consecutive to the adjacent cantina of Oliviero Visintini, who makes galore of his wines utilizing an past method with terracotta amphorae (wine aged successful clay). He recommends we halt for luncheon conscionable down the roadworthy astatine Osteria Solder, whose plot terrace has breathtaking views, cleanable to bask a sheet of steaming pappardelle topped with a rabbit and sage ragù. Driving northbound we yet halt astatine Aquila del Torre, the Eagle’s Tower, an idyllic winemaker B&B that looks retired implicit a breathtaking amphitheatre of vineyards and mountains.

The young owners, Michele and Sarah Ciani are committed environmentalists, proposing walking and cycling trips to observe the biodiversity of their lush wooded property – and we locomotion done the wood to a precocious constituent for a picnic. This is the spot to observe Friuli’s astir celebrated wine, the luscious, saccharine picolit, its explosive fruitiness perfectly paired with a creamy section goat’s cheese. From Aquila del Torre roads pb up into Carnia, the much mountainous portion of Friuli, wherever gentle vineyards are replaced by wilder alpine scenery arsenic the borderline with Austria approaches. One for different play break.

The travel was provided by Turismo Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Rooms astatine Casa Picech commencement at €110; rooms astatine Aquila del Torre commencement astatine €105