Isonzo del Friuli (Friuli Isonzo) is situated in the far south-eastern part of Italy's most north-eastern region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia. The reasonably small DOC (which received its classification in 1974) is found in the eastern part of the Friuli Grave zone, and among its 21 communes are Mariano del Friuli, San Lorenzo Isontino and Gradisca d'Isonzo.
The area rests on a plain of alluvial soils along the Isonzo river just south of Collio, hence the name. The river divides the zone into two sections. The "left bank" is notable for its chalk-poor and clay-rich soils mixed with red gravel, while the soils on the "right bank" are particularly chalky and layered with white gravel. The river bed frequently shifts, leading to flooding that results in making the soil enriched with nutrients.
Friuli Isonzo also enjoys a maritime climate, with more rainfall than many other areas in the region. The nearby Adriatic is a constant source of warm diurnal wind, and from the mountains to the north there are cool night-time breezes. This excellent daytime temperature variation and high-quality soils create a perfect environment for growing vines and producing unique, superior wines. The ideal vineyard sites are in the northeast, near Cormons.
The modern wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay have brought Isonzo into the limelight, aided by some outstanding reds predominantly made from Merlot. The more traditional wines with smooth, rounded flavours tend to comprise Malvasia Istriana, Friulano and Pinot Bianco, which go perfectly with local cuisine such as risotto. Seventeen varieties of wines can be made under this designation but it is mandated that the wine should contain 100 per cent of the mentioned variety, although the Cabernet Sauvignon wine is allowed to include a measure of Cabernet Franc too.
Other varietals are made from Pinot Grigio, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and Verduzzo (Verduzzo Friulano). The Isonzo Bianco can combine any of the following white varieties: Chardonnay, Malvasia Istriana, Merlot, Moscato Giallo, Moscato Rosa, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Nero, Refosco dal Pedunculo Rosso, Riesling Italico, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Schioppettino, Friulano, Traminer and Verduzzo.
Under the DOC designation, a vendemmia tardiva (late harvest) wine can be made, which uses Chardonnay, Malvasia Istriana, Moscato Giallo, Moscato Rosa, Pinot Bianco, Pinot Grigio, Riesling Italico, Riesling Renano, Sauvignon Blanc and Verduzzo, either as a blend or exclusively.
There is also a Friulano Rosso which can be made as a vino novello, and a rosato made from a combination of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Franconia, Merlot, Pinot Nero, Schioppettino and Refosco. A handful of the wines are made in a foaming spumante and semi-sparkling frizzante version, a superiore (which requires a higher level of alcohol in the wine) and a riserva (which must be matured for longer). The styles can be either secco (dry), dolce (sweet) or amabile (medium sweet).
Do visit Isonzo to try some exotic white wines.
Source: wine-searcher, gettyimages