Friuli, historically referred to a Friuli Venezia-Giulia, is a region in the far northeastern reaches of Italy, bordering with Austria and Slovenia. This is one of the coolest climates in the country, as the combination of winds from the nearby Julian Alps along with breezes from the Adriatic Sea help moderate temperatures.

There are about a dozen wine zones in Friuli, with the most renowned being Friuli Collio and Friuli Colli Orientali (collio means "hill", colli orientali, meaning "eastern hills."). The most recognized wines here are white, produced from varieties such as Friulano, Sauvignon (Blanc), Ribolla Gialla and Pinot Bianco. As plantings are largely on hillsides, yields are limited; combine that with the natural acidity of this cool climate and you have wines that offer beautiful aromatics, excellent richness and ideal structure for aging. The wines are immediately drinkable yet are often much better with a few years in the bottle. One other special note about these wines is that in the Collio district, wines must contain 100% of the variety specified on the label.

Friuli is also known for blended whites, usually a marriage of three or four varieties; a few of these selections are regularly mentioned as among the finest in all of Italy. As for reds, while Merlot performs well here, local varieties, such as Refosco, Pignolo and Schiopettino are the real stars of the region. These are deeply colored with plenty of spice and are often made in more of a rustic fashion than most contemporary reds. These wines age for a decade or more.

Friuli is today, one of the largest of all the wine regions in Italy, but much of that has to do with mass plantings of Merlot, Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay in southern zones such as Friuli Grave, where vineyards are planted on flatlands. These are very simple, inexpensive wines that have almost nothing to do with the finest wines from the Colli Orientali, Isonzo or Collio districts to the north. (Wine/Appellations)