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Tocai (oops…Friulano), the wine without a name

Today I’d like to talk about a wine which has a peculiar story. It has been at the centre of numerous legal cases and, in the end….it lost its name!

We are in Northern Italy, in Friuli Venezia Giulia, a region deeply influenced by the countries with which it borders – Austria and Slovenia. This beautiful Italian region is a perfect balance between mountains, plains and sea ( it also borders the Adriatic). It is an area with an enormous historical, cultural and natural heritage – and with exceptional food and wines.

The wine I want to talk about is Tocai, now known as Friulano, which simply means ‘from Friuli’.

It is a white, fruity and fresh wine, highly appreciated in the world of wine but, since it was forced to change its name, it is no longer easily identifiable.

Produced with Tocai grapes, it was once called Tocai Friulano and its story is interwoven with the highly prized but completely different Hungarian Tokaji sweet wine.

Between the Hungarian and Friulian wineries there has been a quarrel over the paternity of the name since the 1950s. The EU finally decided that the only wine that could use the Tocai name was the Hungarian dessert wine, Tokay. And so the wine formerly known as Tocai in Italy became Friulano. This doesn’t mean that Italians have stopped using the name in common speech however! Most of us have gone on calling it Tocai, whatever it now says on the label.

In reality they are two wines that have nothing in common. Friulano is a dry white wine that comes from the native Tocai vine, the Hungarian is a fortified and sweet wine that comes from botrytized Furmint grapes. Botrytized wines are made of overripe grapes infected by Botrytis cinerea or ‘noble rot’ to make special and unusual sweet wines. For more on the process – https://www.winemag.com/2017/09/08/the-beautiful-bounty-of-botrytized-wines/

Tocai grapes
Botrytized Furmint grapes.

The main characteristic of Friulano is the strong almond aftertaste. It is perfect as an aperitif, it goes well with cured meats, fresh cheeses, omelettes and fish dishes.

It’s had a bit of an unfortunate journey, being deprived of its historical name and ending up in court! So I would warmly invite you to buy a nice bottle of Friulano now and then and support all those wineries which have invested in its production, despite all the difficulties. They are so attached to their land and products that they have endured all their legal troubles, betting on a product that is still struggling to maintain its commercial identity. A wine made by passionate producers linked to traditions – for me, drinking it is like drinking all the poetry of wine!


Friulano wine is perfect with eggs and it made me think of my mum’s FRITTATA COL SUGO, which is so special that I’d like to write a dedicated post about it. So get your frying pan ready and see you next week with this ‘secret’ recipe.

Et però credo che molta felicità sia agli homini
che nascono dove si trovano i vini buoni.

I believe that great happiness lies in store for men who are born where good wines are found.

Leonardo da Vinci

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