Archive for the ‘Italian wine’ Category

34 red wine varietals

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Here is a list of vine varieties with a description of the red wines made from them.

Variety Origin Description
Aglianico Greek Tannic, tarry wines of great breed and lasting power from southern Italy.
Alicante French Hybrid.
Undistinguished grape with highly coloured juice, teinturier.
French Hybrid.
Full-bodied, deep colour, smoky blackberry flavour.
Barbera Italian Medium colour, high acid, dry quaffing wine.
Cabernet Franc French (Bouchet)
Usually blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Medium-weight, herbaceous
wines suggestive of violets and raspberries.
French Deep ruby colour, black currant and cedar nose, full-bodied, tannic when young.
Capable of long ageing. Softened with Merlot, Cabernet Franc in Bordeaux
and in California and Australia.
Carignan Spain Widely planted, high yielding. Astringent table wine with good colour, used for blending.
Cinsault French Hot weather grape, deep colour and meaty flavour, low tannins. Good for blending.
French Hybrid.
Acid, tough red, slightly smoky in flavour.
Dolcetto Italian Deep-coloured, soft, fruity wine, not for ageing.
Freisa Italian Garnet colour, light, dry wine tasting of raspberries.
Gamay French Grape of Beaujolais. Fresh, fruity, light-bodied wines tasting of cherry and plums with peppery finish. Fast maturing.
California Hybrid; a crossing between Valdiguié and Pinot Noir. Not very distinguished. Fruity flavour, high acid.
Grenache   (Garnacha/Cannonau)
Fruity, high alcohol, low tannins, soft. Good for rosé. Fast maturing.
Grignolino Italian Light
colour, fragrant strawberry aroma, very dry.
Kadarka Hungary (Gamza)
Powerful, deep, full-bodied wines.
Lambrusco Italy Light, grapey, fruity, off-dry wines.
Malbec French (Côt)
Early maturing, low acid, blackberry flavour. A lesser blending grape in Bordeaux.
Maréchal Foch French Hybrid.
Deep-coloured, peppery, plummy, acidic wine.
Merlot French Purple, full-bodied wines, blackberry flavour. Less tannic and earlier maturing than Cabernet Sauvignon. Ages very well.
Mourvèdre Spanish (Mataro)
Deep-coloured, powerful wines with a spicy blackberry taste.
Nebbiolo Italian (Spanna/Chiavennasca)
The noble grape of Piedmont producing long-lasting wines that take time to soften. Brick red, truffles and violets on the nose with an austere dry finish.
Petite Sirah French Californian name for the French Duriff. Full-bodied, deep-coloured wines with peppery flavour.
French (Pinot Nero, Spätburgunder) One of the grapes of Champagne and the grape of red Burgundy. Difficult to cultivate. Garnet colour, barnyard bouquet,
raspberry flavour, medium weight. Ages very well.
French Secondary grape of Champagne. Fruity, acidic, low alcohol.
Pinotage S.Africa (Hermitage)
Pinot Noir Cinsault crossing. Robust, powerful red, inky nose. Fast maturing, ageing potential.
Primitivo Italy Massive black wines of high alcohol and intense fruit. Thought to be progenitor of the Californian Zinfandel.
Ruby Cabernet California A Carignan-Cabernet Sauvignon crossing. Deep-coloured, fruity wines but lacking the finesse and breeding of Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sangiovese Italian A Chianti grape usually blended with Canaiolo. Earthy, truffle-scented wines with fine acidity and ample tannins. Capable of long ageing.
Syrah Middle East (Shiraz)
Powerful black, aromatic wines tasting of blackberries and white pepper. Capable of long ageing.
Tempranillo Spanish (Ull de Llebre) Pinot Noir-like character. Pale ruby colour, coconut and sandalwood bouquet. Dry strawberry flavour. Ages elegantly.
Touriga Naçional Portugal The best port grape. Intense dark wine with high tannin and a lovely berry nose. Other port grapes include Mourisco, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Amarella,
Tinta Cao and Touriga Francesa.
Xynomavro Greek Black wines of high acidity and tannin that age well.
Zinfandel California Versatile grape that can produce powerhouse to medium-weight reds, rosés and blush wines. Characterized by a blackberry flavour and intense fruit. Also
late harvest with port-like sweetness.

On this website here is a list of white wine varietals.

Tuscany wine

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Tuscany in Italy map

Toscana wine is Italian wine from the Tuscany region. Located in central Italy along the Tyrrhenian coast, Tuscany is home to some of the world’s most notable wine regions. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are primarily made with Sangiovese grape whereas the Vernaccia grape is the basis of the white Vernaccia di San Gimignano. Tuscany is also known for the dessert wine Vin Santo, made from a variety of the region’s grapes. Tuscany has twenty-nine Denominazioni di origine controllata (DOC) and seven Denominazioni di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG). In the 1970s a new class of wines known in the trade as “Super Tuscans” emerged. These wines were made outside DOC/DOCG regulations but were considered of high quality and commanded high prices. Many of these wines became cult wines. In the reformation of the Italian classification system many of the original Super Tuscans now qualify as DOC or DOCG wines but some producers still prefer the declassified rankings or to use the Indicazione Geografica Tipica (IGT) classification of Toscana.


Etruscan statue from Chiusi in the Province of Siena

The history of viticulture in Tuscany dates back to its settlements by the Etruscans in the eighth century BC. Amphora remnants originating in the region show that Tuscan wine was exported to southern Italy and Gaul as early as the seventh century BC. By the third century BC, there were literary references by Greek writers about the quality of Tuscan wine. From the fall of the Roman Empire and throughout the Middle Ages, monasteries were the main purveyors of wines in the region. As the aristocratic and merchant classes emerged, they inherited the share-cropping system of agriculture known as mezzadria. This system took its name from the arrangement whereby the landowner provides the land and resources for planting in exchange for half (“mezza”) of the yearly crop. Many Tuscan landowners would turn their half of the grape harvest into wine that would be sold to merchants in Florence. The earliest reference of Florentine wine retailers dates to 1079 and a guild was created in 1282.

The Arte dei Vinattieri guild established strict regulations on how the Florentine wine merchants could conduct business. No wine was to sold within 100 yards (91 m) of a church. Wine merchants were also prohibited from being served to a child under 15 or to prostitutes, ruffians and thieves. In the fourteenth century, an average of 7.9 million gallons (300,000 hl) of wine was sold every year in Florence. The earliest references to Brunello di Montepulciano wine date to the late fourteenth century. The first recorded mention of wine from Chianti was by the Tuscan merchant Francesco di Marco Datini, the “merchant of Prato”, who described it as a light, white wine. The Vernaccia and Greco wines of San Gimignano were considered luxury items and treasured as gifts over saffron. During this period Tuscan winemakers began experimenting with new techniques and invented the process of governo which helped to stabilize the wines and ferment the sugar content sufficiently to make them dry. In 1685 the Tuscan author Francesco Redi wrote Bacco in Toscano, a 980-line poem describing the wines of Tuscany.

Winemaker and politician, Bettino Ricasoli

Following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, Tuscany returned to the rule of the Habsburgs. It was at this point that the statesman Bettino Ricasoli inherited his family ancestral estate in Broglio located in the heart of the Chianti Classico zone. Determined the improve the estate, Ricasoli traveled throughout Germany and France, studying the grape varieties and viticultural practices. He imported several of the varieties back to Tuscany and experimented with different varieties in his vineyards. However in his experiments Ricasoli discovered that three local varieties— Sangiovese, Canaiolo and Malvasia— produced the best wine. In 1848, revolutions broke out in Italy and Ricasoli’s beloved wife died, leaving him with little interest to devote to wine. In the 1850s odium and war devastated most of Tuscany’s vineyards with many peasant farmers leaving for other parts of Italy or to emigrate to the Americas.

Climate and geography

The region of Tuscany includes seven coastal islands and is Italy’s fifth largest region. It is bordered to the northwest by Liguria, the north by Emilia-Romagna, Umbria to the east and Lazio to the south. To the west is the Tyrrhenian Sea which gives the area a warm mediterranean climate. The terrain is quite hilly (over 68% of the terrain), progressing inward to the Apennine Mountains along the border with Emilia-Romagna. The hills serve as a tempering affect on the summertime heat with many vineyards planted on the higher elevations of the hillsides.

The Sangiovese grape performs better when it can receive more direct sunlight, which is a benefit of the many hillside vineyards in Tuscany. The majority of the region’s vineyards are found at altitudes of 500-1600 feet (150-500 meters). The higher elevations also increase the diurnal temperature variation, helping the grapes maintain their balance of sugars and acidity as well as their aromatic qualities.

Wines and grapes

After Piedmont and the Veneto, Tuscany produces the third highest volume of DOC/G quality wines. Tuscany is Italy’s third most planted region (behind Sicily and Apulia) but it is eighth in production volume. This is partly because the soil of Tuscany is very poor, and producers emphasize low yields and higher quality levels in their wine. More than 80% of the regions’ production is in red wine.

The Sangiovese grape is Tuscanys’ most prominent grape, however, many different clonal varieties exist, as many towns have their own local version of Sangiovese. Cabernet Sauvignon has been planted in Tuscany for over 250 years, but has only recently become associated with the region due to the rise of the Super Tuscans. Other international varieties found in Tuscany include Cabernet franc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot noir, Sauvignon blanc and Syrah. Of the many local red grape varieties Canaiolo, Colorino, Malvasia Nera and Mammolo are the most widely planted. For Tuscan white wines, Trebbiano is the most widely planted variety followed by Malvasia, Vermentino and Vernaccia.

Super Tuscans

Tignanello one of the early Super Tuscans

Super Tuscans are an unofficial category of Tuscan wines; not recognized within the Italian wine classification system. The origin of Super Tuscans is rooted in the restrictive DOC practices of the Chianti zone prior to the 1990s. During this time Chianti could be composed of no more than 70% Sangiovese and had to include at least 10% of one of the local white wine grapes. Producers who deviated from these regulations could not use the Chianti name on their wine labels and would be classified as vino da tavola- Italys’ lowest wine designation. By the 1970s, the consumer market for Chianti wines was suffering and the wines were widely perceived to be lacking quality. Many Tuscan wine producers thought they could produce a better quality wine if they were not hindered by the DOC regulations.

The marchese Piero Antinori was one of the first to create a “Chianti-style” wine that ignored the DOC regulations, releasing a 1971 Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon blend known as Tignanello in 1978. Other producers followed suit and soon the prices for these Super Tuscans were consistently beating the prices of some of most well known Chianti. Rather than rely on name recognition of the Chianti region, the Super Tuscan producers sought to create a wine brand that would be recognizable on its own merits by consumers. By the late 1980s, the trend of creating high quality non-DOC wines had spread to other regions of Tuscany, as well as Piedmont and Veneto. Modification to the Chianti DOC regulation attempted to “correct” the issues of Super Tuscans, so that many of the original Super Tuscans would now qualify as standard DOC/G Chianti. While many producers have brought their Super Tuscans back under DOC regulations, many have not and instead continue to use the less restrictive IGT designation Toscana.

Vin Santo

While Tuscany is not the only Italian region to make the passito dessert wine Vin Santo (meaning “holy wine”), the Tuscan versions of the wine are well regarded and sought for by wine consumers. The best-known version is from the Chianti Classico and is produced with a blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia Bianca. Red and rosé styles are also produced mostly based on the Sangiovese grape. The wines are aged in barrels for a minimum of three years, four if it is meant to be a Riserva.

Wine regions

Tuscany’s twenty-nine DOC and seven DOCG are spread out across the region’s ten provinces.

Brunello di Montalcino

Village of Montalcino

Brunello is the name of the local Sangiovese variety that is grown around the village of Montalcino. Located south of the Chianti Classico zone, the Montalcino range is drier and warmer than Chianti. Monte Amiata shields the area from the winds coming from the southeast. Many of the area’s vineyards are located on the hillsides leading up towards the mountain to elevations of around 1,640 ft (500 m) though some vineyards can be found in lower-lying areas. The wines of northern and eastern regions tend to ripen more slowly and produce more perfumed and lighter wines. The southern and western regions are warmer, and the resulting wines tend to be richer and more intense.

The Brunello variety of Sangiovese seems to flourish in this terroir, ripening easily and producing consistently wines of deep color, extract, richness with full bodies and good balance of tannins. In the mid 1800s, a local farmer named Clemente Santi is believed to have isolated the Brunello clone and planted it in this region. His grandson Ferruccio Biondi-Santi helped to popularize Brunello di Montalcino in the later half of the nineteenth century. In the 1980s, it was the first wine to earn the DOCG classification. Today there are about two hundred growers in the Montalcino region producing about 333,000 cases of Brunello di Montalcino a year.

Brunello di Montalcino wines are required to be aged for at least four years prior to being released, with riserva wines needing five years. Brunellos tend to be very tight and tannic in their youth, needing at least a decade or two before they start to soften with wines from excellent vintages having the potential to do well past 50 years. In 1984, the Montalcino region was granted the DOC designation of Rosso di Montalcino. Often called “Baby Brunellos”, these wines are typically made from the same grapes, vineyards and style as the regular Brunello di Montalcino but are not aged as long. While similar to Brunellos in flavor and aromas, these wines are often lighter in body and more approachable in their youth.


Clare Valley cabernet sauvignon

Carmignano was the first Tuscan DOCG to sanction the use of blending Cabernet Sauvignon (pictured) with Sangiovese.

Noted for the quality of its wines since the Middle Ages, Carmignano was identified by Cosimo III de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany as one of the superior wine producing areas of Tuscany and granted special legal protections in 1716. In the 18th century, the producers of the Carmignano region developed a tradition of blending Sangiovese with Cabernet Sauvignon, long before the practice became popularized by the “Super Tuscan” of the late 20th century. In 1975, the region was awarded Denominazione di origine controllata (DOC) status and subsequently promoted to Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) status in 1990 (retroactive to the 1988 vintage. Today Carmignano has approximately 270 acres (110 hectares) planted, producing nearly 71,500 gallons ( 2,700 hectoliters) of DOCG designated wine a year.


A glass of Chianti

Located in the central region of Tuscany, the Chianti zone is Tuscanys’ largest classified wine region and produces over eight million cases a year. In addition to producing the well known red Chianti wine, the Chianti zone also produces white, other Rosso reds and Vin Santo. The region is split into two DOCG- Chianti and Chianti Classico. The Chianti Classico zone covers the area between Florence and Siena, which is the original Chianti region, and where some of the best expressions of Chianti wine are produced. The larger Chianti DOCG zone is further divided in six DOC sub-zones and areas in the western part of the province of Pisa, the Florentine hills north of Chianti Classico in the province of Florence, the Siena hills south of the city in the province of Siena, the province of Arezzo and the area around the communes of Rufina and Pistoia.

Since 1996, Chianti is permitted to include as little as 75% Sangiovese, a maximum of 10% Canaiolo, up to 10% of the white wine grapes Malvasia and Trebbiano and up to 15% of any other red wine grape grown in the region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon. This variety of grapes and usage is one reason why Chianti can vary widely from producer to producer. The use of white grapes in the blend can alter the style of Chianti by softening the wines with a higher percentage of white grapes, typically indicating that the wine is meant to be drunk younger and not aged for long. In general, Chianti Classicos are described as medium-bodied wines with firm, dry tannins. The characteristic aroma is cherry but it can also carry nutty and floral notes as well.

The Chianti Classico region covers approximately 100 square miles (260 km2) and includes the communes of Castellina, Gaiole, Greve and Radda as well as parts of five other neighboring communes. The terroir of the Classico zone varies throughout the region depending on the vineyards’ altitude, soil type and distance from the Arno River. The soils of the northern communes, such as Greve, are richer in clay deposits while those in the southern communes, like Gaiole, are harder and stonier. Riserva Chianti is aged for at least 27 months, some of it in oak, and must have a minimum alcohol content of 12.5%. Wines from the Chianti DOCG can carry the name of one of the six sub-zones or just the Chianti designation. The Chianti Superiore designation refers to wines produced in the provinces of Florence and Siena but not in the Classico zone.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano

Vineyards in San Gimignano

Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a white wine made from the Vernaccia grape in the areas around San Gimignano. In 1966, it’s was the first wine to receive a DOC designation. This wine style has been made in the area for over seven centuries and is considered Tuscany’s best and most characterful white wine. The wine is dry, full bodied with earthy notes of honey and minerals. In some styles it can made to emphasize the fruit more and some producers have experimented with aging or fermenting the wine in oak barrels in order to give the wine a sense of creaminess or toastiness.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano

The Vino Nobile di Montepulciano received it DOCG status shortly after Brunello di Montalcino, in 1980. The DOCG covers the red wine of the Montepulciano area. The wine received it name back in the seventeenth century, when it was the favorite wine of the Tuscan nobility. Located in the southeastern region of Tuscany, the climate of the region is strongly influenced by the sea. The variety of Sangiovese in Montepulciano is known as Prugnolo Gentile and is required to account for at least 80% of the wine. Traditionally Canaiolo and Mammolo makes ups the remaining part of the blend but some producers have begun to experiment with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

The wines are required to age two years prior to release, with an additional year if it is to be a riserva. The recent use of French oak barrels have increased the body and intensity of the wines which are noted for their plummy fruit, almond notes and smooth tannins.

Other Tuscan wines

The Super Tuscan wine Sassicaia from the Bolgheri region

The Pomino region near Ruffina has been historically known for the prevalence of the French wine grape varieties, making wines from both Cabernets as well as Chardonnay, Merlot, Pinot blanc, Pinot Grigio in addition to the local Italian varieties. The Frescobaldi family is one of the area’s most prominent wine producers. The Bolgheri region of the Livorno province is home to one of the original Super Tuscan wines Sassicaia, first made in 1944 produced by the marchesi Incisa della Rochetta, cousin of the Antinori family. The Bolgheri region is also home to the Super Tuscan wine Ornellaia which was featured in the film Mondovino. The Carmignano region has another Tuscan DOCG and was one of the first Tuscan regions to be permitted to use Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which the region had long historically grown, in their DOC wines.

In southern Tuscany, towards the region of Latium, is the area of Maremma which has its own IGT designation Maremma Toscana. Maremma is also home to Tuscany’s newest DOCG, Morellino di Scansano, which makes a fragrant, dry Sangiovese based wine. The province of Grosseto is one of Tuscay’s emerging wine regions with eight DOC designations, half of which were created in the late 1990s. It includes the Monteregio di Massa Marittima region which has been recently the recipient of foreign investment in the area’s wine, especially by “flying winemakers”. The Parrina region is known for it white wine blend of Trebbiano and Ansonica. The wine Bianco di Pitigliano is known for its eclectic mix of white wine grapes in the blend including Chardonnay, the Greco sub variety of Trebbiano, Grechetto, Malvasia, Pinot blanc, Verdello and Welschriesling.

The wines of Montecarlo region includes several varieties that are not commonly found in Tuscan wines including Sémillon and Roussanne. The minor Chianti grape Ciliegiolo is also popular here. The island of Elba has one of longest winemaking histories in Tuscany and is home to its own DOC. Some of the wines produced here include a sparkling Trebbiano wine, a sweet Ansonica passito, and a semi-sweet dessert wine from Aleatico.

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Dolcetto by Pecchenino

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

The Pecchenino brothers tend vines in the Piedmont region of Italy.

Attilio and Orlando Pecchenino are the heirs of a farm with a long history, starting in the eighteenth century. It has always been family managed and through the years, has been handed down from father to son. The winery was handed down in 1987 to Orlando and Attilio. The land has now reached a total area of about 25 hectares, of which 23,5 are in the community of Dogliani and 1,5 in the community of Monforte d’Alba.

The Pecchenino brothers farm without insecticides. The wines that you must try are made from nebbiolo, dolcetto and barbera.

The vine Dolcetto is typical of the area of Dogliani and the first evidence of this dates
back to 1432 in a manuscript found in the communal archives. The Pecchenino vineyards consist of 70% dolcetto vines and the remaining 30% divided into barbera, nebbiolo, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc.
Today the production is: Dolcetto of Dogliani doc San Luigi, two Dogliani docg Siri d’Jermu and Bricco Botti, Langhe Bianco doc Vigna Maestro, Langhe Nebbiolo doc Vigna Botti, Barbera d’Alba doc Quass and, from the harvest of 2004, the Barolo docg Le Coste originating from a vineyard in
the community of Monforte d’Alba.

Azienda Agricola Pecchenino
Borg. Valdiberti, 59 – 12063 Dogliani (Cuneo)
Phone: +39 017370686

Friuli: Italy’s secret garden

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

There is a place, at the very geographic center of Europe, that is home to one of the most refined food and wine cultures in the world.

Hemingway, Joyce, D’Annunzio, Rilke and Pasolini all lived in this place, and yet it is nearly unknown in the United States, and even in much of Europe. It has been occupied by Julius Caesar (for whom it was named), the Celts, Attila the Hun, the Ottomans, Napoleon (who brought French grapes), the Hapsburgs, Yugoslavia and, ultimately, by Italy.

Cividale del FriuliIt suffered some of the heaviest damage in Europe during two world wars. Much of it was leveled in 1976 by earthquakes. Yet, its people rise again and again, roll up their sleeves, plant food and vines, and plan for a better life.

Friuli-Venezia Giulia is the tiny region on the far northeast fringe of Italy where Europe’s three principal cultures — Latin, Slavic and Germanic — converge. It is the home of a subtle cuisine that combines local products with influences that are, literally, all over the map.

The land provides an outstanding array of fruit and vegetables that are eaten only in season. And the Alps offer exquisite herbs that women gather to use in soups, pastas, omelets, poultry dishes and desserts.

The region is also the birthplace of grappa, and the source of an astounding variety of wines, despite its diminutive size. The town of San Daniele has produced a sweet, delicious prosciutto for centuries that rivals Parma’s.

Friulian rivers are full of trout, the forests full of mushrooms and game, the plains planted tall with wheat, rye, hops, barley, and corn for white and yellow polenta.

Underappreciated culinary regions of Europe don’t stay that way for long (just think of Provence or Emilia-Romagna), and then come the tour buses.

But here, in this utterly distinct and yet diverse place, the people are careful guardians of their land and traditions. It feels as if it will stay that way for a long time.

I have family in Friuli and so I visited many times in the 1990’s.

Italians tend to see Friuli-Venezia Giulia as Germanic or Slavic and not really part of their own nation, though much blood was spilled to claim it. Germans, Austrians, Slovenians, Croats and Serbs see it as some middle ground between themselves and Italy.

I quickly learned that the region is deeper, more subtle and infinitely more interesting than its neighbors.

Friuli geography

Università di UdineThe area called Friuli (from Forum Julii, or Julius’ Forum) makes up about 70 percent of the region, mostly in the south, west and north. The main city is Udine, a handsome, hard-working city of 200,000, distinctly Venetian in aspect.

There are more than 100 special little towns in Friuli, like Cividale, which has superb art treasures, excellent local cooking and wonderful wine produced nearby. It is also home to gubana, a yeasty cake filled with nuts and spices and soaked with grappa or plum eau de vie.

The Friulani are fanatically industrious, and have what they call “brick sickness” — an insatiable desire to build. After the 1976 earthquakes, they rebuilt whole cities.

Venezia Giulia

The remaining part of the region is Venezia Giulia (Julian Venice), also named for Julius Caesar. Its citizens, known as Giuliani, resent the fact that most people call the whole region Friuli.

When Friuli was a backwater, Venezia Giulia was a jewel of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Venezia Giulia’s largest city, Trieste, ranked just after Vienna and Budapest in importance and was the empire’s chief port. Cormons is renowned within the region for fantastic food and wine.

Most people in the region speak Italian, and many speak Furlan (the native tongue that incorporates Latin, Slavic and Germanic influences), while Trieste has its own singsong dialect.

Trieste is certainly the most cosmopolitan city in Italy. Rome, Florence, Venice and Naples, for all their charms, are quite provincial. In the end, Milan is trendy and Euroglitzy.

In Trieste, people with many religions and languages all live side by side and interact much in the way New Yorkers of every origin do. There is a vibrant cafe society rivaling Paris’ and Vienna’s, where literature is read, art displayed, and the issues of the day debated.

wine in a Trieste caféThis has always been a city of ideas, and was the first in what is now Italy to embrace Freud and psychoanalysis. In the 12 years Joyce lived in Trieste, he wrote “Dubliners,” “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” and part of “Ulysses.”

Trieste is the leading coffee importing and roasting city in Europe, the home to Illy Caffe and Cremcaffe, among others. It is also a major spice port: Cinnamon, nutmeg, poppy seeds, pepper and other flavors entered local cooking as they were transported to Vienna and Budapest. Paprika came from Hungary. Phyllo arrived from Greece and Turkey (and also Vienna).

Just south of Trieste is Istria, a large peninsula on the Adriatic that many Giuliani regard as an amputated limb. In 1954, most of Istria was handed over to Yugoslavia. This led to a mass migration of 350,000 Istrians (in a scene that resembled the recent exodus from Kosovo), many of whom settled in Queens and Los Angeles.

One of the most famous of them is Lidia Bastianich, who moved to New York as a child and grew up to become one of the city’s leading chefs, restaurateurs and cooking teachers.

The dishes at her restaurant, Felidia, are mostly from Istria and Venezia Giulia, while Friulian food can be found at Frico, which Ms. Bastianich owns with her son, Joseph. (A frico is a crisp made of Friulian Montasio cheese, and is the calling card of most restaurants around Udine.)

The people of this region, a product of so many foreign influences, are above all a product of their own land — from the high Alps to the gorgeous hills of the wine country, from the incredibly fertile plains to a mostly pristine and fish-rich part of the Adriatic.

It is land that gives these people their identities. In 1997, I met a 70-year-old Friulian — a former mayor, a businessman and quite worldly, yet in love with his region. He told me, with misting eyes, “When I go for a walk on the land and then come home, I almost feel guilty when I scrape the soles of my shoes.”

Food and cuisine

For its variety, delicacy, sophistication and sheer pleasure-giving, the cuisine of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is on the level of the cuisines in Emilia-Romagna and Liguria, Italy’s finest food regions.

If one were to construct a seasonal Friulian menu, it would begin with a springtime of fresh herbs — like mint, verbena, valerian and tarragon — cooked in omelets, with seafood and pounded as sauces for meat.

The star dish is cjarsons, an Alpine filled pasta served as a first course that contains about 40 ingredients, including a dozen herbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, chocolate, lemon and ricotta.

In the plains, white asparagus is served with chopped boiled egg that has been softened with wine vinegar. Orzotto, or barley risotto, is made with fresh-picked hops. Soft pork sausage is shaped in patties and sauteed in delicate wine vinegar.

Summer means seafood, so fish stew from Grado might be featured, along with polipo alla dalmata (octopus with potatoes), cozze alla triestina (mussels in a broth made with thyme, onion, garlic, white wine, bread crumbs and parsley) and sea scallops broiled in their shells with local olive oil and thyme. Omelets will contain zucchini flowers and smoked ricotta.

Gnocchi are filled with the fruit of the moment (apricots, then cherries, then plums) and are served with cinnamon, sugar and melted butter.

In autumn, delicate prosciutto di San Daniele will be served with September figs (with grated fresh horseradish at other times). After the harvest, grape skins will be used to make grappa or to ferment beets to make a dish called brovada. Vegetable soups are typical first courses, followed by venison cooked with spices or berries.

Although polenta is eaten year-round, it is the central dish of winter. Large copper pots yield slow-moving rivers of this meal, which is poured onto round wooden boards, where it hardens and is cut into sections with thread. Stews, including goulash made of equal parts beef and onion, are supporting players.

When polenta cools, it can be grilled, pan-fried or served to children with cinnamon and sugar. Hearty soups, grilled pork, stewed fruit and frico all come to the table, with warming snifters of grappa.

Friuli wines

And then there is the region’s wine. With sheltering hills, generous sun, cooling sea breezes and skilled growers and winemakers, Friuli-Venezia Giulia is one of the world’s great zones, although its production is quite small compared with other regions’. The Collio zone (in Venezia Giulia) and the Colli Orientali (in Friuli) are the most outstanding.

Native white grapes like tocai, ribolla gialla, malvasia istriana and verduzzo make wines of distinct character. Pinot bianco, pinot grigio, chardonnay, riesling, traminer aromatico, mueller thurgau and, especially, sauvignon blanc have found congenial terrain there.

Often, winemakers will blend different grapes to produce wines of extraordinary structure, depth, character and finish, like Collio bianco, a blend of tocai, ribolla gialla and sauvignon blanc.

Friulian red wine is not as well known, in part because most people associate fine Italian red wine with the Tuscany’s Chianti and brunello or the Piedmontese Barbaresco and Barolo.

A native Friulian red grape, pignolo, is only now being discovered abroad, and at its finest (by Walter Filiputti and Abbazia di Rosazzo, and some older Dorigo vintages) it makes a miraculous wine, with flavors of sun, earth and fruit.

Lighter native reds like refosco, schiopettino, terrano and tazzelenghe are distinctive on their own or in blends. Pinot nero, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and, especially, merlot make outstanding wines.

All of these grapes are used to make grappa. In the early 1970s, the Nonino family were the first to realize that each grape had its own properties, and rather than blend them into harsh firewater, they distilled each grape individually for a range of postprandial libations of great delicacy.

With its splendid fruit, Friuli also produces some of the finest distillates of plums, peaches, pears, cherries and apricots.

Friulian winemakers have also invented another blend, fitting for a place so close to the Kosovo war, yet where Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and Orthodox followers of the Greek, Serbian and Russian churches live in harmony.

It is called Vino della Pace, Wine of Peace. A blend of international grapes, it is sent to world leaders as a metaphor for coexistence.

As planes return to their hangars in NATO’s Aviano air base in Friuli, the people of this region, who have known too much war and have chosen peace, will be making the last Vino della Pace of the century, and will toast to the moment when enjoying the pleasures of the table and companionship will be more important than finding yet another way to cause suffering.