I was glad to happen across Wine Blogging Wednesday for the first time last month. I think this is a great way to see bloggers coming together from around the globe to write about a similar wine topic. September's theme is to taste indigenous and local grapes, to go off the beaten path and write about something other than the ubiquitous internationally grown grapes. True, many grapes are grown all over the world now, but this month we go beyond the easy and comfortable chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, pinot noirs, and so forth. Since I have been focusing on Italy in my personal wine studies lately, and Italy has a vast variety of grapes, I figured that would be a perfect place to start. Original September announcement

I settled on Tocai Friulano for a couple reasons, but mainly because it was among the many I have yet to try, and I found its recent dilemma to be interesting. What a Hungarian wine conglomerate kicked into motion many moons ago has eventually come down to a ruling prohibiting the Italians from printing the name of a particular grape on the label; and if they do, the Hungarians will cry. But sarcasm aside, there are winners and losers in every legal battle. The heart of the issue is customers potentially confusing Tocai Friulano with Tokaji. You could say it's the same as a producer slapping the name Champagne or Burgundy on a bottle when the wine was actually made in California or South Australia: A customer will read Tocai and think it's merely an Italian-made Tokaji-style wine with an Italian sounding name. As geographic origin trumps varietal names under European Union law, Hungary came out on top. As of 1 April 2007, the word Tocai is strictly verboten, or should I say, proibito, from the wine label.

Wouldn't you know it, though, the tenacious Italians aren't giving up. Producers are allowed to use the name Friulano as a synonym for Tocai Friulano, which satisfies the EU; but, this only applies to wine produced in the Friuli region. A wine cooperative is still appealing the European Court of Justice decisions; so, the issue isn't considered final and Italian legislation over the substitution is on ice.

But enough of the history lesson. Let's drink some wine!

Livio Felluga Tocai Friulano 2003
A light to medium bodied wine with deep lemon/light gold color and lightly aromatic with lime, lemon, and mineral. I got a lot of citrus on the palate, mostly lemon and lime, a touch of a nuttiness, perhaps almonds. It finishes with a really nice taste of green apples and minerality. Overall, I thought it was a nice every day wine and it went rather well last night with Chicken Picatta alongside orzo and mushrooms. Livio Felluga

In my search for a store that carries Tocai Friulano, I stumbled across a New York winery that grows the grape. Of course, I had to make the trip across the river and fetch myself a bottle. Parking in D.C. is a little annoying, but I think it was worth it.

Millbrook Tocai Friulano 2006, Hudson River Valley

The Millbrook is a Hudson Valley medium-bodied rendition of the Tocai Friuliano grape. It's color is pale lemon--lighter than the Livio Felluga and slightly more aromatic. The nose has light grapefruit and ripe fruit. It almost has a smell of something succulent, like something sweet. It's taste is somewhat sweet but also has a medium amount of acidity with touches of grapefruit, other citrus, and pears. There are hints of melon and mineral with lingering red apple plus more acidity in the finish.
Millbrook web page


  1. Marcus said...
    Awesome that you found North American Tocai. (I share in your Hungarian bemusement, by the way.)

    My encounters with this grape have been confined to Italy and Slovenia. I really can't see anything preventing Tocai from becoming as popular as Sauvignon Blanc is if it can be harvested here.
    Doug said...
    I'm pretty glad I found the New York, too. Kobrand's Grape Reference Library mentions tocai is also grown in Chile and France, but I wasn't able to find any. I'd say a tasting of all five together, Italy, Slovenia, U.S., France, and Chile, is in order at some point.
    Kathleen said...
    I just got a bottle of this wine at the Hudson Wine and Food Festival. Yummy! Video about this great wine is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ms3MsfAincY

    Kathleen Lisson
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