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A long-fermenting international controversy over the name of this grape became formal in 1995 and became law in April, 2006: no more "Tocai". Fearing consumers would confuse the pale, light, dry table wines made from this variety grown in Italy's Friuli region with the golden, full, sweet dessert wine, Tokaji, that is their best-known wine, Hungary took the case to the European Union and prevailed.1 The decision also meant that the Alsatians of France could no longer call their wines (also mostly dry), made from the pinot gris variety, "Tokay d'Alsace".

Tocai Friulano cluster.To make certain their reach is global, the Hungarian case also singled-out Australian producers of the sweet wines known as "stickies". Aussies may no longer label these wines "Tokay" and must substitute instead "Muscadelle", the second most-often-used variety in stickie-making.2

The Italians, for their part, although agreeing to give up "Tocai", have not settled entirely among themselves as to the conclusive substitute nomenclature, although many producers are leaning to the lone "Friulano". Time will tell. (For the purpose of this article, we'll call it friulano from here on.)

Friulano is the main white variety of the Friuli region of Northeastern Italy. Alternating and dissimilar claims as to how the variety came to be planted there simply add to the confusion. As a matter of fact, the entire identity of the variety is in question as some authorities assert the variety is actually sauvignon vert, or sauvignonasse.

Wines made from friulano are somewhat aromatic without being very assertive or powerful. They tend to smell of wildflowers, sometimes almonds or nuts and range from light to medium-bodied.

*Typical Tocai Friulano Smell and/or Flavor Descriptors

*Typicity depends upon individual tasting ability and experience and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions, as well as viticultural and enological techniques, so this list is neither comprehensive nor exclusive, merely suggestive.

Varietal Aromas/Flavors:

Processing Bouquets/Flavors:

Fruity: fresh, citrus

Terroir: no

Floral: wildflowers + almond

Oak: (atypical)

Spicy: no

Bottle Age: nutty

Herbal: yes (non-specific)


Mouth feel / Texture: light- to medium-bodied, crisp

by Jim LaMar

1 Tokaji is made from the Hungarian-indigenous furmint grape. BACK TO TEXT

2 Muscat is the main grape used for stickies, usually labeled as such. BACK TO TEXT

1. Jancis Robinson (ed), Oxford Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, (Oxford University Press: London) 2006

2. Charles Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (University of California Press: Berkeley) 1998

3. Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality, (Vendage Press: Dover, DE) 2010

4. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996

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Page created October 28, 2009; updated July 1, 2015
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