A taste of Friuli from Villa Sandi 

Friuli is Italy’s northeastern frontier and a haven for winemakers. This verdant, undulating landscape sits between the Alps and the Adriatic, hugging the Slovenian border. The mountains shield the region from harsh northern winds and the proximity of the sea creates a stable and favourable climate for growing grapes. 

It’s a 2-hour drive from Crocetta del Montello, in the heart of Prosecco country, where the Moretti-Polegato family runs the world-famous wine business, Villa Sandi. In 2018, Villa Sandi ventured into Friuli, acquiring Tenuta Borgo Conventi. The property has a history dating back to the 15th century when a wealthy nobleman entrusted the estate to the monks who had established a culture of winemaking in the region. 

Native grapes and the emerald river 

Borgo Conventi is located a few kilometres north of the “emerald” Isonzo River and boasts 30 hectares of prime vineyards that straddle the Collio and Isonzo regions. The soils here are diverse, with pockets of marl, limestone, and clay, and the sediments left behind by the flooding of the river enrich the vineyards. The variations in aspect and microclimate provide excellent growing conditions for an array of grape varieties. The area is famous for producing some of Italy’s most important and elegant white wines, known for their purity and concentration, but it also offers great conditions for making vibrant, balanced reds. With key native varieties such as Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, and Refosco, sitting alongside a grown-up Pinot Grigio, the Borgo Conventi range gives an excellent snapshot of this great, albeit lesser-known, region. 

The range 

Ribolla Gialla Venezia Giulia 

Ribolla Gialla is an ancient Friulian variety that can be traced back to the 13th century and makes light to medium bodied wines with delicate aromatics. This wine is made in a fresh, unoaked style that harnesses the grape’s natural acidity and preserves the pristine aromas of green apple, grapefruit and floral notes of white flowers and chamomile. The palate has a lovely minerality to it and tangy twist on the finish.

Pinot Grigio Isonzo del Friuli

Pinot Grigio Isonzo del Friuli The is not your average Pinot Grigio. It delivers great concentration of fruit and has a real presence about it. The nose is fragrant and compelling with delicate scents of hedgerow and honeysuckle that give way to fruity notes of ripe pear. The palate shows Pinot Grigio’s hallmark freshness. It is dry but graceful, full and round, with a long finish. 

Friulano Isonzo del Friuli

Friulano Isonzo del Friuli The grape formerly known as Tocai Friulano – the Hungarians petitioned for them to drop the Tocai in 2006 – is an altogether different beast to the other whites. The aromatics drop an octave and are a little more restrained. Meadow flowers and Mediterranean herbs lead through to just-ripe stone fruit and there is a distinct note of fresh almond in the background. The palate is plush with bright fruit character and a lingering finish.

Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, to give it its full title, is an intriguing and distinctive local variety. The nose is generous and instantly appealing. It has a rich array of aromatics from dark brambly fruit to ripe black cherry mixed in with violets, herbal notes, and a gentle earthiness. This wine manages the grape’s tannic nature beautifully and the palate is structured but juicy and approachable. This is a wine that will warm up the room and make friends immediately.

N.B. The Peduncolo Rosso refers to the red stems of the grape bunches.