Drink again. As Stephen Brook found on a recent trip to Friuli, there is a nucleus of winemakers crafting Pinot Grigios on the slopes of Friuli with more poise and persistence than its bland alter-ego ever had.
Friuli Venezia Giulia is a vast region, taking in the flat alluvial lands around Pordenone and Udine in the west, and the maritime flatlands of Aquiliea and Latisana near the huge Marano Lagoon. Here the wines tend to be well made but, with a few exceptions, they rarely rise to great heights. The problem is one of yields: at least 75 hectolitres/ hectare and thus not ludicrously high, but high enough to limit ripening and flavour. (An IGT Pinot Grigio can be cropped at up to 190hl/ha. Water indeed.) The wines tend to be characterised by blandness. Even Marco Rabino of Ca’ Bolani, one of the largest producers, admits that its Pinot Grigio is made to be drunk within two years.
The best zones for the variety in Friuli are Colli Orientali, Collio and the northern part of Isonzo. They have excellent soils and microclimates, but also a large number of producers who take Pinot Grigio seriously, even though they may differ in the styles they aim for. The main difference between these three zones and those further south and west such as Grave and Aquileia is that they are mostly hilly: the soils tend to be marl and limestone, and growers can choose the right slopes and expositions to ensure full ripeness at moderate yields.