As far back as the Roman Empire, Friuli-Venezia Giulia was referred to as the “Region for the Veneti,” which surely stemmed from the fact that the locals referred to themselves as the Veneti. Fast-forwarding about 600 years marks the establishment of the Lombards’ first duchy in Italy, named “Forum Liuli,” which was later shortened to Friuli. This area was the scene of some of the fiercest battles of World War I, and the decimation continued into World War II. After World War II, the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia was returned to Italian control; however, in 1975, a portion of the Trieste was ceded to Yugoslavia.
Until the 1960s, Friuli-Venezia Giulia was an area of deep poverty, largely relying on the earth for sustenance. The region held on to its linguistic autonomy, as the majority of inhabitants speak Friulano, a Romance language with significant ties to Slavic. Like the culture of the area, it grew from the inhabitants’ ties to both Italy and Yugoslavia/Slovenia. Due to the area’s history of poverty, many emigrated to find new lives in various parts of North and South America.
The cuisine of this secluded region is heavily influenced by the flavors of its Austrian and Slavic neighbors, and consequently meat is prevalent in the diet. Prosciutto di San Daniele is a great source of regional pride as are the local cheeses including Montasio and ricotta (often smoked and aged for grating). Soups are popular. Gnocchi is also a common culinary sight, as are different scampis, polenta and speck. The eastern influence is especially prominent in the stews and goulash of the region. Not to be forgotten, desserts include strudel, potato biscuits and pumpkin fritters. The city of Gorizia is world-famous for its chocolate cake rolls known as Gubana.
Borrowing heavily from nearby Austria, Germany, and its Slavic neighbors, Friuli-Venezia Giulia recently began to craft modern, crisp, clean white wines from grapes like Sauvignon Blanc (here, they simply call it Sauvignon), Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, and Pinot Grigio. Slavic influence can be seen as some wineries, albeit idiosyncratic, produce “orange wines” in the ancient Slavic style of allowing white wines to have lengthy skin contact. Most of the winemaking regions of Friuli-Venezia Giulia exist in close proximity to the region’s border with the Veneto. In fact, it shares the Prosecco DOC and Lison DOCG with Veneto. All styles of wine are made here, but it is most-noted for mineralic white wines with significant acid character.
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