Conte Brandolini d'Adda, Grave-Friuli (Italy) Tocai Friulano 2005 (Palm Bay Imports, $15 ): This could be the last review I ever write of a Tocai Friulano wine. It's not that I have sworn off the wine; in fact, I consider it one of Italy's best white wines. But as of March, wine producers of Italy's Friuli region can no longer label wines with the varietal name, "Tocai Friulano," because EU wine authorities have deemed the name "Tocai" too similar to Tokaj Hegyalja, Hungary's wine region famous for the botrytised dessert wine, Tokaji Aszú.
Count Brandolini, the producer of this wine, told me that despite the imminent demise of the varietal wine name, the future name of the wine is still undecided. Many producers had planned to label their wine simply as "Friulano," but another region of Italy contested the idea of giving a wine the same name as its region, and, for better or worse, "Friulano" bit the dust alongside "Tocai." Back labels can continue to name Tocai Friulano as the grape variety in the future wines--whatever they are called--because the name of the grape won't change, Brandolini explained. But the future name of the wine is a big blank.
I can only hope that this confusion could have positive results in drawing well-deserved attention to Tocai Friulano on the part of wine drinkers. Tocai Friulano wines are terrific. They are generally my favorite wines from Friuli, despite the serious competition that Friuli's Pinot Biancos and blended whites offer. Tocai Friulano wines are typically medium-plus in body, with ripe fruit flavors (more flavorful than the typical Italian white wine), a rich, somewhat oily viscosity of texture, and a minerally character that lurks behind their ripe fruitiness. Most of them are unoaked.
Conte Brandolini d'Adda is an historic, family-owned winery in Friuli. It is most famous for its Vistorta Merlot, named after Brandolini's Vistorta estate, 25 miles north of Venice. This Tocai Friulano wine comes from another family estate, called Cordignano. Count Brandino Brandolini himself is not only the owner and winemaker of the Conte Brandolini d'Adda operation, but also president of Château Greysac in Bordeaux and the owner of a wine bar in Venice called Naranzaria. His consulting enologist is Georges Pauli of Château Gruaud Larose.
Brandolini's 2005 Tocai Friulano is a dry, full-bodied, unoaked white with rich, viscous texture cut through by crisp acidity. Its aromas and flavors rank medium-plus in intensity and suggest peaches, ripe apples and almonds. The wine has a slight grip on the palate that enhances its impression of weight in the mouth.
This wine hails from the Grave DOC district of Friuli. This is Friuli's largest wine district, rather flat, and therefore often ranked by critics behind the hilly Collio and Colli Orientali DOC zones. The Grave influence shows itself in the moderate alcohol of this wine (only 12.5% compared to 13 or 13.5% which is the norm in the other two zones) and in the wine's captivating aromatics. While the wine might be a bit lighter than some Tocai Friulanos, however, it is still a substantial and flavorful wine. Such is the nature of Tocai Friulano. Or whatever you call it.