High in the storied hills of Friuli-Venezia Giulia (“Friuli”), the Felluga family has been producing high-quality wines from some of the best vineyard sites in the region since the early 1800s. Multiple generations have contributed to the family’s winemaking legacy and today, Marco Felluga epitomizes the excellence of Friuli.
With origins that began in Istria, Giovanni Felluga moved his family to Collio and began making wine in the 1930s after the First World War. Carrying on the tradition, in 1956, son Marco took the helm of the family business and actually founded the winery which bears his name. Marco firmly put the family winery on the map and was widely considered one of the most innovative vintners in the region, if not all of Italy.
Throughout the family’s history, the Fellugas have dedicated their lives to the preservation of their family winemaking traditions and heritage, while also embracing cutting-edge technology. Today, fifth generation winemaker Roberto Felluga leads the family’s estates. His daughter, Ilaria Felluga, is now studying enology with the intention of joining the family business in the future and furthering the family’s legacy.
The Terroir (Where the Grapes Come From)
Friuli is regarded as the source of some of Italy’s best white wines. Appellations within the larger Friuli region that are known for the highest quality wines are Friuli Colli Oriental DOC and Collio Goriziano DOC (often simply referred to a “Collio” or “Collio DOC”).1 Located in northeastern Italy, the region generally has a moderate, continental climate which is cooled by cold air from the mountains to the north. Some of the southerly vineyards experience more of a warmer, maritime climate due to the influence of the Adriatic Sea. Quality over quantity is the name of the game as these regions have some of the lowest vineyard yields in Italy. All of this adds up to ripe wines balanced by nice amounts of freshness and acidity. It also contributes to slightly higher price points, but then, you get what you pay for.
The Felluga family’s two top estates, Marco Felluga and Russiz Superiore, have the fruit for their wines sourced almost exclusively from their vineyards within the Collio DOC. The name Collio comes from the Italian word “colli,” which means hillside. This is a fitting descriptor for the local terrain with its low, rolling hills, which formed during the Eocene period and is composed of layers of sandstone and loam rock that were once ocean floor.
The Marco Felluga estate is situated in Gradisca d’Isonzo, a province of Gorizia. This area’s climate is characterized by its proximity to both the Adriatic Sea and mountains, which results in a dramatic diurnal shift2 and allows grapes to ripen slowly and evenly while retaining their acidity. This, combined with mineral-rich but poor soils from ancient sea beds, provides an ideal terroir for growing grapes that produce complex, well-structured, age-worthy wines.
The Russiz Superiore estate is located in Capriva del Friuli, in the heart of Collio and is the crown jewel of the Felluga family. The name comes from its position that rises above the surrounding hills. The Russiz Superiore property has a long, rich history and has been in the hands of noble families as far back as 1273. Under the care of the Felluga family since the 1960’s, the winery’s focus is on intensely flavored, small production selections that maximize the intensity of the grapes, as well as highlight the local identity of the Collio and the very special area of Capriva. All Russiz Superiore wines are estate grown and bottled and are renowned for their ageability.
Indigenous and international varieties alike thrive in Friuli. And while we know Fruili for rich, tropical Pinot Grigio3 and other white wines, there is so much more to the region. Single-variety red and white wines, white blends, and even orange wines (made from Ribolla Gialla) can be found in the region. Even some ancient varieties such as Refosco, Verduzzo Friulano, and Picolit are making a resurgence.
But there’s no doubt that the quality of Collio is expertly expressed in the Felluga wines.4
2015 Marco Felluga Collio Bianco Molamatta 2015 (SRP $26)
With most wines made in varietal form, Collio Bianco is one of the rare blends of the Collio DOC. Crafted of 40% Pinot Bianco, 40% Tocai Friulano, and 20% Ribolla Gialla. The Pinot Bianco is fermented and aged in small oak barrels while the other varieties were vinified in stainless steel. The wine spent six months aging on the lees and several months in the bottle. It was fresh and round with a nice balance of tropical fruit and acid. I had both with and without food and have to say that this wine is happy anywhere you have it. We were big fans at our house.
2018 Russiz Superiore Collio Sauvignon (SRP $29)
Friuli Sauvignon (Blanc) has been called the midpoint between New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and the Loire’s Sancerre. The wines tend to have less (but still some) of the NZ green notes and some of Sancerre’s riper fruit. This one is 100% Sauvignon with 15% fermented in oak and 85% in stainless steel. The wine spends eight months on the lees and additional time aging in bottle. Floral and fruity nose with fresh herbs and grapefruit. The palate is crisp and lively with citrus and tropical fruit. It’s a natural with light pastas and risotto as well as roasted fish. We paired with Parmesan crusted fish. And after what appears to be a false scandal against some Friuli Sauvignon producers (see article here from DoBianchi) I’m always happy to share my experiences with these great wines.
2016 Russiz Superiore Collio Cabernet Franc (SRP $29)
Though red wines are less common than white, they are firmly a part of the region’s production. The reds of the region tend to be earthy with herbaceous characteristics and smooth tannins. Interestingly enough, there was a point in the Felluga’s family history where they made more red wines than white. And even today, they continue to make a considerable amount of red wines. This one is crafted of 100% Cabernet Franc and is aged in small oak casks for twelve months with an additional six months in bottle. Dark red and black berry aromas with an undertone of herbaceousness. In the mouth, it is rich with blackberry, cedar, and spice notes along with medium acidity and smooth tannins. It would make a perfect companion to grilled meats and aged cheeses.
With their smaller production profile, quality to detail is everything for Felluga. These are wines that will happily occupy a space on any dinner table.
Cheers for now.
- Wines from the non-slope plains are labeled Fruili Grave DOC.
- The temperature differences between day and night.
- Not all Pinot Grigio is equal and there is no shortage of blah, mediocre versions on the market. To ensure I’m getting a good bottle if I don’t have additional knowledge of a wine, I look for those from Friuli Colli Oriental DOC and Collio Goriziano DOC.
- Wines received as samples to review.