Tocai Friulano, or simply Tocai, was the local Friulian synonym for the white wine grape Sauvignonasse. As a result of a European Union ruling, producers in Friuli can no longer use the term due to potential for confusion with the Hungarian wine Tokaji. Today, producers have adopted the term “Friulano” to refer to these wines.
Sauvignonasse, itself sometimes known as Sauvignon Vert, is a relative of Sauvignon Blanc. Its wines are typically fuller in body than those produced from Sauvignon Blanc, with less pronounced aromatics. At its best, it has high acidity and zippy fruit flavors.
The wine known today as Friulano comes from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy’s northeastern most wine region. Under the name Tocai Friulano, the Sauvignonasse grape has been cultivated here since at least the 1600s. Typically, its wines are pale in color, offer intense floral aromatics, are light in body and have a distinctive green-almond character. The wines are quite dry and are not intended for ageing.
Friulano wine is produced in all of Friuli’s major Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) zones, namely Colli Orientali del Friuli, Collio Goriziano (often known simply as “Collio”), Grave del Friuli and Friuli Isonzo.
Of these zones, Collio DOC is known to produce some of Italy’s best white wines, in which Friulano plays the starring role. Within the Collio DOC, the Capriva di Friuli subzone is particularly highly regarded. The Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC boasts some especially strong subzones of its own, particularly Buttrio, Manzano and Rosazzo.
Outside of Italy, the grape once known as Tocai Friulano is notably grown in Slovenia and Chile. In Slovenia, the grape is now known as Zeleni Sauvignon (meaning “Green Sauvignon”) or Jakot (effectively the word “Tokaji” backwards). The key growing region is Goriška, specifically Goriška Brda and Vipava Valley. Given the high quality of these wines, the region’s proximity to Friuli is not surprising.
In Chile, the Sauvignonasse grape was long mistaken for Sauvignon Blanc. Upon discovery of the difference, many growers uprooted their Sauvignonasse (known locally as Sauvignon Vert) plantings in favor of the more commercially appealing Sauvignon Blanc. Young Chilean Sauvignonasse has distinct flavors of green apple.
Neighboring Argentina also cultivates some Sauvignonasse, and it is a classic though very scarce Bordeaux grape variety.
Tocai Friulano should not be confused with Tokaji wine or the Tokaj region. There is no known connection between this grape and any of those used in Hungarian Tokaji production. Nor should it be confused with the term Tokay d’Alsace, an outdated (and no longer permitted) synonym for Pinot Gris.
Wine Enthusiast Magazine offers a few reviews on top-rated Friulano wines, as well as plenty more information about this grape and others like it. Use our Buying Guide database below to browse!
Blue Fox Cellars 2015 Nube Bianco Vineyard Tocai Friulano (Potter Valley)Mendocino CountyStrong aromas of fresh earth, buttered popcorn and sauteed veggies vie for ...See Full Review$25
Millbrook 2017 Proprietor's Special Reserve Tocai Friulano (Hudson River Region)New York OtherStony citrus, apple peel, lemongrass and white flowers grace the nose. This ...See Full Review$20
Bella Luna 2017 Bella Bianca White (San Benito County)Central CoastReally taut and tangy on the nose, this blend of 50% Tocai ...See Full Review$30
Massican 2017 Annia White (Napa Valley)NapaThis is a refreshingly stunning blend of 55% Ribolla Gialla, 39% Tocai ...See Full Review$30
Monte Volpe 2015 Sesso White (Mendocino County)Mendocino CountyThis is a crisp, dry, and very tangy wine blended from Tocai ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$18
Millbrook 2016 Proprietor's Special Reserve Tocai Friulano (Hudson River Region)New York OtherWhile earthy on the nose, the palate of this stainless-steel fermented Tocai ...See Full Review$20
Millbrook 2016 Lollipop Hill Estate Bottled Tocai Friulano (Hudson River Region)New York OtherThe Lollipop Hill designation seems rounder and fuller on the palate than ...See Full Review$25
Ventosa 2016 Tocai Friulano (Finger Lakes)Finger LakesSwirls of cream, vanilla and caramel enrobe more delicate notes of pressed ...See Full Review$16
Cent'Anni 2014 Buoni Anni Bianco White (Santa Ynez Valley)Central CoastDoug Margerum takes his mastery of making clean and distinctive Burgundian and ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$32
Matthiasson 2014 White (Napa Valley)NapaCrisp, refreshing and uniquely spicy and mineral-driven, this blends 50% Sauvignon blanc, ...See Full Review$40
Graziano 2014 Sauvignon Blanc (Mendocino County)Mendocino CountyRefreshing and aromatic, this wine is 15% Tocai Friulano and has some ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$15
Monte Volpe 2011 Dolce Alexandra Late Harvest Tocai Friulano (Mendocino County)Mendocino CountyA deep amber color and a rich, almost thick mouthfeel support tempting ...See Full Review$20
Millbrook 2015 Proprietor's Special Reserve Tocai Friulano (Hudson River Region)New York OtherBoisterously fruity and aromatic, this full-bodied white offers a bounty of luscious ...See Full Review$20
Monte Volpe 2014 Tocai Friulano (Mendocino County)Mendocino CountyFresh, bright and subtly floral in flavor, this dry and medium-bodied wine ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$15
Channing Daughters 2013 Sylanus Vineyard Tocai Friulano (Long Island)Long IslandSpice, smoke and dusty minerals accent shades of almond and hazelnut in ...See Full Review$24
Millbrook 2014 Lollipop Hill Estate Bottled Tocai Friulano (Hudson River Region)New York OtherTropical fruit and floral notes abound on this intensely perfumed white. Aged ...See Full Review$28
Millbrook 2014 Proprietor's Special Reserve Tocai Friulano (Hudson River Region)New York OtherSweet-tart pineapple and apple tones contrast leafy swathes of fresh herbs in ...See Full Review$20
Ventosa 2012 Tocai Friulano (Seneca Lake)Finger LakesTart and lean, this unusually brisk Tocai Friulano juxtapoes savory apple and ...See Full Review$16
Palmina 2013 Honea Vineyard Tocai Friulano (Santa Ynez Valley)Central CoastScents of butterscotch candies, vanilla custard, apple mousse and sea salt greet ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$22
Palmina 2010 Subida Tocai Friulano (Santa Ynez Valley)Central CoastOne of the most bizarre yet fascinating wines on the market, this ...See Full Review$30
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