Saturday, September 2, 2023

An Exploration of Collio: Part 1

As we slowly make our way into September I’m excited this month to feature the northern wine regions of Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige.  This month our host for our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group, Cindy of Grape Experiences, will be leading our writers to share an array of food and wine from these regions.  Back in mid-July I was thrilled to finally make my way back to Italy as I was invited by the Consorzio Collio to tour this wine region of Friuli, specifically Collio, for a few days.  I have always been a big proponent of the white wines of northern Italy, but having yet to visit the region of Friuli and walk the land and experience where the grapes are grown I developed a deeper appreciation for the distinguished wines of Collio in particular.  I look forward to sharing my experience in a two-part series discussing the land, the wines and food of Collio.

Where is the Collio wine region? 

Collio is a small crescent shape part of the Friuli Venezia Gulia region, located in the far northeastern part of ItalyCollio is located in the province of Gorizia between the Judrio River to the west and the Isonzo River to the east.  It borders Slovenia to the east, Austria to the north and Venice is about an hour to the west.  Within a couple hours you can venture to the Julian Alps and the Dolomites or within 12 miles you can be at the sandy beaches along the coast or the rocky beaches of Trieste.  The name Collio stems from the Italian word, colli, which means hillsides for which this region is abundant in as you can easily drive from one end to the other viewing this scenic, rolling landscape.

Collio DOC wine region

Collio’s location between the Julian Alps and the Sea is what creates a unique, mild, temperate microclimate as Collio receives the warm, humid air from the Adriatic Sea and cold wine blockage from the Alps to the north.   With a large temperature fluctuation between day and night it helps ripen the grapes to an ideal level for harvest.

There are a number of towns to visit throughout Collio including the heart of Collio, Cormóns, along with Dolegna del Collio, Oslavia, San Floriano del Collio, and Capriva del Friuli. I was happily based at the stunning grounds of Castello di Spesa in the town of Capriva del Friuli. They are also one of the main producers in Collio with a number of enjoyable wines. The estate dates back to the 13th century and was a bunker for the Germany soldiers and after the American army. It has been owned by a number of folks throughout its history with the current owners, the Pali family, that have owned the property since the 80’s.  

Castello di Spessa winery
Castello di Spessa

Castello di Spessa wine and golf resort

The History of Friuli & Collio

Many times throughout my journey over the few days I was in Collio, we travelled the border of Slovenia.  It’s always fun to be able to plant one foot in one country and one foot in the other as you can do in this region between Italy and Slovenia. Such an interesting history Friuli Venezia Giulia experienced with the bitter battles of World War I taking place throughout northern Italy. The territory was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire before World War I and was annexed to Italy in 1918.    

Collio was at the front lines during World War I and World War II destroying many of the vineyards, which encouraged new growth and grapes to be planted.  In speaking with many of the producers it was interesting to see how some of their families consisted of citizens from both countries.  Many cultural influences from the Austro-Hungarian Empire are still experienced throughout the food and wines produced here today along with a number of museums and sights to be visited. Today both countries are a part of the European Union with much more peace and harmony that exists to these neighbors. 

Acetaia Braide Alte Livon winery
View from Acetaia Braide Alte Livon winery in Dolegna del Collio with Slovenia at the bottom of the hill

The Ponca soil in Collio

The soils of the Collio wine region, known locally as ponca, is what helps contribute to some of the characteristics that make the Collio wine shine adding minerality, salinity and increasing the aromatics in the glass.  Poncha, also known as a flysch soil, is made of marl and standstone with a large amount of quartz.  The ponca soil also has excellent drainage.

Ponca soil in Collio at Skok winery
Ponca soil while touring Skok winery and vineyards

We got to experience this as we walked out into a number of the vineyards.  It looks like it is chunky, but once you pick it up it crumbles in your hands and can reveal fossils found throughout the region. 

The Wines of Collio 

Wines have been grown in Collio since the pre-Roman Age through the Middle AgesThe Consorzio Tutela Vini Collio, that protects and promotes this wine region, was established in 1964.  Four years later Collio was granted the Collio DOC designation, one of the first DOCs in Italy. This Consorzio is one of the oldest consorzio in Italy.  The region consists of about 3200 acres with about 300 producers that produce about 6.5 million bottles annually.  

wines of the Collio DOC

White wines are the pride of Collio, but about 13% of the Collio wine production is quality red winesThe native white grapes of Collio include Friulano, known locally as Tocai, Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia and a small production of PicolitPinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco are additional other white grapes of the region with smaller amounts of Riesling and Muller ThurgauA large portion of their production is comprised of Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon. For reds they produce Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Nero and Carmenere. 

The Foods of Collio 

Whenever I travel I love to eat and drink what the locals experience on a daily basisFriuli is a region rich in products made from the abundance of dairy products and sausages produced in the region. A number of times I had the melt in your mouth San Daniele del Friuli prosciuttoIt’s sweeter in style to prosciutto from Para. This prosciutto is produced with windows open to give it the exposure to the fresh salty air from the sea that give it its uniquenessCotochino is also a local pork sausage that is typically slow cooked 

2021 Muzic Ribolla Gialla paired with San Daniele prosciutto
2021 Muzic Ribolla Gialla paired with San Daniele prosciutto
Montasio is one of the main cheeses produced in Friuli and I enjoyed it a few times during my stay in a variety of ways from a large, round soft baked version in the picture below to a crispy round disk on a stick like a chip.  

Frico with balsamic onions at Hosteria del Castello di Spessa
Frico with balsamic onions at Hosteria del Castello di Spessa
2021 Castello di Spessa Ribolla Gialla paired with frico
2021 Castello di Spessa Ribolla Gialla paired with frico

Collio has the Judrio and Isono Rivers that run through the region and Friuli produces about 40% of Italy’s production for rainbow trout from their pure, fresh rivers.   

Livon Soluna Malvasia pairing with trout dish
Livon Soluna Malvasia paired with the raw trout dish with zucchini

trout pairing with Malvasia at Locanda Gostilna Korsic
Trout with zucchini at Locanda Gostilna Korsic in San Floriano del Collio

Although the food and wine of Friuli and Collio are main drivers for the attraction to this region, there are many other things to do and explore throughout the region including skiing, hiking, cycling, sailing and divingSo what are you waiting forGet out there and explore Collio for yourself and be ready to be immersed in some of the fantastic white wines produced in Italy and be welcomed by some of the most warm and passionate people of the region.  The Collio region might be small, but it is mighty producing some of Italy's finest white wines.

Join me next week as I dig into some of the main grapes of this region including Ribolla Gialla, Friulano, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon from a number of the producers I met throughout my trip.  I'll also be sharing some more of the wonderful pairings.   One of my favorite parts of traveling on these trips is their expertise in pairing the food and wines from their region.    All the restaurants we explored had such wonderful food and were spot on with the pairings.

Please join the rest of our fellow Italian food and wine lovers as they share their suggested wines and pairings from the regions of Friuli and Trentino Alto Adige.  If you're like to join us live on X a number of the writers will be chatting at #ItalianFWT at 11am EST.

  • Robin Bell Rankin explores Trentino-Alto Adige – Trento, Bolzano and Wines of the Dolomites / Crushed Grape Chronicles
  •  Katarina Andersson explains how Pinot Grigio and Refosco Show Their True Colors in Friuli / Grapevine Adventures
  •  Mike Madaio is “Finding Friulano: an International Journey / Life At Table
  •  Camilla Mann is discovering A Small Sample from the Alto Adige: Whitefish Saltimbocca, Strangolapreti, and a Couple of Schiava / Culinary Cam
  •  Wendy Klik is cooking up Italian Marinated Steaks with Angoris Schioppettino/ A Day in the Life on the Farm
  •  Andrea Lemieux is savoring Elena Walch Schiava with the Flavors of Thailand / The Quirky Cork
  •  Cindy Rynning wants you to Taste the Vibrancy of Alto Adige in St. Michael Eppan Fallwind 2021 Sauvignon / Grape Experiences


  1. Wonderful article - a great primer to the region of Collio. Now I want to go back!!

  2. What a beautiful region and such an interesting blend of cultures! I hope to visit a some point! In the meantime, what a glorious Primer on the region! Looking forward to Part 2!

  3. What a stunning place. The scenery combined with the do you make yourself leave?

  4. Thanks so much for sharing your adventures with us. I can't wait for Part 2.