Work is tiring, but it isn’t always tedious. Marco Felluga, from the heights of his 90 years and 60 harvests, is the proof. The father of the Collio and the great whites of Friuli has spent his life passionately promoting the winegrowing potential of his territory.
Marco Felluga is still pointing out the path – indicating the true importance of Pinot Bianco, the great expression of this land so well-suited for wine grapes, recognized as such since 1787. “I’ve had a lot of fun in all these years of work.” And he has never stopped doing his best to promote the Collio DOC, the potential of this territory, and the longevity of Italian whites. If Bordeaux can be compared to Tuscany for its great reds, the whites of Friuli (and the Collio in particular) measure up well to German wine technology. According to the classification of the Collio dated 1787, its wines were already considered precious by the Hapsburg Empire “for their goodness.” Marco Felluga, after his first ninety years (celebrated in a book by Walter Filipputti, “A Story of Intuitions”), doesn’t feel the fatigue of time passed, but rather nostalgia for events that went too fast. “In all these years, I have always tried to carry on a coherent conversation about territory, one of promotion and identity. Thanks to the spirit of the local consortium, it has been possible to join the forces of the individual producers and strengthen the image of the Collio itself. But there’s no end to our work, because every year brings new projects, and we always try to make our wines better.”
Felluga, a family history
Marco’s view is that of a visionary, a clear-headed man of extreme sensibility. A relationship with wine has been part of the Felluga DNA for over a hundred years. Giovanni, Marco’s father, began producing wine in Istria, then moved to Grado in the 1920s to sell Refosco and Malvasia. Another transfer took the family to Gradisca d’Isonzo, in the Collio, where Giovanni discovered a unique territory. It was the first zone of Italy to be recognized as a DOC and, in 1964, to form a consortium of producers. The family stayed together until 1956, when Marco separated from his brother Livio, another patriarch of Friulian wine, who died in 2016 at the age of 102. The Collio is a border territory and a crossroads of people and culture. In 1956, in Gradisco d’Isonzo, Marco Felluga created the winery in his own name. In 1967 he bought the Russiz Superiore property, notable for bearing the emblem of the princes of Torre Tasso in Capriva del Friuli. That lion symbol goes on his wine labels, a reminder of the bond between the city of Venice and the Collio Goriziano zone.
“The hilly strip of the Collio has the shape of a horseshoe,” explained Alessandro Sandrin, Marco Felluga’s enologist since 2012. “It includes the hills of the Gorizia province between the Isonzo and Judrio rivers, stretching from Dolegna to San Mauro. We are in the central part. In the earth, in the center of the Russiz Superiore vineyards, we discovered an ancient coral reef that continues to lend a characteristic salinity to the wines. We frequently find fossil remains in the soil. The terrain is characterized by layers of marl and sand that are called ‘ponce’ in Friulano, also ‘flysch’. It is a particular kind of land that stores water, guarantee a good reserve of moisture right through the harvest.”
Consorzio Collio and the DOC
Early on, Marco worked to build the Consorzio Collio. Then he labored to attain DOC status, which came in 1968. In 1970, he began pushing to transform the Collio into a premium zone for great Italian whites. “I tried to communicate my ideas by more audacious means. I remember meeting advertising genius Oliviero Toscani, and trying to revolutionize the image of Collio Goriziano wines using an unforgettable photo – a beautiful dark-skinned model pressing a bottle of wine to her nude breast. In the background it said, “The only white I love is the best white in the world.” The critics were fierce, so we shut down the ad, and our image campaign ended there. But it was a great pity. I have seen many producers ready to spend money on their own wineries but not on communicating about their own work. But if you don’t make your product known, no one will know what you’re doing and what you are,” Marco summed up.
60 harvests of Collio
Marco Felluga has lived through 60 harvests. His son Roberto has been at his side for more than twenty. His role is as custodian of the tradition of extreme respect for the territory and for flavor. “The winery isn’t certified as organic, but we operate as if we were,” said Alessandro Sandrin. “We always use manure to fertilize the soil, proving that agricultural tradition goes hand in hand with new technology. Eighty percent of our entire production is concentrated on white varieties such as friulano, ribolla gialla, pinot bianco and sauvignon. They are perfect to drink young, but are also very interesting when left to age for some years. They are all grapes from mass selections Marco carried out and that allow us to preserve the genetic patrimony of the best indigenous Friulano grapes.”
If Marco represents history and Roberto the present, it will be Ilaria, Roberto’s daughter to lead this empire into the future. Marco, though, still has a great deal to say. “I have one regret, a project that I hope the others will carry on – to show off the great potential of another one of the Collio’s indigenous white varieties, pinot bianco. It makes a wonderful, fragrant wine that still hasn’t found the place it deserves on the marketplace, suffocated by the media’s barriers and the international fashion for pinot grigio. It would be good if producers worked to give it sufficient space and the visibility it deserves.”