Marco Felluga, White Wine Visionary in Italy’s Friuli, Dies at 96

Marco Felluga, who made exquisite white wines that helped put the Collio area of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region on the global wine map, died April 3. He was 96.

“Friuli and the Collio region have suffered a great loss,” said fellow winemaker Silvio Jermann of Jermann winery. Jermann says that Felluga, along with fellow vintners Count Douglas Attems and Mario Schiopetto, led the drive to elevate wine quality in the Collio region, to advocate for the appellation’s promotion to DOC status and to create a regional consortium of wine producers. “Together they created the modern Collio, [and] they brought international recognition to the Friuli region. He was a great wine producer and a great man, and his loss will be felt keenly.”

Marco’s passing came shortly before his family formalized a new partnership with the Tommasi family of Valpolicella. The Tommasis have purchased a majority stake in the Felluga family’s winery and two estates—Marco Felluga and Russiz Superiore. Marco’s granddaughter Ilaria will remain at the helm of the wineries, however.

Felluga Championed Aged Italian Wines

The Felluga family has worked in Italian wine since the 1800s. They settled in Friuli’s Collio region after World War II, and both Marco and his brother Livio established new wineries. Marco founded his eponymous estate in 1956 in the town of Gradisca d’Isonzo, roughly 80 miles northeast of Venice, near the Italian-Slovenian border. Both Marco and Livio saw great potential for quality wine from their region, particularly in its white wines. With other like-minded producers, they helped to establish the Collio DOC in 1968.

Considered an innovator, Marco chose in his early days to lower yields, retrain vines and employ other techniques that were not the norm in the area. But his vision to create white wines capable of aging is what resonates most strongly today. Going against the tide of crisp, easy-drinking Pinot Grigios that northern Italy is so well known for, he created the Pinot Grigio Collio Mongris Riserva cuvée, aged on the lees for two years before bottling.

[article-img-container][src=2024-04/ns_felluga-russiz-superiore-041524_1600.jpg] [credit= (Courtesy Marco Feullga)] [alt= A hillside vineyard at Russiz-Superiore in Friuli.][end: article-img-container]

In 1967, Felluga further invested in the Collio region, purchasing the Russiz Superiore estate in nearby Capriva del Friuli, including 125 acres of vines. Rather than adding production to Marco Felluga’s range of wines, he established Russiz Superiore as a separate brand. However, he brought the same philosophy of aging before release to create long-lived wines. The Collio Russiz Superiore Col Disôre is aged for one year in French oak barrels and one year in bottle; the Pinot Bianco Collio Russiz Superiore Riserva ages for three years in oak and one year in bottle.

“[For Marco,] America was always a key objective,” said Brian Larky, founder and CEO of Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Felluga’s U.S. importer since the 1990s. “And establishing Friuli, Collio and Marco Felluga were priorities. Marco was always inseparable from his beloved region.”

Teaming Up with Tommasi

Marco’s son, Roberto, worked with his father for many years but died from cancer in 2021; Roberto’s daughter, Ilaria, took over the wineries. Now she will manage the estates with the financial backing of Tomassi. “I will continue to lead the companies, with our collaborators,” said Ilaria in a statement. “The Tommasi Family will support me in investments for growth and development. The fundamental cornerstones will always be those on which my grandfather Marco and my father Roberto decided to base their work and their approach to the world of wine.”

“Marco [was] a visionary in his commitment and dedication to a regional viticulture of…

Source : https://www.winespectator.com/articles/italian-white-wine-visionary-marco-felluga-dies