History of Picolit

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Written By Roberto d'Amato

The Picolit is one of the oldest and noblest wines of Friuli, the mythical: PICOLIT, was born in the Colli Orientali and soon reached the pinnacle or the Olympus of Friulian wines.

This wine originates from an ancient, dare I say archaic indigenous grape varietywhich has made it immortal for our palates. This sublime wine dates back to the 13th century B.C. Picolit was tasted by Roman emperors and popes as we can see in this picture.

It is the only Friulian grape variety described in Ampelography of Sallesium; the Picolit of the Rosazzo area is recalled in an anonymous song inspired by the Duke of Brunswick's massacre of 1509 and in an inscription of 1567 found in that hermitage bright with vines that is the hill of Rosazzo.

Carlo Goldoni and Picolit

Carlo Goldoni

He was exalted by the famous Carlo Goldoni, who described him:

Friuli's brightest oenological gem

This wine is the brother of Tokaj (referring, we mean, to the Hungarian Tokaj), the delight of the discerning palates of popes, kings and princes.

It was certainly thanks to Count Fabio Asquini the fact that, in the second half of the 18th century, he correctly highlighted the value of the vine, cultivating it on a large scale in Fagagna, a locality of morainic origin not far from Udine, in such quantities that he was able to export over a hundred thousand bottles of the characteristic format and capacity of about a quarter of a litre, obtaining, according to the Giacomo Perusinifour Venetian lire and ten soldi la tortiglia.

Count Asquini valued it so highly that it was sold in the major European and archiepiscopal courts, achieving notoriety that its exalted goodness was always appreciated. When Count Asquini died, this wine declined.

Early 1900s the family of Count Perusini resumed to spread this great wine at their Rocca Bernarda estate spread the great Picolit.

This wine as well as proudly tasting and famous for its seductive skills was born with the heart in an area that is geographically perfect for the production of excellent red and white wines, due to the climatic mixture of the soft continental climate in the centre south and the Alpine climate in the north.

Where does the name Picolit come from?

Probably from the small size of the berry and cluster caused by the phenomenon of millerandage, i.e. floral abortion; a fundamental element of this vine is the presence of pollen that causes sterility preventing the Picolit flowers from developing. We can have three different types of Picolit, each with its own peculiarities: the varietal expresses itself by harvesting the grapes and vinifying them to obtain an elegant, fragrant wine.

Other type of Picolit wine is the passitowhich is created with a straw-yellow in colour and with scents of honey and vanilla one can smell candied fruit and almonds. In dulcis fundu we have the  Botrytised Picolit with the presence of noble mould .

This wine should be tried by visiting wine cellars in the Colli Orientali, where you can also taste local products.

There is an unmistakably characteristic wine among the Friulian wine aristocracy, this is Picolit. It is obtained from the grapes of the vine of the same name, which are mostly lightly dried; its flavour is generally sweetish, but sometimes also sweet, harmonious, with a consistent texture, very pleasant

"to compete with the best wines from dessert known today',

as Talo Cosmo states in his monumental work The main wine grape varieties.

How much did a bottle of Picolit cost in the past?

Picolit, in the best vintages, was sold at a zecchino a bottle, which. in today's currency, is equivalent to 10 euros a bottle, but taking into account the greater purchasing power that gold had in the eighteenth century, the price appears even higher, around 25 euros a bottle.

Count Asquini was Astemio?

Count Asquini, who ironically was a teetotaler ('but it was good fortune,' notes Chino Ermacora in his book Wines in the shade - otherwise he would have emptied the domestic cellars by himself'), he had the merit of starting the trade of this wine in 1762, at first known only to a small circle of local amateurs. A cultured and refined man (he had bottles specially cast in Murano that bore the imprint of Fagagna Castle), he followed his vineyards with love.

The most quoted wine in history

The wine was highly esteemed at the courts of France, Great Britain, Russia and Vienna, so much so that the Emperor of Austria declared it better than any other. Highly esteemed at the court of the popes, the Picolit, then called Piccolitto, was preferred by the cardinals to all the other fine wines coming out of the Vatican cellars.

picolit pope in rome drank picolit

Picolit was known, sought after and appreciated at the papal court, so much so that, on 29 June 1765, Monsignor Giuseppe de Rinaldis wrote to its producer Count Asquini:

Your Piccolito was tasted at the Castel Gandolfo holiday resort... other fine wines were left behind in comparison with it and there were people with the most refined taste in this genre among Cardinals Torrigiani, Peroni, Gian Francesco Albani and His Excellency the Marquis d'Aubeterre, ambassador to France.

Picolit remains among the 'other wines' stored in the cellars of Castel Gandolfo where some of the world's finest wines were produced at the time.


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