Giovanni Foffani originally set out to be an engineer, and he holds a master’s degree in business from Columbia University in New York. But when he inherited a 200-year-old wine estate in Clauiano, in the Aquileia region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the lure of winemaking in the area proved too tempting to resist. Aquileia itself is a Roman name describing that part of Friuli close to the Adriatic Sea, and the soil and climate there is superb. The area is currently undergoing a winegrowing renaissance, after being considerably expanded during the 1980s, and Clauiano is one of several villages currently under review for the quality category of cru (select growing zone).

Giovanni Foffani and his wife, Elisabetta, manage a sizeable estate by which the wines are sold under varietal names. Giovanni is especially proud of his Sauvignon Blanc, which has received both local and state awards in Italy. The Pinot Grigio and Tocai Friulano clearly show their area heritage. While the whites receive no oak aging, so as to preserve their freshness, many of the red wines are aged in selected French and Austrian oak, and benefit from a new process called micro-oxygenation. A precision device feeds tiny amounts of oxygen into the wine as it ages in cask, and adds aroma while softening the tannins. Proof of this success may be found in the barrique-aged Merlot Legno, which is an excellent example of the varietal. Another popular red wine is the delectable Refosco dal Peduncolo rosso, unique to Friuli, with a flavor and personality all its own.