Friulan is one of the few Italian dialects to enjoy the status of ‘language’, and if there’s one word that’s banished from a Friulan dictionary, that word is “Tocai”, a wine which used to represent an entire community.
At the origin of the word’s forced withdrawal is its assonance with the name of a Hungarian grape variety. For this reason, the European Commission ruled that the last Italian vintage of “Tocai” would be in 2008; thereafter, the same wine bubbling in the vats would simply be called “Friulano”. Although the time-honoured Hungarian Tokaji is indeed also a white wine, it’s a strong, (and sometimes sweet) nectar, extremely unlike the dry, almond-accented Italian wine. It’s hard to get the two mixed up. However, being a wine nursery, Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy’s north-easternmost region) will probably get its own back for this ‘de-naming’ in the near future because it produces 80% of Italy’s grape vine rooted cuttings, 30% of the European Union’s, and 25% of the world’s.
This doesn’t detract from the fact that some decisions taken by the powers that be seem to come pelting down on us like crazy marbles. On the other hand, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”, so William Shakespeare tells us (no, not the Hungarian one).
St Albertus Magnus