Why Raccaro is Essential
My favorite wine research trips are the ones where I can combine a consortium-led educational event with my own explorations. You start with a 50,000-foot view of the area, its grapes, its wines, its producers, its potential, and then you dive into the areas that interest you most. Sometimes on these trips, a producer emerges who is a cut above the rest, and in Collio in November 2022, that producer for me was Raccaro.
At three different tasting events, I navigated through exquisite wines of precision, detail and diversity, and then that stout-shouldered bottle with the little golden church on the label would be poured and we would have our winner. Sadly, I had not scheduled an independent appointment with Luca Raccaro and his family, but that only means there will be a next time.
Raccaro's "Rolat" Collio Friulano and Collio Bianco blend are two wines that you ought to cellar and watch evolve. But you won't have to wait long: just three or four years after vintage, they seem to achieve a kind of complexity we often only see in the white wines of Burgundy, the Loire and Alsace. And as if to say "now check this out," Raccaro's single red wine — a Collio Merlot — redefined for me how this grape ought to be navigated. Why would you ever mess around with Tuscan Merlot if you could have Raccaro instead?
The winery is lead by Dario Raccaro and his sons, Paolo and Luca. They tend to vines at the foot of Mount Quarin, a hulking hillside speckled with churches and vines in Collio's beating-heart town, Cormons. Luca told me that his great-grandfather moved to the United States in the 1920s to work in a copper mine following the devastation of World War I — a conflict that was particularly brutal in this part of Europe. He moved back to Cormons to breathe life into the family farm, and by the 1970s and 1980s, the family was bottling their own wines. But it was Luca's father, Dario, who put Raccaro on the fine wine map, and their wines command the respect of those in-the-know in Friuli. Hunt them down and find out why for yourself.
Cormons, Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Grapes: Friulano, Malvasia, Merlot
Appellations/Cru: Collio DOC
American Importer: Jan d'Amore Wines
Originally listed: November 2022
Wines to Seek Out
Raccaro "Rolat" Collio Friulano
Friuli's diversity of wine grapes and styles is staggering, and while on one level that is a good thing, it can often dilute the narrative on what truly stands out in this region.
Some have made the argument that Friulano (formerly called Tocai) is the signature grape, particularly in the Collio DOC. The wine that makes the most convincing claim to Friulano's prowess is Raccaro's "Rolat," particularly with a few years of age under its belt. Here, the grape's hidden power comes to the fore with a compelling nose swirling with bright strawberry and tea-like tones. With time, "Rolat" loosens up and offers a generosity and length on the palate that screams for experimental food pairings, and here is where that claim to superiority comes in: sure, macerated Ribolla Gialla, layered Pinot Bianco and even vivacious Vitovska could top the podium, but none of them come close to Friulano's versatility at the table. "Rolat" makes this fact abundantly clear with its sorta salty, ever-so-persistent finish.
Raccaro Collio Bianco
As a monovarietal, single-vineyard wine, the "Rolat" Collio Friulano can be seen as Raccaro's terroir-centric wine. The Collio Bianco, however, is where the craft comes in.
Across the Collio DOC, the Bianco category is an open-ended invitation to blend and allow the producer to make their mark on a signature house-style wine. Some lead with Sauvignon Blanc, others with Pinot Bianco, but at Raccaro, it is not surprising which grape takes the lead: Friulano. Complemented by Ribolla Gialla as well as some Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc, this beautiful bianco is the epitome of "summer serious." With its peachy tones and lemon-like crispness, it'll have you craving a balmy night on the patio even in the dead of winter. But its broad-shouldered texture, it thrilling layers of acidity, and its propensity to age well demand a different kind of attention as well. Yes, you can meditate on a wine in July. Or make a blended white the centerpiece of a holiday meal in winter. "Either way," says this Collio Bianco.
This was the wine that convinced me to list Raccaro as an Essential Winemaker of Italy.
Raccaro Collio Merlot
It would be easy to see the Merlot at Raccaro as an after-thought. The Lone Ranger on the red wine spectrum — and from an over-planted, often-mistreated international variety, too — it would be understandable why one might not see the point. But this is Collio, and as Dario Raccaro demonstrates expertly here, Merlot from the region's ponca soil takes on a level of elegance we hardly ever see in the wider world. And this is one of the region's very best. With startlingly deep tones of raspberry and plum, as well as swirls of leafy, herbaceous beauty, this Merlot has a persistence and intrigue that never fatigues.
Dare I say it? "Step aside, Saint-Émilion."