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."