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Essential Winemakers of Italy ©Opening a Bottle

Prepotto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia

Primary Grapes: Schioppettino, Ribolla Gialla, Friulano

Primary Appellations: Colli Orientali del Friuli DOC

American Importer: SoilAir Selection



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Why Ronchi di Cialla is Essential

Of Italy’s many indigenous grape varieties, none occupy the same terrain on the palate as Schioppettino. It is peppery like Syrah, lean and seductive like Pinot Noir, and it satisfies the same mood that a brilliant Cabernet Franc inspires. It lacks the sour-fruit profile and “meatiness” that define so many Italian red wines, and it certainly doesn’t spring a trap of coarse tannins on you. No, Schioppettino’s “Italianness” lies in its story: a misunderstood, forgotten hermit of Friuli that was lovingly protected and brought back from the dead largely because of a single family: the Rapuzzis of Ronchi di Cialla. In the 1970s, they stared down an effort to ban plantings of Schioppettino and steadily put their heart and soul into understanding this local grape and its fine wine potential. To say they succeeded is an understatement. Their Schioppettino di Cialla is among the most sought-after collectible wines from Friuli.

The Rapuzzis’ gift of salvaging Schioppettino from likely extinction might be enough to land them on my list of essentials — I adore fine Schioppettino as much as nearly any wine in Italy. But the Rapuzzis also make exceptional wines from a broad spectrum of Friuli’s wine-grape larder, making them easily one of Northeast Italy’s top producers. Their dry Ribolla Gialla is one of my favorite Friulian wines, and my Friulano epiphany (i.e. Oh, now I get this grape…) came courtesy of them. A Biodiversity Friend certification shows they’re in it for the long haul. Reward them by buying their exquisite wines.

Wines to Seek Out

Ronchi di Cialla Friuli Colli Orientali Schioppettino di Cialla

Ronchi di Cialla’s masterpiece is their Schioppettino di Cialla, a wholesome and artful red wine from the small, cool-climate valley they call home. In its youth, it shows tart blackberries and peppercorn, with an even-keel that invites immersion. As it ages, the fruit and flower tones resemble dried version of themselves, with a rugged, leathery quality to lend it gravitas. It can age for 12 to 20 years.

Ronchi di Cialla Friuli Colli Orientali Ribolla Nera

In Ronchi di Cialla’s portfolio, Ribolla Nera is just Schioppettino Junior, although the name is technically a synonym for the grape. More reminiscent of an alpine wine with its snappy texture and currant-like fruit, it harbors a surprising amount of complexity. An ideal match with smoked cheeses.

Ronchi di Cialla Friuli Colli Orientali Ribolla Gialla

This version of dry Ribolla Gialla is inexhaustible. It goes and goes and goes, and doesn’t seem to be gone even when the bottle is empty. Envision a Chardonnay that fancies itself as a hazelnut, and you will have a small idea of what its tones are like.

Ronchi di Cialla Collio Friulano

White wines rarely deliver an unctuousness like this, and when they do, it is often the mark of exceptional skill in the winery. The structure and slippery texture of Ronchi di Cialla’s Friulano speak to their craftsmanship as well as this grape’s potential. Bursting with tones reminiscent of quince, tart strawberries, beeswax and hay, it harbors a deceptive amount of complexity that might not arrive with the first few sips. Give it time.

Added January 2021.

Visiting Ronchi di Cialla

Contact the winery ahead of time to inquire about visitation and tasting.

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