Tasting from the Top of Ramandolo: The History of the Grape and the Place

Sandro Vizzutti, Azienda Agricola Vizzutti Sandro e Marco

“We’re in Ramandolo. Every vineyard here follows the contours of the mountain. The people that live here respect the shape of the mountain. This is one of the few places where the name of the place is also the name of the wine. It is also the northern most part of the region, and of the appellation Colli Orientali del Friuli. We say here we are a border appellation and also a frontier appellation. It is a very challenging viticulture, and everything has to be worked by hand.

“The first historical mention of this wine was in 1408 or 1409, the beginning of the 15th century, being served to Pope Gregory. With the wine being documented in the early 15th century, it must have been produced much earlier.

“The wine is very small production, only 15-16 hectares. It is all very labor intensive [because of the grape type, and also the landscape. These vineyards climb up mountain sides.], and all the technical knowledge has been passed verbally from father to son, father to son.

“A Verduzzo grape ripens very very late with harvest starting in November. Then, a light drying of grapes is done. Historically, after vinification took place, in almost every case fermentation was stopped by cold weather so that in spring wines had lower alcohol levels, and a nice level of residual sugar. This is how we make the wine.

“Now, to make a technical point, even though I am not a fan of technical information. Ramandolo is made from a white but very tannic grape, Verduzzo. At the University of Udine, Professor Testoline did genetic mapping of these vines and its relatives, has sorted out how these vines have traveled. As a result, we know that the closest genetically linked grapes to Verduzzo, which is used to make Ramandolo, are all red grapes. So, it is believed that at some point there was a spontaneous mutation that turned a red grape into the white Verduzzo.

Any old producer will tell you that the best wine in the world is Ramandolo. Now, I can’t say that. I haven’t tasted every wine in the world.

Ramandolo is a wine that more than any other reflects the character and personality of the Friulian people. Imagine any where you are in the world there on the side is a bottle of Ramandolo. Then you walk by. Maybe you notice the bottle. Maybe you don’t. Eventually, you see the light reflect through the color of the bottle.

“This is just what it is like, the Friulian people. We do not try to stand out. But, people keep walking by, and eventually notice us, see the color and light of the bottle, and we get to know each other. We open the bottle. The wine, just like the Friulano, at first does not tell you much. it has a delicate, more subtle aroma. It is an aroma intended for noses that want to get to the bottom of what it is. To get to know what it is, you pour it into the glass, and then the wine becomes more intriguing. You have the courage to take a sip. Only in this sip do you realize a friendship has been made, and you learn more with every sip. It is a taste of generations–of parents, of grandparents, of ancestors.”

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