The History of Ronchi di Cialla
Beginning their winery in 1970, Paolo and Dina Rapuzzi dedicated their work to indigenous vines. Doing so was no easy task, however, as at that time many of the vines had been lost due to the introduction of Bordeaux varieties following the phylloxera epidemic. The Rapuzzis pursued their passion anyway and succeeded in not only establishing an indigenous variety-only winery, but also in saving some of the local grape types for the region.
As their son Ivan explains, Friuli is one of the places in Europe with the greatest biodiversity as it sits where the Alps intersect the Balkans and the Mediterranean via the Adriatic. As a result, the Eastern side of Friuli offers a blend of a Mediterranean and alpine climate. One grape in particular, Schioppettino does very well under such conditions, showing in its character the wild fruit of the mountains with the freshness of the sea. The Rapuzzis played a crucial role in establishing Schioppettino’s current strength in Friuli–the only area of the world where it has a foothold.
When the Rapuzzis established Ronchi di Cialla in 1970 Schioppettino was almost entirely gone from the region. Paolo and Dina responded by hunting through the surrounding hillsides for feral vines of indigenous grapes. They succeeded in locating about 60 such vines of Schioppettino from many different areas. They took cuttings and with those made many more plants.
According to Paolo, scientists have studied the genetic makeup of Schioppettino and found that there are so many clones within their one subzone that it would seem to originate there in Friuli within the Prepotto area.
We were lucky enough to taste a lot of Schioppettino during our visit to Colli Orientali, including those of the producers of the Schioppettino di Prepotto–an association dedicated to establishing and maintaining the quality of Schioppettino within the valley of Prepotto.
During our lunch with the Rapuzzis at Ronchi di Cialla we were also able to taste their famous white blend–Ciallabianco, made of the indigenous grapes Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo friulano, and Picolit; their Refosco; and finally their dessert wine Verduzzo. What a wonderful treat!
Thank you to the Rapuzzi family for hosting us during a wonderful lunch!
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To read more on Schioppettino and even see a video of how to properly pronounce the grape name, check out @dobianchi‘s post on the variety here: http://dobianchi.com/2012/04/10/schioppettino-the-next-big-thing-history-of-its-revival-and-fortune/
For comparisons to other Schioppettino, see my review of a vertical tasting of the varietal from Ronco del Gnemiz follow this link: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/04/06/ronco-del-gnemiz-schioppettino-vertical-1988-1989-1994-1996-1999-2006-2009-2010/
Photos of our lunch with the Rapuzzis can be seen here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/04/09/pictures-looking-back-a-7-day-tour-of-colli-orientali-del-friuli-days-1-3/
More on how Paolo and Dina began their winery can be read here: http://wakawakawinereviews.com/2012/04/02/lunch-at-ronchi-di-cialla-meeting-the-man-with-whom-it-began/
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