Ronchi di Cialla – A Unique Estate
Ronchi di Cialla in the North-Eastern part of Fruili, just a kilometre from the Slovenian border, is one of those rare single estate DOC designated areas for wine production. DOC stands for Denominazione di origine controllata, an Italian level of wine classification that normally takes into account all the estates in a certain wine-growing area of the country. In this case, that wine-growing area consists of a single estate – Ronchi di Cialla. It’s quite unique for a single estate to be the whole of a DOC area – the only other one that comes readily to mind is Sassicaia.
Pierpaolo Rapuzzi’s family started the estate in the early 1970s with an avowed intention of concentrating solely on indigenous grape varieties, particularly Schioppettino, which had almost become extinct. In the video, he explains the history and the philosophy of the estate and afterwards, we tasted three flights of his wines – current releases of young wines from young vines – Schioppettinos and Refoscos.
Here are the results with some brief tasting notes
Ribolla Gialla 2014
Pale colour and fermented solely in stainless steel. It’s quite fresh although there is a fairly rich mouthfeel and a nice balance between the fruit and the acidity. ★★✩ £D
Ribolla Nera 2012
Medium colour red, again fermented in stainless steel. Quite juicy but a little bit of a hard, green edge on the finish, perhaps emphasising the fact that this varietal does best on the cooler slopes of the vineyard. ★★ £D
This is much softer and smoother than the somewhat angular Ribolla Nera, reflecting that here, in contrast, Pignolo does best on warm, south-facing slopes. Two years in barriques, of which only 10% are new, gives a much warmer and fruitier feeling with some length on the finish. ★★✩ £E
This has matured a year in wood and a further 2 years in bottle before being commercially released. It displays lashings of forest summer red fruits that are wellbalanced with the underlying acidity giving it a good deal of vibrancy. ★★★✩ £E
There was a question over the first sample which might have been subjected to some cork taint. The second was better but still seeming rather rustic and lacking the finesse and the structure of the 2010. ★★ £F
This wine has matured nobly over the last 20 years and is now à point in its development. Succulent ripe forest fruits embrace a warm coating of the palate coupled with elegance and a long finish. ★★★★ £G
Mature and smooth, although this has the hint of just beginning to dry out, so it’s not for long keeping. Still, at 22 years old it still displays remarkable finesse and balance, although it does finish a little short. ★★★ £H
By contrast to Schioppettino, Refosco likes the warmth of south facing slopes and here the wine is characteristically more juicy and tangy. Quite full on the palate but perhaps lacking a little complexity on the finish. ★★✩ £E
This is really à point now with unctuous overtones of soft brambly summer fruit berries. Easy drinking now, this may not be a keeper, being a product of one of the hottest summers in recent record, but it’s length and complexity makes it a very more-ish proposition at the moment. ★★★★ £F
This has stood the test of time very well with flavours of dried rather than fresh red fruits. Smooth and mature, it still retains some vibrancy with ripe tannins enhancing the harmony of the wine. ★★★ £H
Like the 1990, this has held up very well although both are probably not for long keeping. Again, dried red fruits on the palate, firm tannins and fair length, keeps this going – for now. ★★★ £H
This is a very interesting experience for the advanced student of wine, but probably not for the average consumer. The price/quality ratio is not very high and the wines do have a distinctive taste, and as a result one can understand why it is that some indigenous grape varieties remain obscure. Absolutely wonderful to try whilst in the area, these wines will accompany local dishes such as the very thick polenta found there, with local wild mushrooms, truffles and cheeses, or the Hungarian-influenced goulash. (They were, after all, under the influence of the Hapsburgs for a very long time).