I can confirm that I have rapidly become a fan of a little-known Italian red grape variety called Schioppettino that hails from north-eastern Italy, in the region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia towards the Slovenian border. In skilled hands it delivers floral-nuanced black cherry fruit, with a fresh, juicy palate, surprisingly silky in texture with complex notes of spice, and all at an alcohol level that barely pushes 13 degrees. You might recall that we offered an example from Ronchi di Cialla last year? Well, I have just tasted another outstanding example, which to my mind only serves to validate Ian d’Agata’s statement on vinous.com that ‘Friuli Venezia Giulia’s Schioppettino is one of the world’s most interesting and potentially great red grape varieties’.
Giovanni Dri’s Monte dei Carpini Schioppettino is a beautiful wine from a vineyard that faces fully south at 350 to 370 metres above sea level. Situated 20 kilometres north of Udine, the ‘Monte dei Carpini’ vineyard is sheltered from the cold winds by the Mount Bernadia, which forms a natural amphitheatre. In such a location, Schioppettino enjoys a long growing season, harvested as it invariably is in the second week of October - this represents the north-eastern extremity of Italian viticulture afterall. To be clear, this is a mountainous area, where vineyards cling to steep slopes – and to be frank, there are far less challenging places to cultivate vines. Wines from the region may have been mentioned back in history, and his family may have been producing wine for generations, but it is Giovanni Dri who realised the potential of this site and has subsequently founded an estate that today ranks among the finest of Friuli, namely Il Roncat.
Schioppettino’s roots date back to the 13th century and very little of it remains planted today – by the 1970s, there was no estate producing a varietal Schioppettino. It is only thanks to the vision and efforts of a number of growers that this variety was saved from extinction. The variety relishes cooler microclimates and can struggle in hot vintages as it has relatively thin skins. Having tasted a few examples now, I can say that the best capture violet-scented fruits, notes of blueberry and dark cherry and the palate can reveal a fine freshness with very sleek, refined tannins. What I really like about the variety is none of the structural components seem to be too prominent – tannins and acidity in perfect balance. The other thought that occurs to me is that these wines have a juicy, ripe fruit but they are never overblown, they are wonderfully elegant, and you get the sense that the fruit had the chance to ripen fully without the pitfalls of higher alcohol or any headiness. In such a climate, and with such a variety, these pitfalls are easily avoided. As I have mentioned before, there is a sneaky concentration to these wines and they tend to open well with air to show fine depth and intensity of flavour, so decanting is advised. Some critics find a spicy, peppercorn character – it is true this can be present in some, but with this example I find exotic spice rather than peppery nuances. The effortless nature of this variety is truly captivating, leading me to cite Ian d’Agata once more: ‘in the right hands Schioppettino is able to weave an uncanny amount of liquid magic’.
Please see below for my full note as well as Ian d’Agata’s endorsement from vinous.com.