Carlo Schiopetto (Photo ©Tom Hyland)
The hillsides of the Collio district (the word Collio means “hill”), are the home of some of the most vibrant white wines in the world. Here, varieties such as Friulano, Sauvignon (Blanc), Ribolla Gialla, Pinot Bianco and Ribolla Gialla are farmed to small yields, resulting in deeply concentrated wines that define the soul of this lovely territory in far northeastern Italy. There are certainly several producers from Collio that are among the finest in all of Italy; given their long track record of success as well as their contribution of local wine tradition, Schiopetto is a logical place to start when listing the great Collio wine estates.
When Mario Schiopetto established his Collio estate in 1965, white wines from this area – and from Italy in general – were rather simple products at best and at worse, dull, slightly oxidized offerings that faded away in just a few years. Schipoetto wanted to produce more complex, more vibrant whites, so traveled first to Germany and France to learn how vintners there made their white wines. Combining these practices, he utilized new technology in his cellars, being among the very first in Italy to use temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks to preserve varietal aromatics as well as freshness and color.
Mario passed away in 2003, leaving his three children – twin brothers Carlo and Giorgio and sister Maria Angela – to continue his work. They have carried on brilliantly, as the Schiopetto white wines (there are also two reds produced) are wines of superb complexity, richness on the palate, brilliant varietal purity and notable structure. These are wines that drink beautifully upon release, but improve with 3-7 years in the bottle, depending on the variety as well as the particular vintage.
I recently tasted four of the Schiopetto 2010 whites and found that each wine offered complexity and tremendous style. The Pinot Bianco has lovely quince and apple aromas along with distinct spice; there is very good acidity and persistence and I’d expect this wine to drink well for another 3-7 years. The Blanc de Rosis, a blend of Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon, Malvasia and Pinot Grigio has inviting Anjou pear and tea leaf aromas, excellent persistence and a light nuttiness in the finish. This is an expressive, complex wine that should peak in another 5-7 years.
My two favorites Schiopetto whites are the Sauvignon and the Friulano. Sauvignon from Friuli is at its most interesting when it is a vigorous, almost assertive wine and in that respect, the 2010 Schiopetto succeeds marvelously. Brilliant light yellow with aromas of spearmint and Anjou pear, this is medium-full on the palate with wonderful texture and bright fruit. This receives no oak maturation, but is given 8 months of lees aging before bottling. There is vibrant acidity and excellent persistence. This is an excellent Sauvignon which will drink beautifully for the next 5-7 years.
My favorite of the Schiopetto whites from 2010 (and often my favorite every year, as it is a toss up between this and the Sauvignon) is the Friulano. Friulano is somewhat of a chameleon grape in this region, as local terroir is a key characteristic of this variety; I have tasted examples that are more fruit-driven, while others tend to feature more of a minerality. This has beautiful aromas of golden apple, Anjou pear, quince and chamomile; there is excellent persistence and vibrant acidity along with outstanding complexity. This is an outstanding wine and among the two or three very best examples of Friulano produced each year, a statement I make without any doubt and one that confirms the brilliance of the wines of this great winemaking family in Collio.
The wines of Schiopetto are imported in the US by Vintus, Pleasantville, NY.