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2015 Ribolla di Gialla, Marco Sara, Udine
Marco Sara is a young Friulano producer whose family and 7 hectares of vines and 4 hectares of woods are located just north of Udine at Savorgnano del Torre, on the western of the Colli Orientali del Friuli – a pre-Alps range of hills that separate Friuli from Slovenia.
Here, at between 75 – 300 msl, the marne (‘ponca’) and sandstone slopes favour Marco Sara’s white and red indigenous grape varieties Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Picolit, Verduzzo, Schioppettino, Refosco, along with some Cabernet Franc.
Marco took over the reins of his family cantina in 2000, making the switch from selling off in bulk to bottling the fruit himself. In 2005 the estate became organic; it was also the year when he first bottled sweet wines Picolit and Verduzzo. He makes small quantities of hand-made wine, using organic fruit and wild yeast. These are authentic fine wines that speak of an indigenous grape, that respect and reflect local tradition and territory.
Ribolla Gialla is an ancient north-eastern Italian white grape. It is traced back to the 13th century and to the province of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, in particular the Colli Orientali del Friuli and Collio DOCs. The grape is also cultivated in Slovenia, where it is known as Rebula, and on the Greek island of Kefalonia, from where it originated in the 14th century, known as Robola. Ribolla Gialla is not related to the red grape from the Fruili region, Ribolla Nera, which is also known as Schioppettino.
In the mid 1980s, many Ribolla Gialla vines in Fruili were replaced with more commercial international varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, but the recent revived interest in indigenous varieties has resulted in new plantings.
Admired for producing light-medium bodied, unoaked wines with floral aromatics and a stony, citrus palate. It is a white wine that perfectly accompanies oysters, and grilled seafood.
Along with Collio, Colli Orientali del Friuli is the finest DOC zone in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Situated in the Julian Alps on the border with Slovenia, much of its quality is down to its calcareous and sandstone landscape and 400m altitude. High planting densities, older vines, poor soils (especially compared to the flood plains below) and a challenging continental climate all assist in achieving lower yields and greater concentration in the wines.
Perhaps surprisingly, Sauvignon Blanc is the king of the whites here, producing fuller bodied but also taut and minerally examples. Indigenous varieties Ribolla Gialla and (Tocai) Friulano follow hot on its heels. The reds are led by the Refosco grape which achieves blackberry richness alongside a minerally poise. Next best is Pignolo, the regions answer to Nebbiolo, while Merlot runs a close third.
Recommended producers: Canus, Davino Meroi and Miani
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