Ronchi di Cialla Ribolla Gialla 2017
Viticulture has thrived in Colli Orientali del Friuli since the reign of ancient Rome and today its verdant, rolling hills support a long list of autochthonous varieties, each playing a unique and important role in the modern Colli Orientali wine scene.
The region is primarily recognized for its white wines. Its indigenous varieties of Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo, Picolit and perhaps most importantly, Friulano are made into single varietal wines or blended, and often blended with the international varieties of Sauvignon blanc, Pinot grigio and Pinot bianco. The latter have been flourishing in the area since the 1800s. But it wasn’t until the 1970s when producers started using cold fermentation techniques to produce fresh, fruity, crisp and aromatic whites that this area began to attract international attention.
While reds only make up about a third of the area under vine, Colli Orientali is home to some of Italy’s most exciting and rare red wines. Refosco, Schioppettino, Tazzelenghe and Pignolo are among the autochthonous varieties while Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir also have a stronghold.
Colli Orientali holds much in common with its neighbor, Collio; the only thing dividing them is a political line. Both are influenced by the cooling effects of the Julian Alps and moderated by the Adriatic Sea. A unique soil of alternating marine layers called flysch also dominates Colli Orientali, providing a mineral-rich environment for vine roots and optimal water drainage.
The exact origins of Ribolla Gialla remain unclear, though it most likely came to Friuli before the 1200s by way of Slovenia, where it goes by the moniker, Rebula. Blanketing vineyard hillsides along the Italian-Slovenian border, unconcerned about which side it is on, this pink-skinned variety creates a range of styles from the crisp, dry, still or sparkling whites to the charmingly ephemeral, skin-contact orange wines. Somm Secret—If you’re into orange wines, go visit Collio’s Oslavia and Slovenia’s Goriska Brda regions. They are so close you’ll hardly know you’ve gone from one to the other.