1976 was a big year for Schioppettino and me. It heralded the rebirth of the endangered Friulian grape variety, while that baking English summer was my first on this earth. The winery of Giovanni Dri, at the foot of Il Roncat mountain near Italy’s border with Slovenia, was obliterated by a huge earthquake in 1976, the same year that Paolo and Dina Rapuzzi won the first Nonino Risit d’Aur award, set up to encourage those in Friuli who persevere with endangered indigenous varieties.
The endeavours of the Rapuzzi family and other local growers led to Schioppettino being added to the list of permitted varieties in the province of Udine in 1981. Nine years later, Giovanni Dri’s faith and hard work paid off when he managed to construct a new winery.
And then nothing happened until 2014, when I got my first taste of Schioppettino.
A name that cool clearly needs some kind of explanation. It apparently derives from the verb schioppettare, a variation of scoppiettare, which means to pop or crackle. Scoppietta, meanwhile, is Italian for musket (sic; we’re talking guns now, not grapes), so Schioppettino (skyo-peh-TEE-no) roughly means gunshot or little crackler. It probably owes the name to the way its thick-skinned berries explode when you bite into them.
I felt an explosion of recognition when I smelt the wine and it was somewhat unexpected. It put me back in England, in the country, a childhood summer. A dual impression of coolness and comfort – leafy, floral, peppery and breezy, with wafts of wild berries ripe for the picking. It was much more than nostalgia that made me love the wine. But I defy anyone to remain unmoved by that evocative perfume.
Fittingly, it was made by a guy who calls himself a dreamer. Giovanni Dri hails from Ramandolo, home of the eponymous sweet white wines from the Verduzzo grape. Dri initially established his winery in 1968 and his website, in poetically rustic translation, suggests a man seeking with proud determination to express his birthplace. “I don’t like false appearances; I’m as I look, a truthful man,” he says. “I was born here in Ramandalo, at the foot of the mountain and maybe for this reason I have a rocky face.”
He’s actually quite handsome. And perhaps he’d crack a smile at the thought of faraway converts to the Schioppettino cause.
Dri Schioppettino Monte dei Carpini 2009 Colli Orientali del Friuli
Medium ruby towards garnet and holding its colour well. The nose is pronounced with lifted forest fruits, hedgerow, violets and pepper. The entry is sweet with blackberries and the palate cool and medium bodied, with fresh, pippy bramble fruit and plum flowing with those counterpoints of leafiness and peppery spice. It’s high in tannins but these are fine and tamed by time, while a sharp lick of natural acidity gives a vibrant finish and length. Drinking wonderfully now, I can see it evolving nicely over the next five to eight years. Drink it with pappardelle and duck ragu (or wild boar if you can hunt one down).
Costs $65.50 at Enoteca Sileno – Alcohol 13.5% – Tasted 18/03/14