Ronchi di Cialla
For 46 years, the family-run Ronchi di Chialla has made superb wines from indigenous grapes such as Refosco, Ribolla Gialla, Verduzzo, and Picolit. In the seventies, the Rapuzzi family restored and revitalized the Schioppettino grape from near extinction, defying the odds and local wine laws. The estate-owned Cialla valley, one of three sub-zones in Colli Orientali del Friuli, is a pristine area surrounded by woods providing ideal conditions for the indigenous grapes. The historic winery leads the way in agriculture innovation and chemical-free farming techniques.
Ronchi di Cialla's policy for vineyards is all their guide for the winemaking process. We strongly believe that wine is an “earth product”, which comes from natural transformation processes that do not require any external action or manipulation. Therefore our role as wine makers is to accompany wine through its transformation and refinement processes without forcing any procedure, trying to assist and enhance its typical cru features.
The making of red wines
The red grapes reach the wine cellar and are immediately separated. They are then made to ferment inside a steel container where maceration takes place; during this process two different ‘délestages’ per day take place in order to solve tannins and stabilize colour. After 20-25 days this phase is over and wine is taken to ‘barriques’ where malolactic fermentation is completed; it then rests on its own sediments for at least one year. The wood ‘cuvee’ consists of 50% new barriques every year and 50% barriques, which have already been used – but in one cycle only. The addition of sulphurous anhydride (always in very low proportions) is made before the summer of the following year and then kept unchanged. Once refinement inside the oak barrels is over, wine is poured in bottles where it stays for a period of at least two years before being sold.
The making of white wines
The white grapes reach the wine cellar and are immediately separated and pressed. After a first decantation, the must thus obtained is made to ferment on its own sediments inside ‘barriques’ and stays there for approximately 11 months. The wood ‘cuvee’ consists of 25% new ‘barriques’ and the rest consists of ‘barriques’ used for 2 cycles maximum – in decreasing percentages. Once refinement inside oak barrels is over, the wine is poured into bottles where it stays for a period of at least 6 months before being sold.
Raisin wines (Picolit)
This winemaking process dates back to an ancient tradition in Friuli according to which, ever since the XVII century, Picolit was considered one of “…the most precious wines, which distinguished themselves at the courts of kings and queens all over Europe ….”
Tradition teaches us that a few days before harvesting, when grapes are still on the vine –– it is necessary to cut the shoots supporting grape bunches for a first partial withering of the grapes on the plant (this operation, in the Friuli language has been known as “tajà lis strezzis” “to cut off locks”). Then grapes are harvested and put – by one layer only – into suitable wood cassettes, half of these grapes are set up in a naturally ventilated room to wither at length – until mid December, with a decrease in weight of 60% as a result.
The must thus obtained contains a high concentration of sugars and extracts, it is made to ferment in small oak barrels, so that fermentation can continue until the following spring. It is then put together with the remaining Picolit and, after a natural static decantation, this wine is poured into bottles for a long period of slow refinement before being marketed.
It is thus possible to get a great wine endowed with structure and roundness, as well as freshness and elegant floral fragrances: features of the famous Picolit wine of Cialla.
Wines improvement in ‘barriques’, with personalized wood dosing (French oaks) and stave toasting, makes Ronchi di Cialla one of the first companies in Italy, and the very first one as for white wines (1977), which adopted this ancient procedure of natural wine stabilization.
Such company choices allow high quality wines to be obtained, wines which express their strong personality and the typical properties of Cialla cru while aging.
The work carried out in the wine cellar is dealt with by the owners with the cooperation of the wine expert Roberto Cipresso.
The sunny slopes of the small Cialla valley have been planted with vineyards for centuries. History and tradition suggest that Verduzzo, Picolit, Ribolla Gialla, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso and Schioppettino were the most appreciated and popular vines. Schioppettino, in particular, is a variety, which is limited to an area spreading over a few kilometres of land between Cialla and Prepotto. This particular species, which had been about to disappear, was saved at the beginning of the 70's thanks to a bold and resolute decision made by Ronchi di Cialla.
The production of the Cialla cru grapes is controlled by a Decree issued by the Ministry of Agricultural Resources and published in the Official Bulletin n. 278 dated November 28th, 1995. The maximum production of grapes allowed per hectare is 6 tons of Schioppettino and Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso, 8 tons of Verduzzo and Ribolla Gialla and 3.5 tons of Picolit. Grape production per vine must not exceed 2 kg as far as red grapes are concerned, 2.7 kg for white grapes (Verduzzo and Ribolla Gialla) and 1.3 kg for Picolit grapes. However, out of company’s policy, the actual production is much lower and it never exceeds one kilo of grapes per vine.
A significant work has been done for years on older vineyards, at the present moment 4500 vines per hectare are being thickened and the sand bank being lowered based on the Guyot method. The new vineyards are organized following the Guyot principle with an investment on no less than 5000 vines per hectare. Great care is taken in new vineyards and research is carried out to find suitable graft-bearing stump to fit the different varieties and types of soil. Grafts, on the other hand, come from a meticulous mass selection carried out in our vineyards to get a significant improvement in quality while maintaining the natural genetic properties of our wines and respecting the typical features, which characterize them.
Ronchi di Cialla was one of the first winemakers to adopt integrated agriculture, with low environmental impact. As a matter of fact, all vineyards are planted with grass adopting natural methods; parasite control (both fungi and arthropods) is kept to its minimum degree by using highly transitory contact or biological products only, in order to get top quality grapes, which are totally free of chemical residues. Action to fight fungi is controlled by a computerized micro-climatic central unit; bugs are monitored by means of specific female pheromones traps.
The grape harvest is rigorously and accurately carried out by hand. Grapes are then carefully selected and quickly submitted to the wine making process.
All agronomic operations are dealt with by the owners with the cooperation of the well-known agronomist Pierpaolo Sirch.
Roncs, in the dialect of Friuli, means vinery cultivated hills. Cialla is a small valley facing from North-East to South-West, surrounded by woods with chestnut, oak and wild cherry trees, in the d.o.c. (controlled wine) Colli Orientali del Friuli area, and it is officially recognised – with a Ministerial Decree dated 30.10.95 – as cru CIALLA only for the cultivation of native vines from Friuli (white wines: Verduzzo, Picolit and Ribolla Gialla; red wines: Refosco dal Peduncolo rosso and Schioppettino) and the production of vintage wines.
Cialla has remained intact because it is a bit distant from other settlements, as it was in ancient times when it was called #ela. #ela, in the Slavic language that was spoken there, which means “Riviera”; it was given this name because it had such an exclusive and good micro-climate that even now olives grow there. The step terraces, carved out of the hills, perfectly located in terms of the directions they face for wine cultivation, go back to the times of the Patriarchate of Aquileia and the Republic of Venice, and according to deeply rooted local folklore, they were developed by Turkish prisoners.
To confirm that Cialla wines were already appreciated back then there are documents dating back to 1496 that state that the Honourable Cathedral Chapter used to purchase some of this wine every year. In 1970 a family run agricultural company was founded here – which was the passion of Paolo and Dina Rapuzzi and now continues with their sons Pierpaolo and Ivan – aiming to valorise ancient vineries of Friuli origin in accordance with a philosophy aimed at a selected production of extremely high quality wines.
In 1976, Paolo and Dina won the prestigious “Risit d’Aur” award for having saved the “Schioppettino” vinery from disappearing. The vine yards were planted on eocene marl soil – in rows in compliance with distances and orientations that are ideal for hill vineries. Pruning is carefully carried out and the fungicide treatments are controlled by a computerised micro-climatic unit which permits minimum treatment with non polluting products.
The grapes obtained this way, as the result of a limited yield imposed by cru Cialla rules, are selectively harvested at the right time and with the maximum amount of care to obtain a qualitatively perfect product. Vinification is carried out naturally in line with the philosophy of not forcing the transformation and aging phases, which always privileges the “typicality” given to cru wine.
The maturing of the wines in barrels with a personalised dosage of wood (French bay oaks) and toasted oak staves, makes Ronchi di Cialla wines among the highest quality Italian wines and absolutely the first white wines (1977) to use this old nature wine stabilisation process. Subsequently the wines are bottled; the bottles – which are numbered in sequence – are made to settle in the darkness of wine cellars until, thanks to long and undisturbed meditation, they mature fully. It is up to the sensitiveness and experience of the producers to look after them during their aging, so as to achieve the “right” taste, which from that moment onwards will increasingly develop the personality and typicality of cru Cialla over the years.
History of Schioppettino
The earliest written mentions of Schioppettino go back to 1282 on manuscripts now kept in the Albana Castle, in the Prepotto province. Historically, this grape has different names in different regions, according to the language of the land: Sclopetin (Friuli), Pocalza (Slovenia) and Ribolla Nera (Italy). Since its origins, Schioppettino has always been grown in a very small area on the southern hills of the Prepotto county. Traditionally, two “cru” stand out for quality: Cialla e Albana.
There were approximately a hundred or more local vineyards in Friuli and Schioppettino was quite well known and liked outside the region, its reputation reaching as far as central Europe. Unluckily, most of those vineyards were destroyed between 1800 and 1900 with the spread of terrible grape diseases like “oidio” and “fillossera”. Eventually, the cultivation was completely abandoned after World War I and II, as Cialla was close to the front line and workers were recruited in the army. After the war, traditional grapes were replaced with foreign types (Cabernet, Merlot, Blaufrankisch ecc.), which were easier to grow and more marketable, resulting in the loss of a range of indigenous kinds that was unique in the world!
In 1970, the Rapuzzi family bought a property in Cialla for the purpose of growing only local grapes. At that time, the only traces of Schiopettino were in ancient manuscripts and in the memory of the elders. Paolo and Dina Rapuzzi managed to find about 70 surviving vines in the valley and nearby, which enabled them to create a whole new vineyard and resuscitate Schioppettino.
From the very first test of wineyard, it was evident that Schioppettino would age perfectly and could match the best international grapes with its elegance, complexity and finesse.
Important stages in the development of the Schioppettino project in Cialla:
1970: Paolo and Dina Rapuzzi founded the Ronchi di Cialla vineyard with the intent of growing exclusively indigenous Friuli grapes and produce great ageing wines but had to face several technical and bureaucracy problems in order to recover the Schioppettino vines, whose cultivation, by the way, was no longer allowed legally as the grape itself was thought to be exhausted.
1976: the Rapuzzi vineyard received the first “Risit d’aur” award for bringing Schioppettino back into his natural habitat of Cialla di Prepotto in a rational way, in spite of the absurd laws stating its extinction. In the same here, its cultivation was declared legal again.
1977: first vintage of Schioppettino.
1978: on March 14th, a legal statement with the results of the 1977 vintage was released and made available to the press and connoisseurs confirming 35 hectolitres of Schiopettino had been produced and were currently fermenting before being poured in wooden oaks of 225 litres each to age for 6-8 months. According to this document, the texture of the liquid was remarkable and let foresee the wine distinguished character.
1983: the geographical boundaries of the original schioppettino’s valley of Cialla are established.
1989: Schioppettino became DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli.
1995: on the basis ofthe Law 164 waspublished in the Official Gazette no. 278/95 the disciplinary code of the Cialla. Until now this company ( Ronchi di Cialla )is known as the only one in Italy that produces winesfrom5 nativewineyards Schioppettino, Refosco from the Red Peduncolo, Ribolla, Verduzzo and Picolit.
2001: on January 12th, the 1986 and 1988 Schioppettino di Cialla were auctioned at Christie’s in New York along the best Italian and French brands.
19th and 20th of May 2001: in the presence of a publicnotary, the company Ronchi Cialla issues the “1st Call for topping up” for theprestigious vintages Schioppettino 1985’s and Verduzzo 1983’s.The Calla Companyproceeded with the operation of refilling a limited number of bottles: some owned byRapuzzi family , and others owned by othercustomers .
2002: June 8th marked the 25th anniversary of Schioppetino’s rebirth. Its evolution was displayed in a tasting for a selected experts commission through 6 signature vintages (’77. ’80, ’83, ’85, ’90 and ’98) which received a very positive feedback. The experts were impressed with the ever growing improvement of the product and the enhancement of its expression due to the long ageing periods.
10th May 2003: “2nd Call for topping up” . In the presence of a notary and ofRapuzzi Family are topped up: Schioppettino, Refosco dal peduncle Red, Picolit and Verduzzo vintage 1977. The refilled bottlesare property of the Ronchi of Cialla and of their most prestigious clients.