Mario Schiopetto was the Biondi Santi of Friuli. Since the founding of the estate in 1965, Schiopetto has been at the vanguard of the modernization of white wine production in Italy and was instrumental in the current reputation of Friuli for world-class whites.
Mario Schiopetto was also an early adopter of sustainability as a driving force to farming, focusing on soil health and biodiversity from the early days. The winery also takes a close to carbon-neutral approach in attempting to ensure appropriate unplanted land on the estate with forests to act as carbon sinks. In 1989 Mario acquired lands that used to belong to the church that have now become prime vineyard sites.
Sadly, Mario Schiopetto died in 2003 and his children took over the estate until 2014 when it was sold to the Rotolo family.
Today, the style that Schiopetto pioneered is part of a larger framework and discussion, with oxidative wines such as those by Gravner seeing a resurgence, and many other fine producers adding their own stamp to the reductive or oxidative approaches, including many in between. But it’s important to remember the history to understand where the region is today.
Friulian Terroir and Reductive Winemaking
The terroir in Friuli is known as “Ponca”, or a mix of clay and limestone. The region is gently hilly and abuts Slovenia, making for a unique microclimate caught between mountains and the Adriatic, which creates a unique wind system that keeps grapes healthy. Growing seasons are also long and cool, allowing for powerful, dry, whites.
As discussed, Mario Schiopetto believed in reductive wine-making in order to express terroir. He wanted clean, precise fruit and brightness to couple with the inherent power of the wines made in this region. As such, Schiopetto winemaking begins reductive in stainless steel. Oxygen exposure continues to be carefully controlled throughout the ageing process. There is a dedicated room to nurturing indigenous yeasts at the estate known as “Mario’s room”. Here the winery experiments with growing indigenous yeast colonies and understanding further their influence on the wine and then using those colonies in the fermentation process.
The Friuliano from Schiopetto is the most prototypical of what top wine from both Collio and Schiopetto tastes like. It is also an ideal entry-point for those seeking to understand the history of top-quality wine-making in Friuli, which owes much to Mario Schiopetto’s philosophy and technique. It is a medium-acidity, textured wine that becomes full bodied on the palate. At all times it is precise, clean and expressive. The wine is gently pressed and no SO2 added until bottling. Fermentation and ageing is reductive in stainless steel, with the wine seeing 8 years on its lees. While stainless steel is common today and some even decry it in favour of concrete, it’s important to recall that Mario Schiopetto was the first to use stainless steel in the region back in the 1960’s and it was this use that modernized the wine-style to being fresh and non-oxidative.
At 1.2g of residual sugar, this is a dry wine, but the fruit quality gives it good body. I put this wine in the camp of Austrian, German and Alsatian wines when it comes to the ability to pair with Asian foods. I found it was wonderful with homemade Vietnamese barbeque.
~$50 at Kits Wine