John Paul Kaminga
The Greatest Italian Red You've Never Heard of: Schioppettino
Updated: Jul 19, 2022
Most of you have never heard of Schioppettino, but it is a grape well worth knowing. A bold and spicy red with great aging potential, Schioppettino is a legendary grape, highly-valued for centuries in the region around Prepetto in Friuli. By the 1970s it was virtually extinct, found scattered about Friuli and just over the border in Slovenia. One man, Paolo Rapuzzi, took it upon himself to collect dozens of distinct clones of Schioppettino and plant them at his home estate, Ronchi di Cialla. At this time Schioppettino was not recognized by the Italian government and it was technically illegal to plant it, but Rapuzzi went ahead anyway and had a few thousand Schioppettino vines planted before the grape became official and he was allowed to legally grow and produce wine from this special grape. Today Ronchi di Cialla's Schioppettino is an iconic red wine in Italy, though it still flies under the radar, perhaps because it is made in relatively small quantities. In a good year about 1000 cases are produced. Ronchi di Cialla holds back a significant quantity of wine, and every year they offer older wines from their "library" at very reasonable prices. Today we've got a special offer on their 1995 Schioppettino, as well as a more modest "every-day" Schioppettino that happens to be one of our best sellers.
Grillo Iole Schioppettino di Prepotto 2017 - $20
Although this is a rather fruity and juicy version of Schioppettino, it still shows the grape's serious structure and complex spicy personality. Aromas of red and black cherry, blackberry, blueberry, cracked peppercorns, violets, dried herbs and a hint roasted meat. Rich and textured on the palate, almost velvety, with fine tannins and lots of ripe dark fruit nuance, before turning zippy and tangy, with nice cut and grip, and lingering spicy notes. Grillo Iole is a small family operation, producing about 3500 cases a year, less than 1000 of which are Schioppettino. Between how delicious this wine is, and how little is made, it is an incredible bargain.
Ronchi di Cialla Schioppettino di Cialla 1995 - $75
Aromas of diverse herbs and spices, peppery cured meat, cocoa powder, freshly turned earth, dark cherry preserves, prunes... hints of cigar box and dried flowers. Mysterious and complex, after some reticence it opens slowly and steadily over a couple hours. Fresh and firmly dry on the palate, with lots of dark liqueur-like fruit nuance and complex spicy and herbal nuances. Long and complex finish, with so many spicy, herbal and floral notes to savor. This will be worth following for another 5 years, at least. This will be best with rich dishes. Try it with long braised meats, or red pepper and goat cheese enchiladas mole.