Among Italy’s Red Giants, a Titan of White
Mario Schiopetto, and his eponymous estate continues to produce critically-acclaimed head-turners. James Suckling rated the 2015 Mario Schiopetto Friulano Collio 95 points and called it “gorgeous” and “superb,” while praising its stone fruit aromas, and intense spiciness. Gambero Rosso, Italy’s vigilant guardian of quality, gives it Tre Bicchieri (Three Glasses), their highest honor. It is one of the finest examples of Friulano.
There is a grainy black-and-white photo of ten well-dressed men, taken circa 1970, that looks like it could be in the card room at an Elks’ Lodge. The subjects are giants of Italian wine, bearing the noblest names and representing the most famed producers in Italy: Antinori, Ceretto, Gaja, Biondi Santi. Most of these stalwarts produced Italy’s most iconic reds, but the bespectacled titan in the middle crafted a game-changing still white. That man is Mario Schiopetto, and his eponymous estate continues to produce critically-acclaimed head-turners.
It may sound strange, but the late Schiopetto’s travels abroad as a truck driver are what enabled him to express the terroir of Friuli — Italy’s epicenter of fine white wine. He embraced French viticultural canons and German technology (cold-fermentation and stainless steel aging), which spurred the “Schiopetto Style.” It was this marriage of tradition and innovation for which Mario would become known, in Friuli and well beyond, after he first bottled “Tocai” from his now-esteemed Capriva estate in 1965.
Schiopetto continues Mario’s work by utilizing modern technology in concert with traditional techniques to bring forth the magic of their 75 acres in Collio and Friuli. The grapes in the 2015 Friulano are all hand-picked and soft-pressed, then decanted for a short time without additions of sulphur. After careful selection of yeasts, the wine undergoes a temperature-controlled cold-fermentation, followed by eight months on the lees.
The elegance and precise flavors and aromas are bottled proof that Schiopetto’s legacy is alive and well.