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While some are tightening up their wine supply, others have even expanded it. Many winegrowers in the hill areas, but also on the plains, have planted Ribolla Gialla in recent years in order not to miss out on a lucrative business. Dario Ermacora: "In the Colli Orientali, most of them now produce a Ribolla Gialla Spumante to counter Prosecco." The white grape variety produces rather neutral, low-acid wines with little body, which are marketed both still and sparkling or effervescent.

Damiano Meroi: "For some time now, there has been a boom in Ribolla Gialla Spumante. Whoever cannot offer sparkling wine nowadays has difficulties selling their wines. And the Ribolla now sells almost by itself!"

Originally, the cultivation of Ribolla was limited locally, it originates from the hills in the municipalities of San Floriano and Oslavia in the Collio. For a long time, the grape variety had a wallflower existence here.

Carlo Schiopetto: "I think it's absurd that Ribolla is grown almost all over the region today. It is clear that it cannot give the highest quality everywhere. But everyone wants to have it in their range. As still wine, as sparkling wine, as sweet wine.... It completely loses its identity. In the past, Ribolla was only used as a blending wine to give freshness to other whites. My father was one of the first to vinify it as a single variety in the 1970s. But we don't grow it any more, because we don't think it can produce the quality we want for our wines. Ribolla is fashionable now, but like many fashions, this one will pass."

In Gorizia, bilingualism is part of everyday life. (Source: Merum)

"Orange Wines"

A special way of vinifying Ribolla Gialla has been developed over the last 20 years in the small village of Oslavia, near Gorizia. Most of the winegrowers' names in Oslavia are of Slovenian origin: Radikon, Gravner, Primosic, Princic... Among themselves, the winegrowers living here speak Slovenian, they feel connected to both countries, Slovenia and Italy. To understand the identity of this special group, one must also know the historical background of the region.

Oslavia had to search for its new identity after the First World War. Completely destroyed, it fell with Gorizia to Italy in 1918, after having belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy for centuries. The inhabitants, who until then had felt they belonged to the southernmost part of a country, now had to come to terms with their new role as the northernmost region.

Italianisation during fascism and the ban on the Slovene language were hard on them. Mussolini had street names, place-name signs and even surnames changed. The relationship with the neighbours in the Brda, the Slovenian part of the Collio, also suffered from this unwanted adaptation. The people of Oslavia lost all cultural support.

The situation worsened with the Second World War, the fronts between East and West hardened. It was not until the 1960s that contacts with the Yugoslavian population, especially with the town of Nova Gorica, Gorizia's sister town on the other side of the Iron Curtain founded in 1947, became more intensive again. The situation only normalised in 2004 when Slovenia joined the European Union.

"Orange Wine" shines in the glass. (Source: Merum)

For the first time we tasted a wine by Stanko Radikon at Vinitaly in Verona. We were immediately fascinated by his wines, which are so different from anything else we usually drink. They are neither white nor red, have matured notes, but still a certain fruitiness on the palate, although they are only released after six years. "Orange Wines" they are called, because of their uniquely beautiful colour, which is somewhere between bright orange and amber.

This current has no tradition in the Collio, it is rather the free interpretation of the winemaking of some producers. The most famous among them is Joško Gravner, who has caused a worldwide sensation with his amphora wines in the last ten years. The winemaker, known as an uncompromising maverick, was the first to understand how to put himself and his wines in the limelight at the beginning of the 1990s.

Whether Joško Gravner or Stanko Radikon, both started fermenting white wines with the skins at about the same time. In the Collio, there are now about ten winemakers who represent this style. In Slovenia, in the Brda, there are a few more who emulate Gravner & Co.

Saša Radikon, Stanko's son: "My grandfather already cultivated Ribolla Gialla in Oslavia. Fifteen years ago, however, the grape variety was almost non-existent in the region. For us, however, it was always something that set us apart from the others. It was just always a bit disappointing that so little of the wonderful grape characteristics were reflected in the wine. So my father started fermenting the wines with the skins."

To Part I of the report: "Small land of a thousand wines"

Part II of the report: "The Grave: Soy, Maize and... Wine"

Part III of the report: "Is Friulano the future?

Part IV of the report: "The wine from the hills".

Part VI of the report: "Barren coastal landscape".

All producers from Friuli in the wine guide

To the magazine article "White soil resources

To the "BEST OF Friuli white" (PDF document)

This article was made available to us by the Merum editorial team. Find out more about Merum, the magazine for wine and olive oil from Italy, here:
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