Il Carpino, the true character of the Ribolla Gialla

Azienda Agricola Il Carpino

In many occasions, we have been talking about our favorite white varietal, the Italian Ribolla Gialla, because it adapts so well to a wide array of styles: dry, off-dry, sparkling, young dry, sweet and especially skin-macerated or Orange wine. We have enjoyed Orange wines produced with different varieties: Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Traminer, Rkatsiteli, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Albillo Real, Malvasia or Moscatel among others, but the way Ribolla displays in an Orange wines is just wonderful for us. The Ribolla is an autochthonous variety of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia in Italy, especially in the Eastern side of it, where many producers are located. And if there is a special place for producing Ribolla Gialla wines, we have to go to Oslavia (Gorizia), where, as my loyal reader knows, resides the Associazione Produttori Ribolla Di Oslavia, whose objective is promoting the Ribolla di Oslavia (macerated Ribolla Gialla) and make Orange wines known as much as possible. They want to demonstrate that organic and natural winemaking techniques can live with high quality wines. Six wineries form this association and today we will talk about one of them: Il Carpino.

The helms of this Azienda Agricola are held by the Sosol family, and they keep their business tightly inside the family. Parents Ana and Franco and children Naike and Manuel are in charge of everything. Headquarters are just outside Oslavia, in Borgo del Carpino, near the Slovenian border. Their approach to viticulture is not totally organic but they try to keep use of chemical products down to the minimum possible. Quality, and not quantity, is their objective, and to reach it they reduce the quantity of grape harvested by accurate pruning and drastic thinning out the bunches after they have flowered. Yields are kept in check with a guyot pruning that leaves only five or six buds per cane. No chemical fertilizers are used, and spraying against vine diseases is kept to minimum levels using products with a low impact on the environment even if the property has not yet succeeding in utilizing a strictly biological methods.

The Sosols produce two lines of styles. A fresh one, with young wines vinified in steel tanks called Vigna Runc. These wines are natural wines, without any synthetic add-on, no technique and using sulfites as less as possible.

The Riserva or Selection wines are named Il Carpino. Also natural wines, this line includes the skin-macerated or orange wines. As we will see next, they have a particular way of ageing the wines. After fermentation in skin contact, the wine is pressed and then it goes to big Slavonian botti. After this, the wine is transferred into steel tanks and finally, the affinamento takes places in bottle for a period of time that varies with each wine. These wines are the top end of the winery, made in complete balance with the soil and the character of the varieties, looking for leaving the wines as they are, not manipulating them with cellar processes such as clarification, filtering or correcting them.

Il Carpino line has five single varietal wines:

Il Carpino Chardonnay, skin-macerated for seven days with an ageing of 12 months in botti di Slavonia, 11 months in steel tank and 36 months in bottle.

Il Carpino Ribolla Gialla, skin-macerated for forty-five days in tronco-conical oak botti. Ageing takes place 12 months in botti di Slavonia, 11 months in steel tanks and 24 months in bottle. The vintage 2012 had a maceration of 55 days, then it stayed 24 months in oak and 24 months in bottle

Il Carpino Malvasia, skin-macerated for seven days with an ageing of 12 months in botti di Slavonia, 11 months in steel tank and 24 months in bottle.

Il Carpino Vis Uvae, skin-macerated Pinot Grigio for ten days with an ageing of 12 months in botti di Slavonia, 11 months in steel tank and 24 months in bottle.

Il Carpino Exordium, skin-macerated Friulano for ten days with an ageing of 12 months in botti di Slavonia, 11 months in steel tank and 24 months in bottle.

Il Carpino also includes a red blend, Rosso Carpino. As it is very common in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, this blend is based on Merlot, which is an 80% of it while the remaining 20% is Cabernet Sauvignon. As opposed to the other wines, the Merlot ages in big botti for 18 months while the Cabernet ages the same period but in barrels.

Nature and vinification Process

The best vineyards of Il Carpino have a very special characteristic: its soil is Ponka-based. Ponka is a marlstone that can only be found here in Friuli. The top part of the soil is a derivative of limestone with a lot of iron. Underneath it lays solid limestone formations derived from fossilized sealife. Ponka is located deep in the earth. When the ponka reaches the surface, the exposition to sun and rain break it and it returns to earth in the form of a soft soil, rich with microorganisms and very useful to the vines. Ponka has a high percentage of fossil; this allows the roots of the vine to go down searching for nurture assimilating everything the vine needs from the earth.

About Ribolla Gialla

The Ribolla Gialla grape adapts very well to the conditions it finds here. It is a very vigorous variety, especially when it starts to grow and it is capable of keeping its freshness even after 20 years of bottle. The Ponka-soil-born Ribolla offers its best character. After reaching a complete maturation in the vineyard and its harvest, the grapes are destemmed; the period of skin contact begins. It can be as long as fifty-five days depending on vintage.

The skin contact is important to extract the polyphenolic substances from the skin that contribute to give color, tannins, flavor, aromas and longevity to the wine.

During maceration, It is very important to be careful to not cover the variety and the terroir, something that back in the day used to happen with barrels. The character of the grape will be a little bit less fresh but the personality of the variety will not be lost. The maceration process will help protecting the wine because tannins are perfect antioxidant and the use of added sulfites is not necessary until the time of bottling the wine. The macerated wines are kept for one or two years in oak and some precipitation can occur. No filtration during bottling. The wine ages for two years in bottle before releasing in into the market.

The power of Collio is given by the Ribolla Gialla, the most important indigenous variety. Ribolla is the expression of this land, a grape that grows up in San Floriano and Oslavia for the last 1,000 years, even during the World War I when all the vineyards were destroyed. In the 1970s Ribolla was rediscovered and replanted again. San Floriano is a hilly area with a climate suitable for the cultivation of Ribolla Gialla. Not all the areas and all the climates are good for the growing of the Ribolla grape. The best exposition for its growth is South, South-West.

We will talk soon to Franco Sosol about his wines and his winemaking philosophy.

Photos (c) Azienda Agricola Il Carpino

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