The Ribolla Gialla, that wonderful variety
Many of us have a favorite singer, a favorite actor, a favorite writer… people or things that we like a lot, that we love because they mean a lot to us: that song we fell in love with, that book that made us imagine faraway worlds and adventures, that movie that made us feel like the person in the screen… I have a favorite one or two in all of these categories and many other favorite stuff, of course, but I’m not gonna talk about that now. I’m gonna talk about some other thing that I have as favorite. Yes, I have to confess it: I have a favorite white grape. Yep. Can you imagine it? I do have it. If you think about it, it is not such a weird thing when talking to winelovers. Many of us/them like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, some others are completely nuts about Pinot Noir, some about Chardonnay or Palomino in the form of a Sherry wine… Luckily enough, WineWorld is widely ample for all of us to find a grape variety to favor when it comes inside a bottle of wine.
For me, well (here comes the emoticon of the guy rubbing his chin while thinking hard), how would I say it? Well, I love the Ribolla Gialla.
Probably by now you know (because you are my faithful reader) that if there is a place on Earth I reckon as a piece of Heaven, we are talking about that small corner of the world between Italy and Slovenia. That patch of land combining the hills of the Collio in Italy and Goriška Brda in Slovenia.
Why the Ribolla Gialla? I fell in love with it with the very first glass of a wine produced with this variety. It was a special wine, not a typical dry white wine but a white wine macerated on the skins, that thing we call now an Orange Wine. It was a Riserva di Oslavia 2012 from Primosic, a winery located in the heart of the Collio, in a small village called San Floriano del Collio, where this variety is the absolute queen. Six producers in this village have established an association whose mission is to promote the Ribolla Di Oslavia.
Something I really like about the Ribolla is its versatility. So far I have been able to enjoy great samples of dry wines (both fresh and aged), macerated wines and sparkling wines elaborated with the Ribolla. And I know somebody is producing a sweet wine with it. As you can see, quite an array of styles employing this wonderful variety.
The Ribolla Gialla is a yellow-skin grape as its name implies (Gialla means yellow in Italian). In spite of different stories regarding its origins, we can be sure now that it was born here in the Collio/Goriška Brda area many centuries ago, since there are written notations about this grape dating eight centuries ago.
An important feature of this grape is its thick skin, which makes it perfect for using skin maceration for long periods. Depending on areas, some winemakers macerate the must on the skins for short periods, such as eight to ten days, while others go farther down this road for months, sometimes one or two months, sometimes up to six months. The Ribolla also takes very well ageing in amphora and in oak or acacia barrels and botti for up to seven years (yes, seven) in some cases.
Ribolla Gialla dry wines are really easy to drink, with a nice balance of fruit and acidity making them highly enjoyable. Sparkling Ribolla is also a wine you drink all the way to the bottom of the bottle before you even notice it. And the Orange wines are just art in a bottle.
I mentioned before San Floriano del Collio. In this small village in the outskirts of Gorizia we can find some of my preferred producers of Ribolla wines. I will mention those whose wines I have tasted and I love. They are also great persons and some of them I can call my friends: Ana and Franco Sosol from Il Carpino; Silvan and Boris Primosic; Stefano Bensa from La Castellada; Dario Princic from Dario Princic; Saša Radikon from Radikon; Matej Fiegl from Fiegl; Alexis Paraschos from Paraschos; Franco Terpin from Franco Terpin. All these wineries produce macerated wines using the Ribolla and some of them also produce dry versions with it. My heart is with these guys and with their wines.
Not far from San Floriano we will find the macerated version of Damijan Podversic from Podversic, and Marco and his son Roberto Felluga from Marco Felluga. The Fellugas produce only the dry version of the Ribolla. The same we will find going towards Udine, where Mario Zanusso from I Clivi makes wonders with the Ribolla both dry and sparkling. Not far from them we will find Stefano Novello from Ronco Severo: wonderful skin contact Ribolla.
So what happens now if you we cross the border to Goriška Brda in Slovenia? Well, for starters there will be Ribolla Gialla no more but rather it will be named Rebula. In this Slovenian area, part of the big Primorska wine region, the grape changes its name to its Slovenian version. Rebula is also queen here. And macerated Rebula as well. My local heroes, some of them also great friends, are Jean Michel Morel and Katja Kabaj from Kabaj; Aleks and Simona Klinec from Klinec; Ales Kristančič and Movia Vesna from Movia; Valerija and Marjan Simčič from Marjan Simčič and Tamara and Janko Stekar from Kmetija Stekar 1672. Aleks Simčič from Edi Simčič works with the Rebula in its dry version with ten months of ageing in oak.
And maybe 20 kilometers to the east we will enter the Vipavska Dolina, or the valley of the Vipava river, where splendid Rebula wines are made by Kristina and her father Boreslav Mervič from JNK; Valter Mlecnik from Mlecnik and Primoz Laurenčič from Burja Estate.
This is just a short list of producers whose wines I have enjoyed and in almost all the cases I shared a glass with them. There are more, of course. Many of them are in my to-do list, for there will be time to continue visiting and discovering new Ribolla Gialla and Rebula wines. The list is long. It is a pity that there are not many Ribolla/Rebula wines available in Spain, but you know, if you bring the food I will bring the wine. There is no time to waste.