Christian Patat and Serena Palazzolo of Ronco del Gnemiz certainly make special wines, both red and white, and they have now for quite some time. However, they are also very special people. I had been on the road in Italy for nearly a week and a half when I hooked up with Christian and followed him up the hill of Rosazzo to their winery in the Colli Orientali. The 360 degree vistas were inspiring and calming. That calm continued inside in the kitchen where light jazz was playing in the background and Serena was slicing Prosciuotto di San Daniele, cheese and baguette. The signal was clear. This wasn’t going to be a drive by sampling of the wines of Ronco del Gnemiz but rather an opportunity to taste them and to get to know Christian and Serena.
Tasting through the lineup of wines from Ronco del Gnemiz, I was struck by the truly distinct impression I was left with from each of the wines. Each having their own unique identities. There is nothing formulaic about the way Serena and Christian work. They work with great care to produce elegant and rich white wines. A richness that would stick out were it not for the deft hand used to keep the acidity high and the wines textured. Rich and angular at the same time? Indeed, the tightrope that is so expertly walked in the white wines of Ronco del Gnemiz. White wines that certainly can age. The red wines, unsurprisingly, are also made to age. In fact most of the RdG reds should age as they have an austerity about them in their youth. Again structure and texture defines the red wines of Ronco del Gnemiz. We don’t today offer any reds from RdG but if you have a chance to explore them I’d highly encourage it. At dinner in Friuli a 1996 Rosso del Gnemiz Merlot blend was still on the way up to its apex – time in the bottle had made this wine a tasting pleasure.
Serena’s family bought the estate in the sixties and Serena took over in the early nineties. The winery sits atop the hill of Rosazzo and benefits from cooling Adriatic Sea breezes and shelter from the Alps from the not atypical harsh winters. The vineyards are managed organically. The majority of the vineyards are planted on Friuli’s signature ‘Ponca’ soil. A soil rich in clay (marl) and limestone with natural properties that allow the grapes grown on these soils to maintain high levels of acidity – without which the richer white wines of the Colli Orientali would lack necessary structure. All hail Ponca! All hail Ronco del Gnemiz!
In the words of David Schildknecht from Vinous, “Austria’s 2013 Rieslings and Grüner Veltliners display exceptionally bright acidity, clear flavor definition and uncanny complexity.” 2013 has given us the stunning combination of healthy, ripe grapes that remain light on their feet as the alcohol levels stayed in check, married with focused, tense acidity.
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