It didn’t occur to me until I got back to Texas week before last from a whirlwind trip across the U.S.: despite two visits over the years to Ronchi di Cialla — one of the pioneers of Friuli’s native grape revival and one of its most acclaimed and soulful winemakers — I had never tasted the winery’s Pignolo.
Thinking my mind was playing tricks on me, I checked out the estate’s website: the Rapuzzi family, who founded the winery in 1970, doesn’t even mention the wine on it library release page.
Visits to Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni similarly revealed no mentions of the wine.
It was a week ago last Thursday that my friend, Italian wine importer Earl Cramer-Brown, generously opened a bottle of the Rapuzzi’s 2012 Pignolo to share with me in McMinnville, Oregon where we had dinner at the famous Nick’s Café.
Man, what a wine!
Many compare Pignolo to Nebbiolo because of its generally powerful tannic character and rich fruit buoyed by vibrant acidity. But it’s such a distinct and distinctive grape in my experience: black cherry and black currant seemed to dance against the minerality and hint of eastern spice in this wine. It was just so lithe in the glass that you simply couldn’t stop drinking it. And even though its tannin has many years of evolution ahead, it was already drinking great, food-friendly and approachable, straight out of the bottle (opened on the spot).
It reaffirmed my belief that this grape wholly deserves its place among the pantheon of Italy’s great red wines.
Thank you again, Earl, for sharing this extraordinary bottle with me!
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