Marco & Sandra Sara, with their two boys Pietro & Tobias, are young Colli Orientali del Friuli producers whose family and 7 hectares of vines and 4 hectares of woods are located just north-east of Udine in the commune of Povoletto – a pre-Alps range of hills that separate Friuli from Slovenia. Here, at between 75 – 300 msl, the flysch marne (‘ponca’) and sandstone slopes favour Marco Sara’s white and red indigenous grape varieties Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Picolit, Verduzzo, Schioppettino, Refosco, along with some Cabernet Franc, imbuing the wines with a lower pH, & a spine.
Marco took over the reins of his family cantina in 2000, making the switch from selling off in bulk to bottling the fruit himself. In 2005 the estate became organic; it was also the year when he first bottled sweet wines Picolit and Verduzzo. He makes small quantities of hand-made wine, using organic fruit and wild yeast. These are authentic fine wines that speak of an indigenous grape, that respect and reflect local tradition and territory.
The backdrop to their world is the imposing pre-Alpi Giulia range of mountains that lie to the north of the Colli Orientali del Friuli, & who presence is felt by a cooling breeze throughout the year. Here in their pretty comune of Povoletto, a few kilometres north of Udine, the Colli Orientali are at circa 250m asl, on sedimentary soils of clay & friable ‘ponca’ (marne/flysch), rich in calcite & quartz. It is these ‘ponca’ soils, also found in the much warmer zone of Buttrio e Corno di Rosazzo just to the south, that make the difference in the top sites.
Their 6ha (2ha Friulano, 1.5 Schioppettino & 2.5ha mix of Picolit, Refosco, Peduncolo, Verduzzo & Ribolla Gialla) are all in colline, with Schioppettino occupying the highest, richest in ponca sites, often surrounded by woodland (that also cool the vines below & keep alcohols at modest levels). Indeed Marco & Sandra are constantly at the ricerca, searching to bring out the energetic ponca expression in their wines, especially through Schioppettino; they grow this variety on three different soil types (gravel, clay & ponca/flysch), vinified separately, before blending & bottling 18 mths after the harvest. Marco vinifies at circa 22celsius (for whites), using wild yeasts in both cement & stainless-steel, with 500Litre French tonneaux & 10HL Garbellotto used for affinamento/élévage.
Their Picolit is harvested clean & then undergoes appassimento for 3 months in baskets stored in Marco’s mother’s attic. Then the bunches are sorted, separating the ‘muffato’/botrytized fruit from the still clean, non-botrytized fruit, & vinifying them separately. The ‘muffato’ (‘Mufis’) must is vinified in stainless steel, while the rest is fermented in French tonneaux; blending of the two together takes place during the autumn pre-spring bottling. 2017 comprised 100% muffato/botrytized fruit, while 2018 will be 60% non-muffato, 40% muffato!
Increasingly Marco & Sandra have recognised that three varieties perform best on their unique ponca/flysch, hilly terreno: Friulano, Schioppettino & Picolit!
> Certified organic (CeViq)
2019 Ribolla Gialla – tasted 11 Maggio, 12.60%, Total Acidità5.5g/l, Total Solforosa70mg/l (32 libera) c. 8k bottles made, Marco’s particularly proud of this year’s Ribolla, from the clay soils of Povoletto. He harvested a wee bit later than normal, on 25 Sept, followed by a whole bunch, spontaneous wild yeast ferment in stainless for 20 days, & some light battonaggio of the fine lees. Ribolla performs in warmer vintages like 2019 as the grape interestingly ripens to a certain point & then stops, preserving its acidity & keeping the alcohol levels modest. Reassuringly pale, the DIAM5 ensures an explosive, breezy nose of nettle, greengage & lime cordial! Mountain stream fresh, it’s got a lovely weight & texture, not unlike Favorita or Riesling, pebbly pert, sapid, more texture & presenza than in 2018, cleansing & long. Bravo Marco.
2018 Ribolla Gialla – 12.4%, harvested on 22nd Sept., very pale in colour, the nose is mountain stream fresh, with notes of Ortica (nettle), lime juice, marjoram, while the palate is textural & at the same time skeletal, with orange flower, bright, racy acidity (TA5.70?). 4k bts
2016 Ribolla Gialla – from tank, c.6k bts, slightly darker in hue compared to the Friulano, more verbena, marjoram notes, skeletral, sinewy, low in alc…fashionable! From bottle: 12.5%, discreet, white flower, (Langhe!) pear tree flower, skeletal, Muller-Thurgau esque even!
2019 Friulano – tasted 11 Maggio, 13.7%, Total Acidità 5g/litro, Total Solforosa 75mg/l (30 libera) c.12k bottle produced, harvested a bit earlier than the Ribolla Gialla, on 20th Sept, 50% from clay & 50% from prime ponca soils. Richer than the 2018, yellow-gold, the 2019 bursts out of the (DIAM5) traps with candied lemon soap-stone fruit! While the Ribolla has an acid spine giving verticality, (Tocai) Friulano is broader, more even-keeled across the palate, quite fulsome, a re-assuring presenza, bit like an old friend. On the palate then, it’s composed, measured, pulpy lemon pith, layered with richer, juicy fruit, yet fresh & minerally thanks to the 50% of fruit from Povoletto’s flysch/ponca soils.
2018 Friulano – 13%, harvested under perfect conditons, Marco’s Friulano delights with a distinct lime flower, pretty pear, herbs & white stone perfume. Fruitier than the sinewy Ribolla, joyful & delectable. A blend of two diverse soils: 35% clay from 35yo vines giving a creamy, charming lime cordial facility, with 65% ponca from 45yo vines, providing depth/profondità, nerve, spine-tingling energy, sapidity & an almost Chablis 1er Cru/Fourchaume citronelle, mela cotone (quince) intensity! Lower in acidity than the Ribolla (TA5), hence the charming swirl of fruit, yet more minerally & racy thanks to the presenza of ponca. In a word: compelling!
2017 Friulano – tasted Marzo’18, just bottled (12th!), 13%, very conveniently Marco & Sandra’s Friulano crop ripened & was harvest before the mid-September rains. Whole bunch pressed into s/steel, fermented at c. 22 degrees Celsius using wild yeasts, & then left on its fine lees in cement until bottling. Marco added that a third of the wine underwent unintentional malolactic. Picking slightly earlier has given this a low pH freshness & cleansing purity. It’s very fine, trim & fruity with white peach & musky notes. Also in MAGs. Prod. 6.5k bts
2016 Friulano – c.6k bts, to be bottled aprile ’17, whole bunch s/s wild yeast fermented from fruit of 5 plots around their comune of Povoletto, then transferred to cement. Sooo fine, soft lemon pith, calc white flowers, pure lime/white stone fruit; great tension, soft, fleshy, sale minerale, citronelle
2013 Friulano – watery pure, so fine, trim with minty, cornflower, ginger & shellfish freshness, & a racy streak; silky, sapid Caol’Ila saltiness, very tight, energetic, white currant fruit…eccellente!
2012 Friulano – a difficult act coming after the fantastic 2013…but 2012 pulls it off! Distinct gold, it’s a richer, burroso/buttery, frutta candida nose, of ginger root & biscotti; more yellow plum to taste, fuller than the racy 2013, it retains that muschio/musky fragrance, soft light, white pear & virgin olive oil feel!
2018 Schioppettino – tasted 11 Maggio, 13.40%, TA5.80, TSolforosa55 (25 libera) drawn from three distinct types of terreno: ‘ghiaia’ (stones), ‘argilla’ (clay) & ‘ponca’ (flysch), fermented in cement for 20 days in the easier 2018 vintage (than 2017 or 2019), then free run wine aged in two botti 20HL Garbellotto & ten barriques, so effectively a 50/50 split, for 12 mths then back to cement prior to bottling in March. Deep, but gleaming ruby red rose, more focused, tightly knit & (direi) ‘serious’ than the fragile 2017 which was compromised by rain at harvest. Marco’s Schioppettino always seem to show a beautiful perfume, not dissimilar to Pinot, but in 2018, such is the complete stagione, that there’s a deeper whiff of garrigue, of Minervois (meets Morey?!) that surely comes from the ponca. The depth of colour & fruity kirsch Scottish raspberries owes much to the clay component, I reckon. The palate follows: composed, measured (like Marco!), presenza, with volume, packed with ribes skins, a dash of smoky oak but judiciously so. A lovely ripeness of fruit, but always finely poised, never indulgent; the ‘ponca’ soils giving a wetstone, elegant finish. Excellent, his finest yet? 6k bottles produced.
2017 Schioppettino – 12.8%, harvested on 5th Oct., a blend of four parcels, Marco uses only mosto fiore (free run juice) to ensure the purest expression possible, vinified for circa 18 days, only pumping over, then aged in used tonneaux & one botte di 10HL for 12 mths, before returning to cement & bottled (March) without filtration. A brilliant, gleaming streak of red & violets, the nose pings/lifts excitedly with lampone/Scottish raspberry & white pepper finezza. As Ribolla Nera, it shares with its white cousin a racy acidity, & a relatively large berry, with more pulp to skin. Where vintage 2016 was more introverso/introspective, we love the sunny brightness & transparency of the 2017! Such fine, delicate tannins, racy, energetic little red fruit, lots of fragrance…so pretty, punches above it weight, hence Pinot esque, also in the way it thrives in small French oak. Gorgeous. Only 5k bottles alas.
2016 Schioppettino – tasted 2017 from barrique, brilliant, exuberant kirsch/glacier cranberry nose, along with Dolomite mt herbs, delicate smoky, refined, Pinot esque, very exciting…retasted from bottle, Marzo’18, a leap of lampone, redcurrant, ribes, Pinot-esque intensity & purity; affinamento in 50/50 botte/barrique in 2016 has given this wine more edge & precision! It remains smooth, but energetic. A great leap forward from 2015. Bottled with 50mg SO2 total, & 25mg libera. Bravo Marco e Sandra! Prod. 4k bts.
2015 Schioppettino – 20 days on the skins, aged in barriques for 12 mths, exotic raspberry essence, rose cream, incredible, such purity & thrill; the palate’s cool, violet scented, fragrant, finely judged, taut yet carino, silky fine tannins, endless joy & pleasure wow!
2013 Schioppettino – recalling vintage 2016: still with a tight red gleaming pernice eye core, only barriques in those days, but has retained a refreshing nervousness, & Pinot crunch. I get the feeling the ponca/flysch soils are providing the spine!
2012 Schioppettino – as with the Friulano, 2012 was a richer, more indulgent vintage, giving raspberry gelato (barrique) fruit; notably more grasso than the 2013, sumptuous & sultry even! Yet that gleaming cassis core remains bright. Ole!
2018 Picolit (0.50cl) – tasted 11 Maggio, 13.40%, 140 g/l RS, TA6, Total Solforosa150 (40 libera), from prime ponca soils, 50% of the fruit undergoing appassimento for 2.5 mths above Marco’s mother’s kitchen (!), 50% part fermented in stainless-steel, with the (50%) noble rot/botrytis/muffa nobile part in barriques, richly coloured a Sauternes old gold, the nose is sensational, ‘pieno’ with Semillon-esque, mock-orange floral notes, burnt orange peel, & beurre blanc richness! Sumptuous on the palate, thanks to not being filtered prior to bottling, it has waxy, crême brulée texture & candied orange/lemon beurre richness, kept alive & fresh with lemongrass/cedro zest! A tremendous wine in a little bottle, of which 2,200 were produced.
2015 Picolit – bottled Dec ’16, thrilling Seville orange skin nose, apricots, so zesty, alive, appassimento for 3 mths then s/s fermented, then aged in 25HL botte, 120 grams RS, yet still taut & energetico, fantastico!