Mario Schiopetto, the man responsible for Friuli's fame as a white wine producing area died last Wednesday aged 72, after a long battle with cancer.
Owner of the Schiopetto estate in the hills of eastern Friuli, Schiopetto excelled in his craft, producing wines – whites, in particular – that brought the northeastern region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia into the limelight of Italy’s burgeoning wine scene.
Schiopetto started bottling his wines in 1964. He was initially inspired to make superior quality wines by his travels in France and was thus one of the first Italians to look outside his own region for ideas.
He established an impressive record, especially considering that until about 20 years ago most of the area’s grape growers sold off their grapes in bulk to cooperative wineries. He inspired his three children Maria Angela, Carlo and Giorgio to join him in making the estate one of the area’s best.
His long-standing objective was to achieve the purest possible transformation of grape into wine. Until very recently, this meant production without the use of barriques, in order to bring out the primary aromas of the fruit without the intrusion of oak or other flavours. A few years ago Schiopetto branched out into a line of lightly oaked wines – just for the intellectual challenge of it.
Gambero Rosso’s Italian Wines, the bible of the industry, described the winemaker, wheelchair-bound for some years, as ‘admirable’.
‘Schiopetto can no longer surprise us with his wines. We’re too used to trotting out the superlatives for them. Yet we can only continue to admire the man himself, who still manages to imbue his wines with ideas and personality.’
Elda Felluga, daughter of producer Livio Felluga, and president of the Movimento del Vino in Friuli said, ‘A man of great humanity and of utmost importance to Friuli’s viticulture has left a sense of void in our hearts. He was a pioneer here in Friuli and a man of innovation and foresight. He is an example to us all.’
He leaves his wife Gloria, daughter Maria Angela and sons Carlo and Giorgio.
Written by Michele Shah28 April 2003