Frascati, Lazio, Italy
Until not very long ago, the American idea of Italian wine fit into two categories. For collectors and steakhouse regulars, there were the classic, hard-edged and long living bottles from important DOCGs that could rival the 'great' wines of the world. For everyone else, another set of distinctly regional wines became unforgettable to a certain generation: dirt-cheap examples of Prosecco, Moscato d'Asti, Lambrusco, and for anyone who had visited Rome, the ubiquitous Frascati.
Industrial scale producers to the south of Rome saw an opening, and made a deal with the devil (often selling their property to multinationals) from the late 70s onwards to crank up their output by planting vineyards of high-yielding clones further afield from the superiore DOC. Postwar Lazio had toiled in disputes over land holdings that ranged from petty to deeply corrupt, which gradually forced a majority of independent grape-growing families out of business.
Frascati the drink came into its modern image vinified with synthetic lab yeasts, malolactic fermentation blocked through chemical additives and filtration, and a heavy hand with sulfur throughout the entire process. A light, citrusy, but consistent wine became the standard and could reasonably clean up as the house white for any trattoria in Rome serving seafood. Shocking the small set of real artisans in the region, these developments came as nothing short of a complete betrayal and misrepresentation of sacred patches of Trebbiano giallo, Malvasia di Candia, and Greco that fully expressed the complexity of their ancient volcanic soils.
Among the few to dig in their heels and reclaim this once highly lauded area for white wine are Chiara and Daniele of the newly established Cantina Ribelá.
An opportunity to purchase several old vineyards at the Northern tip of Parco di Castelli Romani, owned by a large commercial operation but still surrounded by an appealing diversity of crops, came to these two, a Roman couple with synergistic wine backgrounds seeking a new beginning in the countryside. Immediately from 2015 their concept was to revive the reputation of this misunderstood region. Natural farming, much lower yields, and traditional open top fermentations that incorporate varying (often short) times of skin maceration, not S02, all come merge to ensure the wines are stable and true. They have tons of spice and density and the best bottles crackle with life on the palate.
Ribelá is an inspiring project that marks the beginning of a transformational independence that young and ambitious Italian natural winemakers are forging for themselves in the thick of complex political patchworks leftover from industrialization.
- El Rancho
Ribelá Bianco 2016
Ribelá Rosso 2015