Schioppettino is dark skinned grape variety, originating from the Friuli-Venezia region of northeast Italy.
Its name in Italian most probably means a ‘gunshot’ or ‘crackling sound’, because of some of its wines being ‘crackling’ on the tongue, because of the traces of CO2 that is mixed to develop a fizzy flavour.
When fully developed, the Schioppettino variety gives off some richly aromatic experience with deep flavours of cherries and blackberries, mixed with some hints of chocolates and smoke, these characteristics being attributed to its vinification process in oak barrels.
Setting aside the grape’s old origins, however, it has suffered some major setbacks in the 19th and 20th centuries because of some viticulture hazards and of course, the two world wars that played havoc with European economies.
Despite having its origins as old as the 1200s, the grape, being a popular variety in all this time, abruptly faced several chances of extinction.
In the 20th century, the grape remained almost forgotten and extremely limited to only a few acres of vineyard cultivation in northeast Italy, which in due time, as recent as 1990s; certain winemakers started rejuvenating the variety with much zeal and urgency.
Today, the grape is not really a direct competitor of some of the best dark varieties of Italy; it has in all these years, managed to assert some of its popularity at least in the region of Friuli-Venezia and regions/provinces adjoining it.
History of Schioppettino
Schioppettino is definitely a very old grape with its very first record going back as early as 1282 AD when the wine is said to have been described as being used in a Slovenian wedding ceremony, according to descriptions and some documents that have been found and list the grape as being used in several events and available for commercial consumption.
One of its synonyms is the Ribolla Nera, which might actually indicate that the grape is a mutation of one of the locally used Slovenian varieties, most notably the Rebolla Giallia, although linguists and ampelographers debate on this claim.
When linguistics is concerned, the grape might actually be related to several synonyms and numerous names like scioppare, which in Italian, means ‘to burst’ or another synonym, sciopettare, that translates to ‘crackle’.
In whatever references, these synonyms only suggest its crackling or fizzy nature of Schioppettino wines that leave a snappy, bubble like feeling on the tongue because of the CO2 content that some winemakers like to mix with it.
In the coming decades, Schioppettino witnessed massive decline in its overall production and cultivation.
The phylloxera epidemic of the 1880s was a hazard like no other and never ever seen before and it literally swept away all Schioppettino vineyards, its main cultivating region being Friuli-Venezia, one of the most struck regions of those times.
The phylloxera epidemic also had its very own economic effect. The destruction of swathes of vineyards in Italy and France, gave several farmers an incentive to start afresh, and to plant such varieties that were either more resistant to viticulture hazards or were better off in their yield department.
Several farmers of the Friuli region had their eyes set upon international markets, and not just the local ones of Friuli or even Italy.
The phylloxera epidemic gave these farmers a fresh start, and many of them started opting for better varieties.
Schioppettino vineyards, thus started getting replaced with some of the classic varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc, when in 1978, the UN stepped in and issued a decree to authorise the cultivation of Schioppettino.
The cultivation of Schioppettino during this time was so scarce, that anyone hardly even knew of its exact situation, with only some exceptions in the Udine district of Friuli.
The decision taken in by the UN is by far, considered to be the stepping stone for the grape’s emergence from oblivion.
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