Ryme Cellars are a husband and wife team who do things very much their own way. Treating each vineyard and each wine as a one off, they are able to play around with the grapes they grow, in an attempt to perfectly pair the terroir at their disposal with the most suitable grape variety. They don’t follow the rule book at all - skin contact whites, unfiltered reds, wild yeast - the wines of Ryme are abstract works of art, and all the more fascinating for it. This is their Ribolla Gialla from Vare Vineyard,
A somewhat ancient and lesser known grape variety; and a pretty interesting one at that. Originating from Friuli Venezia-Giulia in North Eastern Italy, it’s a tough grape to pin down stylistically. Like the best ambiguous pieces of classical music, many winemakers have attempted to express the grape, to produce the ultimate version, to understand it and tie it down, but in reality all these attempts vary enormously from producer to producer and it’s the wide range of interpretations that make this niche grape so interesting. There are a few stylistic categories that winemakers tend to fall into with Ribolla…
- Make it like a Chardonnay - ripen the fruit slowly, let the wine go through malolactic fermentation and mature it in oak for a while. The grape can take it and it tends to produce ageworthy, textured wines with a classical oak profile.
- Make it like a Pinot Grigio - let the vines grow vigorously, pick the grapes early, ferment in stainless steel and let the natural acidity come to the fore - you end up with a light, fresh, fruity wine, perfect for lunch outdoors with a plate of seafood.
- Make it like a red - here is where things get interesting - Ribolla Gialla is great for making whites made like reds - that is with skin contact in the maceration, a desire for texture and weight. You end up with fascinating, funky, unique wine, deep in colour and complexity.
Where do they grow it?
This is a grape that still remains a bit left-field, an oddity, yet in California more and more producers are using it due to this versatility - they often say Chardonnay is a blank canvas for winemakers to showcase their expertise. Well Ribolla, to use the same analogy, may be the perfect blank canvas for winemakers to showcase their philosophy.
What does it taste like?
Like a lot of Italian grape varieties it’s ordinarily fruit forward, a little aromatic with high acidity. But it’s genuinely hard to pigeonhole Ribolla Gialla as there is so much one can do to it.
A perfect example of the direction one can go with a wine like this. 9 years old, but still very much in form, it feels somewhat indestructible, a little like those profound Aussie Semillons which never seem to grow old. It’s a sunny golden yellow in colour - appetisingly so, and is full of soft, yellow apple flavour, whispers of warming spices like clove or anise and nice, tranquil acid wrapped up in a soft, waxy textural profile that’s indulgent and rustic in equal measure. It’s a wine lovers wine, one for the intellectual, a bottle to mull over and consider - a wine to pick apart, to discuss and to come to a conclusion on. It’s undoubtedly fascinating.