If it were not true, the story of the dottore Emilio Rotolo, it would have to be invented. And yet no one can write it better than life. A story about passion and about the incalculable twists and turns of fate, and about a profession that gives way to a vocation. And a 15th-century vineyard woken from its slumber.
We are standing in the courtyard of the prestigious Volpe Pasini winery in the heart of the Colli Orientali and let ourselves be captured by the history of the place and the story of a man who came to Friuli as a doctor and fell in love with the land and wine and a woman and became a winemaker.
When you see it as it spiritedly sweeps out over the vineyards and hills of eastern Friuli, you recognize the southern Italian. His passion and temperament are contagious and intoxicating. Dottore Emilio Rotolo stands there like a force of nature, lining up one story after the other, parading wine and yields, production and terroir without a dot or comma.
In 1983, the medical student came from Calabria to Trieste to train as a radiologist. The wild and romantic Friuli caught the dottore cold and converted him. He was shocked and fell in love with the historic villa of the Volpe Pasini winery near Cividale del Friuli. And he was desperate to have the enchanted and beautiful estate.
With the purchase of the 400-year-old property in 1995, Emilio Rotolo went from being a doctor to a winemaker. For with the house, the vineyards were also transferred to the passionate buyer. And with it a great responsibility and an even greater challenge. Because half things are not his cup of tea. Hardly anything is more appealing to the dottore and motivates him more than new challenges.
The profession was abandoned and the vocation as a wine entrepreneur took effect. The sleeves were rolled up and the winery was turned upside down. The vines were consistently renewed where necessary and, where possible, nurtured and generously invested in new cellar technology.
What has been created there is something to be proud of: Volpe Pasini is now one of the big names in Friuli and one of the most innovative companies. For example, dry ice is used during harvest time to prevent fermentation and oxidation of the grapes. At first the dottore was smiled at, but a career changer who is able to afford an expensive hobby here, the wine community rumoured. The doubts soon turned into admiration, because little by little, large evaluations fluttered into the house. The wines have already been awarded several times with the coveted "tre bicchieri" award in the Gambero Rosso, Italy's famous red gastronomic guide.
Emilio Rotolo is a perfectionist, and when he does something, he does it with total commitment and dedication. To this day he has remained true to his philosophy of the highest standards. On 52 hectares, white and red varieties are grown in roughly equal parts.
This results in two production lines: the Volpe Pasini line and the Zuc di Volpe prestigo line. It comes from the estate's most important vineyard, a breathtaking natural amphitheatre that has always produced the best grapes in the region. The first Pinot Bianco in Italy was grown here in 1933. A perfect wine village, in terms of gradient, orientation and location. The Sauvignon Zuc di Volpe cultivated here is consistently ranked among the ten best white wines in Italy, and in 2011 it was even voted the best white wine in the country by the Gambero Rosso. Rotolo is convinced: In the whole wide world there is no better terroir for white wine than its beloved Friuli.
"I hung up the medical profession to pursue my calling of a wine entrepreneur."
Emilio Rotolo, wine grower
The reds are not to be sneezed at either. We enjoy a Merlot Zuc di Volpe in a stately ambience, as guests in the beautiful Villa Rosa. Emilio and Rosa Rotolo have renovated the historic villa in style and welcome guests here as if they were part of the family. In the magnificent kitchen we sit at a rustic wooden table under a huge crystal chandelier made of Murano glass, hold the ruby red, full-bodied wine in our hands and let ourselves be carried away into the enchanting wine world of Volpe Pasini. Accompanied by the delicious culinary arts of Rosa and the trenchant anecdotes of the Dottore. Because Emilio Rotolo is not only an excellent winemaker and prudent entrepreneur, but also a gifted entertainer. And together with his enchanting wife Rosa, perfect hosts who directly transmit their passion for the land and its fruits, its history and people.
Picture: Flavia Vergani | Text: Domenica Flütsch | Source: Vergani Magazine 10