The hillslope vineyards of the Rocca Bernarda estate can boast an ancient vocation for the production of premium-quality wines. On the walls of the Rocca itself, built in 1567 by Bernardo di Valvason Maniago, a plaque with the inscription ,VINEIS AVITIS REST ET AUCTIS, testifies that vines were already cultivated on the property at the time. Giacomo Perusini, a member of the family that owned Rocca Bernarda at the time, wrote a treatise in 1906 entitled ,Il Piccolit, , in which he examined at length the various clones, cultivation techniques and vinification methods for that wine. Picolit, which had achieved the height of its popularity a century before thanks to Count Fabio Asquini of Fagagna, found a place in the vineyards again that to Perusini. Indeed, it is to Rocca Bernarda that this delicate, exquisitely refined product of Friulian viticulture owes its survival.
For decades, the attention of food-lovers focused on Giuseppina Perusini Antonini's Mangiare e ber Friulano, Eating and drinking the Friulian way, still a classic today, which contains many fascinating pages on the subject of wines, including tasting notes and analytical parameters, as well as advice on how to serve them and at what temperature. Giuseppina's son, Gaetano, a university professor, dedicated much energy to the clonal selection of Picolit in an attempt to solve at least in part the problem of flower abortion, the variety's affliction but also the source of its unique qualities. It is to Gaetano, as well as to his mother, that we owe the creation of an extensive promotional network for Picolit. He aroused increasingly widespread interest in this Friulian wine even when, in the 50s, the aim of growers was generally quantity of production rather than quality.
The Perusini family has therefore left a profound mark on the history of Friulian winemaking, pioneering strategies that today are taken for granted by the majority of estates. It is also undeniable that Rocca Bernarda stands in an area with unique natural features.
The soil type is half-marly, while the other half is made up of sand and clay in almost equal proportions. The organic and mineral components reveal a soil that is poor in carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, making it ideal for the cultivation of grapes for premium-quality wines. The inclination of the hillslopes is gentle, and further attenuated by the rich natural vegetation that has been wisely allowed to grow freely among the various vineyards. The variety and abundance of tree species provide visitors with an unforgettable spectacle at all times of year but one which is especially impressive in autumn, when the different shades of leaf green fade away to be replaced by a riot of reds and browns. Cool winds blow down from the north, mingling in summer with breezes from the coast to increase the range of temperatures experienced in the vineyards and encourage the formation of aromas in their wines.
In such surroundings, enthusiasm is spontaneous and it is natural for wine to become a passion as well as a way of earning a living. And that is precisely the spirit in which the oenological team at Rocca Bernarda tackles the problems posed by winemaking today. The estate's historic traditions are never forgotten. Currently, the vineyards in production extend over about forty hectares. Many of the plants are more than twenty years old. New vineyards are planted at a density of about 5,500 vines per hectare, using material from clonal and mass selections carried out on the estate itself. In this way, new vines are already acclimatized when planted and the quality of the fruit is optimized. Naturally, special care is taken over exposure to sunlight. Red grapes and Picolit are cultivated on south-facing slopes while west- and east-facing locations are reserved for aromatic varieties.
In all, eleven grape types are cultivated at Rocca Bernarda and several hectares are set aside for Picolit, the vine that is symbolic of the entire estate.
Fertilization and other soil treatments are restricted to the bare minimum so that plant equilibrium is ensured as far as possible. Pruning is vigorous to concentrate the juice in the few bunches that each plant is allowed to produce. Leaves are removed around the fruit if necessary to ensure the bunches are thoroughly ventilated and to discourage the onset of parasite-borne diseases. That vineyard care extends to the harvest, which is manual, and work is equally painstaking in the cellar. After the grapes are soft-crushed, physical rather than chemical methods are employed for all operations involving the must. The containers used are stainless steel vats that enable fermentation temperatures to be controlled, a crucial factor in conserving the aromas acquired in the vineyard. A number of selected wines are aged in small oak barrels. And at this point, all that is left to do is to invite you to taste the wines of Rocca Bernarda.