Rosso della Centa is a 100% Merlot which originates from a small vineyard situated on the south-west facing slopes of the San Giorgio hills in Brazzano. This patch of land of around one hectare is used to grow red grapes, the majority of which are Merlot. In this splendid field, the terrain is typical of the Collio, as a result of the fragmentation of alternating strata of marl and sandstone which are the bedrock of our local hills. The hillsides are really steep, and for this reason the field was terraced and shored up with drystone walls. This terracing was certainly already in place in the second half of the 18th century when Count Sebastiano Florio finished the construction of the villa to which the land belonged. Following the rout of Caporetto during the Great War the Italian soldiers, who were stationed in the occupied villa, before retreating, burnt the place down along with its precious contents in case it should fall into Austrian hands. The only thing that was saved from that incident were the associated farm buildings and the vineyard. 

When in 1981 I came into possession of the small family wine growing business, I wasn’t happy with the Merlot which I got from the first harvest. So it was that in 1982 I decided to study the Bordeaux wine making method. Following the ’82 and ’83 vintages which were essentially experimental, the Rosso della Centa ’85 made its debut. Thanks also to a great year, that wine was a major hit both with the critics and the public; many people since that time have called it the first Great Friuli Red.

At the time the Collio was universally recognised as the best area in Italy for the production of white wines. Against this background the Friuli reds weren’t held in great esteem, so many producers and enologists who were at the time much more expert than me put their heads together in the search for the Great Friuli Red. However many of them considered Merlot to be a minor variety, as they were using Cabernet as their benchmark, a variety which in any case in this area was principally Carménère, a minor variety of Bordeaux origin. It so happened that at the time I had only that half hectare of Merlot and that was what I had at my disposal in my attempt at the Bordeaux winemaking method. The Centa ’85 when it came out at the beginning of 1988 was a roaring success. With the 1988 harvest, not only in the Collio but also in the rest of Eastern Friuli, many different excellent Merlots were produced, dispelling the commonly held belief that our terroir was unsuitable for producing red wines. The clays which derive from the marls of the Collio are certainly more suitable for Merlot than for Cabernet, a variety which prefers looser soils. After that first batch very few followed because only in the really great years was this Merlot bottled as Rosso della Centa; on average one in every three. The little vineyard which was planted  out in 1970 with Ferrari selection vines, gives birth to a wine which – in those years when it is actually made -  has an unmistakable olfactory profile - a little spicy with notes of red pepper. 

When the Centa is not produced, the wine is destined for blending with the Cabernet-Sauvignon which was planted in the following years to give us “Collio Rosso” or the Collio Rosso Riserva, the other reds we produce. At the end of 2017, this patch of Cabernet Sauvignon was also ripped out.

In the years that followed 1985, we attempted to improve the “Centa” by enriching it but without sacrificing freshness and drinkability. To this end, the crucial work was carried out in the fields, gradually reducing the volumes and trying to maintain the vines in an equilibrium which is optimized for top quality. In the meantime in the cellars our techniques were being perfected using the experience we had gained along the way. The aim, however, has always been the same; a wine brimming with elements, all of them interconnected within a framework of elegance and balance. The result is a taut but at the same time thirst-quenching red.

Nicola Manferrari