Road Trip Italy 2013 (2) | FRIULI: PARASCHOS, RADIKON, DAMIJAN - October 3rd, 2013
posted on 30/10/2013

 

Here we are in Slovenia... errr... I mean Italy! Or is it Slovenia indeed? No, no, I think we are on Italian soil!


Italian Friuli seems to be a geographical mayhem, as even though it typically belongs to Italy however the people, language and way of life make us feel we are in Slovenia! A glance at the map of Friuli shows that while Slovenia naturally descends towards the Adriatic Sea, the Italians have the entire coastline in their possession, with the port of Trieste starring. Even two kilometers out from Trieste, however, everyone speaks Slovenian... For the purposes of this post anyway, we will take we are in Italy...!


FRIULIAN WINE IS UNCONVENTIONAL!


Here in northern Italy low temperatures make up the perfect conditions for the production of refreshing and fine white wines. However, whites as we know them can be found in more abundance in the near -and a little more northern- Trentino - Alto Adige. Friuli instead features a group of small, family-owned, rebellious and unconventional artisan producers crafting with passion the so called ‘orange wines'! And it is not just that they are orange; they are also unfiltered, aged for at least two years after vintage and with no added sulfite. These artisan producers ferment their wines in clay amphorae, handle the whites as if they were red (skin maceration - hence the orange color), and also serve them similarly: using decanters and large balloon glasses, serving them less cold and slightly aged! I tell you we encountered revolutionary and unconventional winemaking in Friuli!


The most popular wine regions within Friuli are 'DOC Colli Orientali del Friuli', 'DOC Collio Goriziano' (or simply Collio) and 'DOC Isonzo'. We decided to visit three wine producers, all in Collio: Parashos, Radikon and Damijan. Quite often producers have vineyards in both Slovenia and Italy while they process the grapes in Italy. Don’t forget we are talking about distances often less than 2.3 kilometers. We start from the first producer in San Floriano del Collio, in the heart of Collio DOC. The winery is called PARASHOS and yes, there is a Greek behind it!

 

 

In the heart of DOC Collio!  

Amphitheatric vineyards along our way...


PARASCHOS EVANGELOS


We met Vangelis Paraschos who welcomed us at the small family winery. Vangelis Paraschos comes from Veria, Northern Greece. He first went to Italy "40 years ago" as he told us (well, he seemed much younger to me!) to study medicine. Eventually he practiced medicine as a pharmacist for only three months, focusing in vines and wine instead! Marrying an Italian made him a local Friulian for good!


Vangelis Paraschos sees our amazed faces adoring the white wine fermenting containers and uncovers them to show us the notorious white wine maceration, lasting from 5 days to 5 months. Some of the wines are later racked in large clay amphorae, where maceration is continued! We also uncover a clay amphora and see Vangelis punching down the grape skins of Malvasia to extract more color and tannins- yes, you heard well! We are talking about white wines.

 

 

White wine treated as red!

 

Vangelis Parashos and his clay amphorae straight from Crete...

 

 

The white grape skins form a cup over Malvasia 2013!

 

And... action! Vangelis punching down the grape skins to extract more color and tanins...

 

The annual production of the winery is only 20.000 to 25.000 bottles! This year the production is expected to be even lower, as the biggest natural threat in the region -wild animals- have been eating the ripe and delicious grapes. And we are speaking of deer, wild boars and birds- don’t forget we are almost into the woods! Vangelis says especially this year the birds ate it all!



The most common varieties found in Friuli are whites Pinot Grigio, Friulano (formerly Tocai Friulano – nothing to do with the Hungarian nectar), Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia and tiny quantities of Pinot Bianco. Red grapes are Merlot, Pinot Nero and Refosco. International whites Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are also grown. Just think the whites of 2010 are just now bottled and released! Next we visited the cellar to sample some wines right from the tanks! Let’s go then!


We tasted the following whites from four different wooden tanks:

 

  • Friulano 2013, 2012 and 2011
  • Bianco – a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Ribolla
  • Malvasia 2012

 

 

Down to the cellar for the tasting!

 

Ready-ready to taste with our ballon glasses!

 

 

The 'Bianco' wine tank...

  The Winery's trademark: Π = 3,14159  

 

 

Tasting Friulano from three vintages: 2013, 2012...   ...and 2011!

 

All white wines featured wonderful aromas from aging (chestnut, nuts, hints of mushroom) alongside fruitiness and acidity that add nerve and make them vivid and complex at the same time! Different vintages largely determine the differences! Friulano from the same vineyard were completely different from three different vintages: one was greener, the other smokier, the other one fruitier.


Moving to reds, we tasted Merlot and Pinot Nero. It is said Merlot was brought here by Napoleon's troops in the 19th century, so it is perfectly adapted to the local terroir as if it was a local variety!

 

  • Merlot 2009
  • Skala Merlot 2009 from old vines
  • Pinot Nero 2009

 

The 'regular' Merlot had dense and delicious fruit reminiscent of plums, with an emphasis on elegance and not weight, while Skala is one of the best Merlot I have ever had with a perfect aroma concentration and excellent mouthfeel, without being overwhelming. Finally, Pinot Nero was wonderfully elegant with intense red fruit and floral aromas!

 

 

Pulling some Skala Merlot with the 'thief'...

  ...right into our glasses!

 

 

This Merlot would make Napoleon proud!

 

We were impressed! Vangelis Paraschos is a true artist who crafts his masterpieces here since the first harvest in 1979! Clay amphorae, indigenous yeast scattered around the winery and a completely unique way of doing things! It's a shame these wines can no longer be found in Greece.


We say goodbye and move next to...


RADIKON STANISLAO


Not very far from Parashos is Radikon family winery. In the courtyard one can see firewood, old winemaking equipment and a breathtaking view to the family vineyard!


Stanislao’s son Sasa Radikon who is now in charge of the winery, greets us and suggests we started from the Merlot vineyard. We were surprised to see only 3 clusters on each vine! Just imagine the concentration and duration the wines must have!... As about the view and beauty of the vineyard, I have no comments; you only need to see a couple of pictures:

 

 

The old crusher in the courtyard...

  With Sasa Radikon

 

 

The Merlot vineyard. Yields are extremely low...

 

What a view...!

 

Radikon annual production is only 30,000 bottles. The winemaking history of the family is quite old, but abruptly stops in the Second World War, which destroyed everything. After the war Sasa’s grandfather began re-planting the vineyards, while his father Sasa first bottled their wine back in 1979.

 

 

Slatnik 2013 (a blend of Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio) is already in the barrel...   Here Sasa treats us

 

 

And here he shows the soil composition as seen from the cellar!

 

Voila! Orange wine!

 

We are in the underground cellar with the large wooden vats. One side of the cellar is not built, in a way that we can see the soil structure! The color of wine is impressive; we are still not used to it! We move to another room where Sasa, a friend of his, a young couple from Antwerpen, Belgium and we got to try their whole wine range:

 

  • Pinot Grigio 2010 - impressive aromas of chestnut
  • Slatnik 2011 (Friulano, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio) - minerality and aromas of aging
  • Oslavje 2007 (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc) - chestnuts and nuts
  • Jakot 2007 (Friulano) - the name is the inverse of Tokaj: nose similar to the above, different palate with even longer length and concentration
  • Ribolla Gialla 2007: 6 years-old wine with all the above features and additional mushroom notes
  • Duemila - Fuori Dal Tempo 2000 - Fantastic! Great acidity, perfectly integrated vanilla and nut aromas in a grape selection vinification
  • Merlot 2002 - Totally atypical Merlot, nothing like we are used to!

 

The first two whites (Pinot Grigio and Slatnik) are macerated for 6 days and then racked in oak barrels to ferment and age for 1.5 years, while they are the only wines to contain a minimum SO2 and to be slightly filtered. All other wines remain unfiltered –with no sulfur at all- and are macerated from 2,5 to 4 months, being left in barrels for 1,5 years as well.

 

 

Tasting Radikon wines was an experience!

 

All wines displayed in the back were served in balloon glasses to maximize the enhancement of aromas

 

I generally consider these wines a little more difficult than these of Parashos, while ageing and winemaking techniques tend to eliminate the varietal differences. I was, however impressed with their character and great personality!


Off to the last winery of the day...


PODVERSIC DAMIJAN


We had an appointment with Elena, Damijan’s (say: Dam-yan) wife, in a small traditional Italian café in Gorizia. But because our stomach was complaining, we ordered a sandwich in the meanwhile to survive. What to stuff it with? Provolone cheese, prosciutto and local pomodoro (tomato!) from their garden. The waiter separately served us some gorgonzola, the delicious blue cheese from cow's milk that balances between camembert and Roquefort.


In the meantime Elena shows up! Once we were done eating, we followed her in the basement, where the finished products of the estate are stored. We are talking about 30,000 bottles a year from around 10 hectares; means the winery size is similar to what we have seen so far. Damijan first harvested in 1998, and this wine he sold in 2000 after two years of aging.

 

 

Provolone and prosciutto, what a combination!   With Elena Podversic

 

 

All Damijan wines displayed...

 

Damijan proudly shows us the sediments into his wine, a result of avoiding filtration

 

A young employee, Elisabetta, also joined us and all four of us went on a tasting flight. We tried the following:

 

  • Nekaj 2009 (Friulano) - clean nose with minerality,  underlined alcohol (14.5 %) and skins maceration between 16 to 19 days
  • Malvasia 2009 – even more balanced, caramel aromas, good -but not overwhelming-  acidity
  • Kaplja 2009 (Malvasia, Chardonnay, Friulano)
  • Ribola 2009 (Ribolla Gialla)
  • Prelit 2009 (Merlot 70%, Cabernet Sauvignon 30%)

For the last three wines I cannot find my notes, sorry!


Our impressions are superlative here too. There is a magical balance between freshness and maturity in all wines. In the meanwhile Damijan, the kind giant, shows up! We talk with him –with Elena and Elisabetta helping out as translators! He passionately told us about his philosophy in winemaking; he actually grabbed a bottle and raised it over light to proudly show us the wine sediment of the un-filtered white wine.

 

 

Elisabetta, me, Damijan and Elena

 

Needless to say that here too the white wines were served in larger red wine glasses, in temperatures around 13⁰ C and not the usual 9-11⁰ C. Also note that the family speaks Slovenian instead of Italian, while their names also indicate their Slovenian roots.


The best thing would happen in the end, since Elena offered us a ride to the vineyards, which of course we accepted! We followed Elisabetta’s van, who guided us to one of the great family vineyards, literally into the woods! Thank you Damijan, Elena and Elisabetta! These pictures are the best finale to our tour in beautiful Friuli...

 

 

 

 

 

 


I hope you have enjoyed this! Next post will be about our magical journey in Veneto tasting Amarone!

 

Photos: Stavroula Mariamou

 

Gregory Kontos, DipWSET


Wine writer and taster, sommelier graduate and WSET Diploma holder, with an appreciation for food, traveling, music, friends and bon vivant things in general. Founder of Aegean Wine Selections, a Company focused in Greek wine exports. He is married to Stavroula Mariamou and they have a son. 

 

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