The Wine: RS17 Merlot Pignolo 2017
Radikon RS17 Merlot Pignolo 2017 is a red natural wine made from a blend of 75% Merlot and 25% Pignolo farmed biodynamically in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Northern Italy. Spontaneous fermentation with the skins for about 15 days and then about one year of aging in Slavonian oak barrels. No additions, no sulfites added. Another absolute masterpiece by Saša Radikon, a true master winemaker like his late father Stanko Radikon.
The Producer: Radikon
Stanko Radikon was one of the most respected winemakers from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. He died in 2016 after complications from cancer leaving his 11-hectare estate to his son Saša and wife Suzana. Radikon estate is located in Oslavia, in an area of Friuli-Venezia Giulia called Isonzo, right on the border with Slovenia and close to Germany. Both languages, with the addition of Italian and some local dialects, are spoken in the area which is a patchwork of different cultures.
Saša Radikon, like his father, works with no chemicals in the vineyards or in the cellar and with no sulfites. Stanko always a championed working without sulfur dioxide, a very difficult technique to implement. And now Saša is following in his father's footsteps. All Radikon wines are majestic, highly structured, and very stable. Extended maceration on the skins, another very difficult and expensive technique to master, is the norm. Natural winemakers from around the world are often in awe when approaching Radikon's wines; their purity, robustness, and olfactory profiles being hard to match.
The Region: Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli Venezia Giulia has become in recent years one of the most important wine-producing regions in the world. Winemaking and viticulture have reached levels comparable to that of major European wine regions such as the Mosel in Germany and the Loire Valley in France.
Friuli Venezia Giulia's wine landscape is a mosaic of international and native grape varietals. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot are counterpointed by local heroes Pinot Grigio, Picolit, Friulano, Verduzzo, Ribolla Gialla, and Schioppettino.
Diversity is indeed the quintessential character of Friuli Venezia Giulia: a border region which throughout history has seen a commingling of peoples, cultures, and languages. Friuli Venezia Giulia's Italian, Austrian, and Slovenian influences are evident in architecture, literature, and of course winemaking and viticulture.
Friuli Venezia Giulia borders with Trentino-Alto Adige (north-west), Veneto (south-west), Austria (north), Slovenia (west) and gets its name from the merger of Friuli region and Venezia Giulia, a region encompassing parts of Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia. The capital of Friuli Venezia Giulia is the seaport city of Trieste, located near the border with Slovenia.
The Terroir of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia displays a variety of microclimates, from the cold pre-alpine climate in the eastern part of the region, following the Julian Alps, to the Mediterranean climate characterizing the southern flatlands.
Wines from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are heavily influenced by the region's position, squeezed as it is between the Alps and the Adriatic sea. Freshness, good acidity, and finesse are some of their main characteristics.
Soil composition varies depending on the sub-region, but perhaps the most typical is represented by Marl and sandstone - also known as "flysch" or with the local term "Ponca", which is found in the Collio area.
The Red Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia red wine production is often obfuscated by its world-class white wine production. However, in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, along with native varietals such as Ribolla Nera and Schioppettino, we can find some of the best Italian expressions of red wines made from international varietals.
In recent years, more and more producers have been experimenting with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and also Pinot Noir. The quality of Friuli-Venezia Giulia winemaking is so consistent across the board that international varietals give some of the best red wines made in the region.
The White Wines of Friuli-Venezia Giulia
Friuli-Venezia Giulia is regarded as one of the top wine producing regions for white wines not only in Italy but also worldwide. All three DOCGs are white wines - Ramandolo DOCG, Picolit DOCG, Rosazzo DOCG. Some of the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world is produced in the Collio wine region, near the city of Gorizia, on the border with Slovenia, and the Grave DOC appellation.
Furthermore, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, together with neighboring Slovenia, is the mecca for orange wine lovers. Some of the techniques pioneered by winemakers from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are extended maceration on the skins and the use of amphorae.