2 Unique, Old World White WinesBy
2009 Radikon Slatnik
One of the most radical, “on the edge” winemakers in the world is Stanko Radikon. Based out of Oslavia across the border from Italy’s Friuli region in the northwest, the Radikon wines are as eccenrtic as they get.
Here is what Michael Tulipan of the Organic Wine Journal noted on his blog–
“Radikon’s land hugs the side of a hill in Oslavia, nestled between the town of Gorizia and the Slovenian border. To the north are the Julian Alps, which help block the cold continental winter winds that could damage the vines, and to the south, less than twenty miles away, is the Adriatic Sea. The sun-soaked vineyard faces south and southeast, unfolding beneath a winery that looks like a cantina out of the old west. A true natural winemaker, Stanko has gone past what is considered organic, eschewing all chemical treatments since 1995, even when it means losing grapes. He also stopped adding sulfites in 2002. Due to the vertical nature of the land, most tasks have to be done by hand and the vines are trimmed to produce fewer bunches, generally four to five per vine, resulting in more concentrated juice.
Like most Friuli wineries, Radikon is a family affair. Stanko’s son Sasa is an enthusiastic guide as he takes us through the cellar, stopping to taste wines at different stages of the aging process. Where many winemakers would be content to bottle their wine, Sasa emphasizes theirs has time to go. I ask, “How long?” He answers, “Until my father feels it is ready.”
Radikon wines are notable for several reasons, especially the amount of time invested in them and the natural methods employed. Once de-stemmed, grapes experience an extra long maceration on the skins in cone-shaped vats. Starting in 1995 Stanko tried anywhere from seven days to nine months before settling on about four months in 2005. During this period, the grapes are stirred three or four times a day then go through a double extraction, the first caused by water and the second by alcohol. The wines are aged a minimum of three years in large oak casks, followed by at least another year in the bottle before being released.
In the interim, the wines receive no added sulfites and they are not filtered before being bottled. The end result is an amazingly complex and profound wine that can age for years, even a decade or more. While not adding sulfites can make wines less stable, according to Stanko the long maceration results in substances being extracted from the grapes that protect the wine and allow it to age, creating wines, that are in his words, “totally genuine.”
Four wines make up the Radikon line, Jakot (a reverse play on the now verboten Tocai), Ribolla Gialla, Oslavje (a blend of chardonnay, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc) and Merlot. While best known for its whites, which are characterized by rich gold to copper hues, cloudiness, deep aromas and complexity, Radikon’s sole red, merlot, is a true expression of the grape and not to be missed“.
2001 JL Chave Hermitage Blanc
The iconic Chave family have been producing wines from the Hermitage hill for at least 14 generations. Theri wines, both red & white, have been some of the most prestigious, hard to get & expensive over that time period. There is no doubt they are some of the most unique & noteworthy wines of the world.
I am one of those people who believes great wines are made in the vineyard & Hermitage has proven itself over the centuries as being one of the world’s GREAT sites. I was always under the assumption the soil was mainly decomposing granite. While many of the very special parcels are in fact comprised of granitic soils, it really is not the only act in town. After spending a day with Gerard back in the 80’s and more recently his son, Jean Louis, walking the hill, I was amazed at the myriad of soils, which comprise the hill, which were over the years smashed up upon each other by glaciers.
The Chave family have at last count 37 different parcels featuring all kinds of different soils to work their magic with. Here are 3 of their parcels just to show how diverse each can be.
It really took me a long time for me to understand Chave’s Hermitage Blanc. It really is unlike any other wine. The 2001 has a striking nose–powerful, deep, profound, REAL stony, masculine, oily/viscous, with great structure & power….STILL. I was amazed at how youthful it still is. There is an unusual acaia-hawthorne-lanolin smell which I don’t recall ever smelling in any other white wine I have had. I was awed by the depth, layering & verve of this truly big, yet UN-heavy white wine. It really is worth the hassle & expense of finding an aged one to try. It really is one of theworld’s unique & iconic white wines.