Radikon is the benchmark for “orange” wine production in the natural wine world. What’s orange wine, you ask? Generally, it’s made from “white” grapes, like Pinot gris – a variety which isn’t actually white, it’s more of grayish-blue in color (hence the “gris”). In Italy, Pinot Gris is referred to as Pinot Grigio. Pinot Grigio makes a white wine when sent directly to the press, or a copper-colored wine when left on the skins for some time. This is how orange wine is made – grapes traditionally used for white wine are macerated on the skins like a red wine, instead of going directly to the press after harvest. Not all of them are orange in color, but Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio is.
Colleen and I were fortunate enough to get to meet one of the proprietors of Radikon last week at a trade tasting – Saša Radikon. He has huge hands, which I noticed were rough and calloused when I shook one – he is a farmer, after all. We tasted through Radikon’s entire lineup, all of which were orange wines. The first few were the “S” line – vinified by Saša – which spend the least amount of time on the skins (2-3 weeks) and the shortest duration aging in barrels (12 months). The 2010 S Pinot Grigio, our featured Wine of the Week, was our hands-down favorite, so we picked up a case of it to share with you.
It’s important to think of orange wine more like a red wine – it’s rich, viscous, tannic, and complex – although it does retain a lot of it’s freshness from acidity, like a white wine. These wines show best when paired with food, so be sure to cook up something delicious to enjoy with it. This is a very special bottle that is incredibly hard to find outside of a handful of natural wine shops, and we are very excited to offer it to you.
Winemaker: Stanko and Saša Radikon
Bio: The Radikon family includes several generations of winemakers and grape growers. Stanko took a cue from his grandfather’s winemaking style in the 1930’s and when he took over the family business, started to produce skin-fermented, so-called “orange wines.”
Region: Italy>Friuli-Venezia Giulia>Isonzo>Oslavia
Vineyard: After a devastating mudslide in 1994, the vineyards were replanted starting in 1997. The soil is heavy clay with shale. All grapes are estate grown, and hand-harvested. The Radikons use horse manure for fertilizer, as well as small amounts of copper and sulfur to treat pests and diseases. They’re also experimenting with propolis, a bee-based resinous product that they find to be effective against mildew. They use no synthetic chemicals in the vineyard or the winery.
Blend: 100% Pinot Grigio
Aging: 12 months in neutral barrel
Production Notes: Saša Radikon is the maker of the “S” line at Radikon. Saša and his father have not certified their vineyard or winery as organic or biodynamic, in part because they don’t feel it reflects their commitment to the land and the product – the certifications are too easy to get. All Radikon grapes are de-stemmed. Sasa’s Pinot Grigio, among other white grapes they work with, is fermented on the skins for 2-3 weeks. Aged in barrique for one year, bottled with a small dose of SO2, aged in bottle for 2 years, and then released.
Tasting Notes: Let’s start with the end. The finish on this wine is among the most outstanding we have ever experienced – long, and utterly fascinating. The color is a beautiful shimmering apricot, a treat to admire in the glass. When you see this wine, you can finally see the “gris” in Pinot Gris – the coppery color on the skins translates directly to the glass here. The wine is bright with acid and a bit tense, full of strawberry, resin (think pine trees, or IPAs), and honey flavors. It has a surprising amount of tannin, and a ton of complexity, but don’t be afraid! It’s totally rewarding. A thinker’s wine.
Food Pairings: Anything with mushrooms – a mushroom toast, or mushroom pizza. Vegetable dishes such as roasted vegetables, or dishes with herbs like a veggie quiche with thyme.