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Though the name Radikon seems to imply a radical breaking from tradition, Stanislao (Stanko) Radikon, who sadly passed away from cancer earlier this year, was very much a representative of his region. The Radikon winery is located in the town of Oslavia in the Isonzo zone of Friuli, near the border of Slovenia. This area, once part of the Venetian empire, still has the feel of a border zone. Italian is the lingua franca here, but German, Slovenian and an ancient dialect called Resian are also spoken. In short, the area is a patchwork of cultural influences.
Even in this area of unique winemakers- think Josko Gravner, Edi Kante and Ales Kristancic of Movia- Stanko Radikon stood out. Radikon was one of the foremost proponents of the so-called "Slovenian" style of winemaking in Friuli. This style utilizes hand-harvesting, extended skin maceration, large, older barrel fermentations without temperature control, no added yeasts or enzymes, and little or no use of sulfur. In short, this is the way wines were made in the area prior to World War II. The resulting wines are golden in color, rich with complex fruit aromas, and notable for their length on the palate and their ability to age.
Radikon's 11 hectares of vines were originally planted by Stanko's grandfather Franz Mikulus with the local favorite, the Ribolla Gialla grape. In 1948, Stanko's parents, who had inherited the property from his mother's father, planted Merlot, (Tocai) Friulano and Pinot Grigio. The winery's philosophy is to always make a natural, organic wine with the least human intervention possible and with the maximum respect for the soils and nature. In the vineyard, the vines are planted extremely tight (between 6. 500 to 10,000 plants per hectare) and they do not use any chemicals or synthetics; what little treatments they use- and only when absolutely necessary- are done with only non-harmful products. Through careful pruning and selection at the time of harvest, the hand-harvested yields are kept well below 2.25 tons per acre.
In the cellar, the grapes are de-stemmed and then macerated on the skins for 30 days more, with experimentation of 6/7 months for the whites, and 35 days for the reds. The pressing is done softly using a pneumatic press. All phases of the vinification are in Slavonian oak barrels, first in wood vats and then in large barrels in which the wines are aged for about 3 years before bottling. The vinifications are done using only the natural yeasts present on the grapes. There is no sulfur added at vinification or bottling. Radikon suggests serving the white wines at cellar temperature and storing them outside the refrigerator.
Stanko Radikon was a unique and larger-than-life figure in the winemaking world; his energy and passion will be greatly missed. Eric Asimov wrote a wonderful article celebrating his life and achievements: read it here.