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Radikon wines: the cult classic natural wine

Out of 18 steep sloped hectares near the Slovenian border in the far north-east of Italy’s Friuli-Venezia Giulia comes natural wine heavyweight, Radikon. Years of refined craftsmanship have produced astronomically complex, highly potent, aromatic and elegant wines that are highly sought after in the natural wine world.

Radikon’s story begun in the early 1900s, when the indigenous Ribolla Gialla was planted by the grandfather of one Stanko Radikon. The winery was built on soils a complex mix of sandstone, clay and marine deposits and utilised old-school practices of low-yield farming (producing juicy, jumbo grapes) and hand-harvesting. In 1948, Stanko’s parents took over and widened the plantings to include Merlot, Tocai Friulano and Pinot Grigio.

Radikon Wines

And then, Stanko came to the helm and everything changed. Through 36 vintages, Stanko revolutionised natural wine making, abandoning all chemicals and most importantly, bringing in extended skin contact. A process that lends itself to a more robust product. Let’s take a look at the Radikon methods a little more closely to see how.

For a start, the vineyards are all low yield (4-5 bunches for each vine). The grapes are hand-harvested, then destemmed and macerated on skins for about thirty days for reds and up to sometimes 6 months for whites. They’re all pressed with the tenderness of a pneumatic press, then placed in Slovenian oak barrels and aged for three years before bottling when they’re aged for another year. At bottling, the only yeast present is the naturally occurring. And that’s right, absolutely no sulfur here, folks.

“Every vintage is a child of its time and the time that we give it to rest, to grow up, and blow up those feelings in you that will bring back the sensory experience of the grape.”

The resultant drop is an absolutely arresting, softly tannic wine that is so more-ish you’ll have finished the bottle before you know it. But don’t worry, Stanko has your back, bottling his elixir in 1L bottles as standard size. A practice that should be more commonplace, I dare say. However, Stanko not only revolutionised vinification and bottling processes, he also produced his own high-quality corks with an immaculate surface-to-air ratio that avoids cork-taint and allows for better ageing.

Radikon Wines

Unfortunately, Stanko passed away in 2016 at age 62. His son and decade-long partner in winemaking, Sasa, luckily stepped up to fill the large void that was left behind. And aren’t we glad that he did. Sasa continued his father’s traditions and made his own waves in the natural wine world with the launch of his “S” wines. These wines serve as an entry-level taste-test to the Radikon world. They see much less maceration time (8-14 days), smaller vessel maturation (and for shorter duration), and just a tiny drop of sulfur at bottling. For a good start get your hands on the highly lauded “Slatnik” which is all cooked cherries, baked orange peel, floral rose and smoky leather.

Trying a Radikon wine for the first time can be an exhilarating and hypnotising baptism. Once you’ve had that first sip, you can never go back. For their wines are doing something

more in that wine glass: telling the oft-ignored story of white wine. They remind us that drinking a truly great white can be just as, if not even more so, rewarding than a big juicy red.

Article by: Ceren Guler

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