Soulful Skin-contacts and Cultural Intersections
Owner & winemaker: brothers Alexis & Jannis Paraschos and their father Evangelos
Vineyard area: 7 hectares (= 17 acres), estate-owned
Vineyard management: certified organics
Soils: clay, silt
Main varieties: Ribolla Gialla, Friulano (fka Tokai), Malvasia Istriana, Pinot Gris for the whites; Merlot and Pinot Noir for the reds
Annual production (approx.): 25,000 bottles
Winemaking: usually some skin contact for the whites. Fermentation in open-topped vats and amphoras, aging in barrels and amphoras. Spontaneous fermentation only. No fining, no filtration, no sulfur additions.
- The winery started in the 1990s, inspired by wines of their neighbors like Gravner or Radikon, which Evangelos fell in love with at the family restaurant he ran
- The estate has been organic since the beginning and went completely natural (indigenous yeast only, no filtration, no SO2 added) in 2003, after moving to a newly built cellar that finally allowed them to work this way
- With their Greek roots and Italian/Slovene border situation, the brothers are true polyglots: they speak Greek with their father, Italian between themselves, Slovene with their workers, and English with most of their clients
- Just above the cellar, the family runs a small, cozy agriturismo with beautiful views of the surrounding lush vine-covered slopes; highly recommended.
“This year, we were like monks in Burgundy,” Alexis Paraschos acknowledges with his typically warm smile, “no travel, no party, just working and observing our vines doing well, seeing the effect of different pruning methods and getting beautiful healthy grapes with only 12% potential ABV in the end.” There’s no trace of longing for the busy life on the go of the more “normal” years in his voice; maybe it’s because the “fairs & flights” part of the job is usually done by his more outspoken brother Jannis anyways, or maybe because—and this is our bet—the Collio area is a pretty nice spot to get stuck in.
Located on the border of Slovenia and Italy, the hilly microregion of Collio Goriziano / Goriška Brda offers an unfair share of everything a wine lover could ask for: the hustle and Vienna-like flair of the proud port city of Trieste lies just an hour drive away, as do the Alps and beaches. Being a historically busy intersection of the Balkans, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Italy means that great eating spots abound in the area (including a Michelin-star restaurant that allegedly inspired Ana Roš of Hiša Franko to become a chef, too). And most of all, it really touches one’s heart to look at all the natural beauty around. The family’s agriturismo, located just above the cellar, overlooks lush vine-covered slopes and valleys and makes you sympathize with the rich merchants of the Habsburg empire who made Gorizia their favorite holiday spot.
The tumultuous course of history left a strong mark on the area’s viticulture, too, as Alexis explains to us when we wonder about the prevalence of Merlot in the area. Far from being recently imported, it was actually introduced during a brief episode of the French reign during the Napoleonic era at the beginning of the 19th century. “And since the growers had a good experience with this grape, they opted for it when replantation was needed after the ravages of WWI, in 1918 and beyond.” History explained in wine—yes, please!
Although the Paraschos winery started in the 1990s when Alexis’ father Evangelos became inspired by neighboring Gravner wines that he liked to serve in the family restaurant, the family actually has the luck to own some vines that hail almost a century back, on both sides of the border. The oldest Merlot plants from these vines give birth to Skala (meaning “rock” in reference to the poor gravel subsoil), the winery’s top red. Naturally low yields bring about a deep, focused wine with endless layers of fruits, stones, and fresh earth. “That’s the character given by old vines,” Alexis nods, “past 50 years of age, something beautiful happens to Merlot, and it starts to give these noble notes of truffle and humus.”
But the region—and estate—is probably best known for their whites, or rather oranges, as the winemaking tradition in the area consists of skin contact wines from the locally typical Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, and Friulano (fka Tokai until the famous Hungarian namesake area said no). Alexis Paraschos uses the maceration rather lightly, aiming at harmony between freshness, tannins, body, and the seductive drinkability of these wines proves him right. Especially the Orange One, a blend of all three varietals that came about from Alexis’ historical research: “Traditionally, the wines here were blends or even field-blends, with the practical reason of getting a naturally balanced wine even when one of the varietals had a weaker year. Take Ribolla, for example—it needs a big vintage and good exposure to create great wine, so we only make pure Ribolla in these years. But it’s also the best way to fight the unnatural idea that wine equals monoculture.”
Indeed, monoculture is not something you’ll experience in the lush Paraschos vineyards; since the beginning, the winery has been synonymous with extreme respect for the environment (and the consumer). No herbicides, no pesticides, the only fertilizer used is organic manure, and the rows are covered with grass and plowed only in winter if necessary. No wonder the vines look so happy and healthy despite their significant age, we say, complimenting Alexis. “We couldn’t do it otherwise,” he shrugs, “You can have an occasional bad vintage when working this way. But you still have your healthy soil and living vineyard. And that’s what matters the most.”
Vineyard: Gradiscutta, San Floriano. Planted in 1936, South-East exposure, sandstone and clay, 50m a.s.l.
Grapes: Friulano 100% (fka Tokai Friulano, thus the name)
Making of: Grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed, and fermented spontaneously in open-topped oak vats with no temperature control, for a couple of days on the skins. Gently pressed and transferred to big Slavonian oak casks and left with the fine lees for a minimum of two years. Bottled by gravity, no fining, no filter, no SO2 added.
Personality: a paradise for lovers of graceful white wines! Honey, beeswax, a touch of salt, mingling generosity with a refreshing acidic backbone. Classy.
Amphoreus — Back to the top
A meticulous selection of perfectly ripe and healthy bunches from the oldest Malvasia vines (more than 90 years old) that the Paraschos family farms. The berries are then macerated in Cretan amphora, in a nod to the family’s Greek roots.
Vineyard: Sant’Andrea and Lucinico, clay and gravel. Vines are 90+ years old.
Grapes: Malvasia Istriana
Making of: the grapes are hand-harvested, strictly sorted to keep only the healthiest and ripest bunches, and gently destemmed. The berries are placed in 240-liter clay amphorae from Crete (internally lined with Italian beeswax) and left on skins for 12 months. The wine is then bottled by gravity, without fining, filtration or sulfur addition, and spends a minimum of 12 more months in the bottle before being released.
Personality: endless notes of ripe fruits, herbal, lemony, honey-like notes, lingering finish. A real treat.
Ribolla Gialla — Back to the top
For this wine, Alexis and his family select only the grapes from the highest and sunniest rows of the vineyard, in order to get a skin-contact wine with very soft, ripe, mellow tannins.
Varieties: Ribolla Gialla
Vineyard: San Floriano del Collio, exposed South-East, marl and
sandstone (Flysch) 250m a.s.l. Average age of vines: 20 years.
Making of: Grapes are hand-harvested, partially destemmed, and macerated in open-topped wooden vats for the time of alcoholic fermentation. Native yeast only, no temperature control. The skins are lightly pressed and the wine is then transferred into the underground cellar, where it ages on its lees in big Slavonian oak barrels (15 – 25 hl) for a minimum of 24 months on the fine lees
Bottled by gravity, without sulphites addition, fining or filtration.
Personality: beautifully balanced amber wine, with intense nose of yellow fruit and herbs. Very long, with lovely structure of soft tannins and lingering acidity.
Grapes: Pinot Grigio
Vineyard: Slatnik. North-est exposition, clay-marl soils. 30 years old vines
Making of: Grapes are hand-harvested and destemmed. Half of them are macerated for 10 days on the skins, half are direct-pressed. Assembled together to finish the spontaneous fermentation and aged in Slavonian oak barrels for 2 years. No fining, filter, SO2 added.
Personality: structured, tangy ramato-style Pinot Grigio, with lovely amber-pink color and flavors of ripe fruit. Awesome pairing material-
Merlot — Back to the top
Age of Vines: 15 years old
Soil: Clay, Limestone, Gravel, and Marl
Vinification Method: Grapes are hand-harvested, destemmed, and macerated in open-topped wooden vats for 20 days without refrigeration. Hand punch-downs are performed about 4-5 times per day. The skins are pressed to stainless steel tanks for about 4 days at cellar temperature. Then the wine is racked, with the fine lees, to 2500 and 500-liter oak barrels for elevage.
Ponka — Back to the top
A traditional fieldblend of white varieties growing on Slatnik hill, one of the most renowned vineyards of Collio. The name comes from its special type of soil, a clayey-marl called Ponka.
Vineyard: Slatnik, San Floriano del Collio Oslavia. Northeast exposure, marl-clay soil, elevation 250m. Estate-owned, farmed organically by the Paraschos family
Grapes: Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Picolit, Verduzzo, Pinot Bianco
Making of: Grapes are hand-harvested separately and gradually when they reach the right point of ripeness (up to 3 weeks of difference between the first and the last pick). Destemmed and skin-macerated in big, open-topped vats. When the last-picked grapes are added to the vat, the coferment is left for some days to finish the alcoholic fermentation. No yeast addition, no temperature control. Gently pressed and racked by gravity to the aging cellar, where it spends a minimum of 2 years on its fine lees in big neutral oak vats. Bottled by gravity, no fining, no filter, no SO2 added.
Personality: great and graceful! The unique terroir together with masterfully unrushed winemaking and a well-incorporated skin-contact result in a super elegant and layered white, full of lush meadow notes, salinity, silky tannins, velvety texture and citrus-like acidity. A wine you’ll be happy to go back to the whole evening, discovering new facets with each sip and glass. Great ageing potential.
Orange One — Back to the top
Alexis Paraschos on this wine: “The true “white” of Gorizia! Our historic research shows that the white wines of this area used to be a blend of typical varieties because such wine would give a more harmonious and naturally stable result. We choose to make this skin-contact white, coming partly from complanted vines, to honor this tradition and fight monoculture.”
Age of Vines: 30 years on average
Vineyard: Slatnik, Lucinico and Sant’Andrea, marl-clay
Grapes: Ribolla Gialla, Malvasia Istriana, Friulano (in roughly equal parts)
Winemaking: the grapes are hand-harvested at optimum maturity, then macerated on skins in open vats for a couple of days, based on what the given grape needs. Spontaneous fermentation in big oak vats at cellar temperature with regular manual punch-downs. Aged at least 24 months on the fine yeast in large Slavonian oak barrels. Botted solely by gravity, no filtration, fining or sulfur added.
Personality: balance it is! Lemon, orange peel, a touch of roses, light body, and good length: one of these skin-contact wines for people who are getting tired of, or freshly acquainted with orange wines.
Skala — Back to the top
Alexis Paraschos on this wine: “Something special happens to Merlot vines once they pass 50 years of age: they start giving grapes with a sublime note of truffle and wet earth.” This cuvée, the estate’s top red wine, pays an absolute tribute to this unique character, elevated further by the experience, amount of time, and handwork employed.
Age of Vines: 60 to 90 years
Vineyard: Sant’Andrea and Lucinico on gravel and clay with rocky subsoil (= “skala” in Slovene)
Winemaking: hand-selected grapes ferment with the skins for 30 days in open-topped old oak vat. Aged in big Slavonian oak barrels or smaller French oak tonneaux and barriques for 5 years on its fine lees. Botted solely by gravity, no filtration, fining or sulfur added.
Personality: Opulence, this cuvée owns everything! Depth, concentration but also energy, and finesse that you can keep returning to for days. Dry and perfectly structured tannins, earthy notes intertwined with crunchy minerals and lightly cooked dark fruit. If someone ever gets foolish enough to tell you that natural wine cannot age, especially without sulfur, stun him with this Escher painting of wine and its youthful character. Serious oomph.