It is early in a cloudy autumn morning and the day is slowly waking up, with a bit of dew still in the air. In the Bed and Breakfast, the daily routine begins to fill the silence. Customers are sitting in the parlor for breakfast and you can hear some farm animals in the distance. Underneath the B&B sits the winery, where we find all the required tools to make excellent wine, and surrounding the property you can see part of the vineyards. The estate is run by Alexis Paraschos, heir of the family winemaking tradition. He is one of those people you immediately like. Because he is producing great wines, but because he makes you feel good when you not only visit him and talk about wine with him. He is the leading man at Sozietá Agricola Paraschos after his father passed him the reins of the family business. The property is located in the heart of the Friulian Collio, in San Floriano di Collio. The family is of Greek ascendency, and you can see that in the winery logo, the pi symbol Π.
In the early 2000s, they made the change from traditional winemaking to organically and subsequently naturally methods. They also started to use skin maceration for their white wines. Far from being a fashion style as some people are identifying this winemaking method with nowadays, skin maceration in the white wines is the ancient way in which wines were elaborated some 8,000 years ago to help preservation and ageing of the wines. Not only in the Caucasus area where this method was born, but also in what was later known as the Istria region, including areas of Croatia, Slovenia and Italy where San Floriano sits. In fact, the skin maceration and the natural winemaking philosophy were the only way white wines were produced here, especially in the Slovenian side of the border due to the restrictions happening behind the Iron Curtain back in the day.
Alexis produces really good orange wines. Red wines as well, obviously. He is producing single-varietals Pinot Nero and Merlot, and a Merlot-based blend called Skala with a bit or Barbera and Refosco.
The white wines are where we will stop today. The single-varietal wines are Chardonnay, Kai (Friulano), Not (Pinot Grigio), Ribolla Gialla and Sauvignon. The white blend is Ponka, produced with Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Picolit, Verduzzo and Pinot Bianco. The vinification of the white wines includes a period of skin contact ranging from two days of the Kai to up to two weeks for the Ribolla Gialla. Then all the wines age in big Slavonian casks of 15-25 hectoliters for at least two years.
Then we have three more special white wines. Alexis is a believer in the use of amphora for the fermentation and ageing of his wines. His amphorae are terracotta-made in Micene and the island of Crete and then he adds a treatment of bee wax in the inside layer. The wax comes from bees raised in nearby Dolegna del Collio. He started using this elaboration method back in 2009.
And what is so special about these wines besides the amphora? Well, they truly are wonderful wines. The Amphoreus Malvasia is a single-varietal example of perfection in a bottle. The fermentation in the amphora goes for twelve months on the skins and then it goes eighteen more months in the bottle to round the wine before it is released to the market. The yeasts are autochthonous and there is no added sulfur at all. We had the opportunity of enjoying this wine in a tasting of Malvasia-based wines and out of seven samples, this was the most valuable one.
Amphoreus Bianco is the second white wine. Mostly Ribolla Gialla with Chardonnay, the must also ferments on the skins in amphora for twelve months. Then it goes to the bottle. Again, the yeasts are autochthonous and there is no added sulfur at all.
The final special white wine is Orange One. As Alexis calls it, the “true white wine from Gorizia”: Friulano, Istrian Malvasia and Ribolla Gialla. Maceration on the skins by variety, spontaneous fermentation and 24 months of ageing in large Slavonian casks.
Soon we will talk with Alexis about his winemaking philosophy.