Second generation winemaker, Alexis ParaschosSecond generation winemaker, Alexis ParaschosParaschos π

San Floriano del Collio

Collio, Italy

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I found this winery intriguing on many levels. Two specializations--no-sulphur and amphora production--are envelope pushing techniques, with other aspects of production following closely on their heels: no temperature control, wild yeast, open top fermentation for whites, no till viticulture…. This is radical winemaking at its best, with results to prove their case.

π is the brainchild of pharmacist, Evangelos Paraschos, who became friends with local organic producers and began making wine in 1979. Challenged by the concept of making no-sulphur wines for them he started making small batches for local restaurants. When the war in former Yugoslavia closed off border trade, ultimately collapsing local restaurants, he went out on his own in 1998. 

The name π is taken from the first letter of their surname which is of Greek origin. But the owners also like the symbolic idea of π being an undefined number. An the circular aspect of π relating to the cycle of each vintage, where nothing is completely defined as it changes/renews each year. Brand as brainfood.

Collio's typical steep slopes Collio's typical steep slopes Their sub-region (Friuli Venezia Giulia) straddles WWI battle fields that border Slovenia, so it is a valley that has lived with wars’ influences for centuries. Indeed its French grapes Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Noir and Merlot arrived with Napoleon’s troops, so shouldn’t be confused with late 20th century interlopers elsewhere. Their clonal material probably no longer exists in France at this point.

The surrounding vineyards hug the first, steep foothills of the Alps-- no vines appear again north of there until Graz in Austraia. 300klm winds are not unknown in this extremely windy environment. This is a hostile environment to grow grapes where 40 year old vines look 10 year olds, 10 looks more like 2 and 80 year old vines are still stick-like. Hostile, is an understatement.  

π’s vines grown on a single trunk with a single stem shooting off that develops a relatively high trellis. The vines produce a maximum kilo per plant so make very concentrated wines.

old vines from lower slopesEvangelos’s winemaking son, Alexis Paraschos, believes amphora production is good for long maturation on skins because clay assists in clarification. Covered in bees’ wax, amphora allow oxygen to enter without loss of wine, creating oxidative stability during early maturation.

No-sulphur wines are the rule, except in rare, extremely difficult vintages, where at most 20mgms will be used as the minimal amount needed for wine to survive. The fundamental belief is that if wines will survive in an oxidative environment in barrel for 2 years, they should remain stable without sulphur in a closed bottle for many years after.

Winemaking leans in similar directions but remains flexibly pragmatic, following the needs of vintage variation. Skin contact varies, Tokai Friulano might get 2-3 days maceration, whereas Ribla, 7-8 days. After fermentation wines get a light pressings into steel vats to clarify, followed by time on fine lees in large format (500, 1500 and 2500 litres) Slavian barrels. They are left in barrels for a minimum 2 years without wracking, using lees to preserve the wine. Bottling avoids filtration. Depending on the grape and year, a wine might spend 6 month macerating in amphora, then spend 6 months in barrel, then go back to amphora. Generally speaking, all wines spend a minimum 2 years in bottle.

White wines ferment grapes in open vats, crushed and treated with continuous punch downs, common techniques used with red grapes like Pinot Noir. Interestingly, this concept dates back to local 18th century practices where white grapes were treated more like red wine to develop tannic structure in place of low acidity. Indeed, the resultant dark, amber colors resulted in local name for Pinot Griggio, ‘Romato,’ because of its ‘copper colored’ style. Intriguingly, there is an almost  trans-gender approach to both red and white styles, with Pinot Griggio behaving more like red wine, and Pinot Noir looking, feeling and tasting more like white.

Every wine I tasted at π was both distinctive and utterly fascinating. They all deserve be taken on their own terms with a completely open mind.

π- Paraschos Kai 2009 Formerly known as Tokai Friulano and called Sauvignonasse just across the border in Slovenia, this 100% Friulano, tasted from barrel, showed its hotter vintage origins: spirity, lifted minerality, full in mouth with firm acidity 12.5% Wines tasted from barrels April 2012.

π- Paraschos Kai 2010 Formerly known as Tokai Friulano and called Sauvignonasse just across the border in Slovenia, π’s 100% Friulano tasted from barrel showed great integration and fruit depth. Great acid balance with a smartly tapered finish. Although still in barrel now, this is surpringly complete  now. 2010 was a colder vintage. Wines tasted from barrels April 2012

π- Paraschos Old Vine Malvasia Fina 2011 This no-sulphur wine presents wild, indigenous yeast aromas with strong almandine characters.  In the mouth it offers smooth, fine, linear textures and a long tapered finish shot through with fine grained tannins. Tasted from amphora April 2012

π- Paraschos Pinot Griggio 2008 darker copper color. Tasted from small 100 litre barrels intended for magnums. 2008 was a tiny vintage with ½ crop lost at flowering. Only 8 of 25 hectares were produced produced. Concentrated, but fresh, with dense viscosity and firm tannins. Wines tasted from barrels April 2012

π- Paraschos Pinot Griggio 2010 ½ of batch was pressed immediately, then blended with the remaining half macerated lot. Fresher, fruitier nose, (pear jelly) but with less straw than 2011 vintage.  Fuller, fleshier, creamier bodied with fine tapered finish, excellent acidity and tannin balance. Wines tasted from barrels April 2012