Pradis, Collio, Friuli
Pradis is a hilltop hamlet outside Cormons. Look East and Slovenia is clearly visible, to the north stand the Dolomites and to the south, the Bay of Trieste; nature has gifted a rare combination of protection and moderation. The hills were once maritime and the rock is known locally as ‘ponka’, distinct from the Del Boy variety, it breaks like slate and looks like light limestone. It is highly valued as a fantastic medium for vines, well drained and rich in minerals. The terroir is gifted and though word is out, we haven’t quite got it yet in GB, it’s complicated.
I can think of no region where such a disparate shamble of winemakers get on so well; there is a genuine, mutual love of the land and wines. It is not so unusual to find Roberto sharing a car with Edi Keber, Damian Princic (Collie Duga) and Dario Raccaro as they work the restaurants and tastings.
Geographically Roberto and Alessia’s farm is right in the middle of the Collio, perfect if you wish to stay in their ‘agriturismo’. The wines however have never seen a middle lane, Roberto has his own very particular philosophy; he treats the vineyard like a kitchen garden and in the cellar he observes rather than forces the grapes’ passage to wine, his favourite wines are named after his children and mother, all are named after his father ‘il Ribel’. There are few more individual characters that Roberto Picech, cut him and he will bleed yellow, probably not the shade of Ribolla Gialla that the Collio has pinned its flag to, Friulano or Malvasia most likely.
In 1940, the Picéch family bought the land on which they had worked since the 20s, 5 hectares in all. Roberto took over the winemaking in 1986 and made some serious and immediate changes: notably cutting production by two thirds to less than 30,000 bottles a year and bottling everything at the cantina. 2006 saw the completion of a new cantina (although Alessia would have preferred the house to have been the first priority - there was no heating for two years). The extra space has helped enormously as the previous conditions could be, at very best, described as cramped. Now, finally everything is finished, including the wine – we are happy for Roberto that his problem is no longer selling the wine, but to whom he should sell it.