There is no end to all of the fascinating orange wines on both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border. But Sandi Škerk isn’t “just another”, he is one of the modern torchbearers for the style. Located in Carso, with a cellar in carso rock, he grows vitovska, malvazija, sauvignon blanc and pinot grigio. This wine is a blend of all four varieties in equal parts, each contributing their specific characteristic, such as the aroma of sauvignon and the blushing colour of pinot grigio.
The must remained in contact with the skins for two week, and it was aged in big, old barrels – and bottled unfiltered.
Ograde 2017(Az. Agr. Škerk)
Light pink-orange colour. Very aromatic, with flowers (roses), citrus, (dried) apricot, white pepper. Quite full and smooth, but also with a lovely natural integrated acidity, persistent. A stunning, up-lifting orange wine with a remarkable personality.
At Oslo’s Territoriet wine bar they served this delicious wine. We enjoyed it outdoor in September, my brother and I. It is categorized as a rosé. That is, technically it’s a white wine, because pinot grigio sorts under that category. But many will know that the grape can have many red pigments, and with extended skin-contact the colour will appear.
Villa Job’s 6 hectares of vineyards are located on the Friuli Pozzuolo plateau, 90 meters above sea level. The soils here are complex, with sand, silt, clay, sandstone and marl. These vineyards have been in the Job family for generations.
Today Alessandro and Lavinia Job are farming biodynamically. The wine is made with native yeasts, and very little sulphites, if any. Long maceration in old barrels on skins is necessary to get what they consider to be the best expression of the grape. Here it lasted for 60 days. It’s spontaneous fermented, with natural malolactic fermentation in cement. The wine is unfiltered, and barely sulphured.
Guastafeste 2016(Villa Job)
Salmon pink. Aroma of strawberry, raspberry and white flowers. Juicy, but also with good concentration, some very fine tannins, and a very pleasant acidity in a long finish.
Food: Light meat, white and red fish, pasta, salads
At the Real Wine fair there were several seminars and guided tastings given by both winemakers and writers. Among the scheduled speakers were Heidi Nam Knudsen and Jon Passmore, who practise an alternative wine education focusing on vineyard practices and winemaking techniques. The topic at the fair was “Retasting Wine: How we can become more informed drinkers.”
Alex Thorp conducted a “German Growers’ Masterclass”. Derek Morrison and Mike Hopkins of the Bring Your Own podcast interviewed a bunch of growers, among them Portuguese artisan Pedro Marques. Speaking of Portugal, Jamie Goode did just that together with Ines Salpico in the program “An Exploration of Portugal’s Wine Revolution.”
While I talked to some of these people on their way in and out of the seminar room, the only seminar I had booked beforehand was Simon J. Woolf’s presentation of his book Amber Revolution through a tasting of five wines from the so-called New World.
His seminar was informative, and there was a two-way communication. Simon answered questions from the audience with great virtuosity, and his short comments about each wine demonstrated how well-chosen the wines were.
Simon’s definition of an orange wine is a wine made with skin-contact that exceeds the “normal” 3-4 hours. In other words, it’s about the technique, more than the colour itself. He compares it to a white wine: -What colour is a white wine? White – as this paper?
Light examples from the tasting were Staring at the Sun 2018(Momento Mori) and Elementis 2018 (Intellego). The first one, a citrussy, lightly spicy wine from Victoria, Australia, was quite light yellow, though it had been 6 weeks on skins. This because winemaker Dane Johns holds back on extraction. Elementis from Swartland, South Africa I know from several vintages; always fresh, appealing, this time very lemony, with green apple. Jurgen Gouws shares his colleague’s philosophy of minimal extraction.
Other than this there was the Pinot Gris 2016(A & D. Beckham), a pink, red-tinged wine from the grape that we know is not white at all. It’s also known from Radikon, one of the natural and orange wine pioneers. This Oregon pinot gris was fresh, but warmer notes appeared after a while, and it was surprisingly smooth, the colour taken into account (also not usual for the variety). Vinu Jancu 2017(La Garagista), an amber, beeswax, onion and plum smelling wine from the unlikely state of Vermont and the rare grape called la crescent and Chilion 2016(Ruth Lewandowski), a lighter cortese with grapes from Santa Barbara, California, but made in Utah, finished the US American trio. It should be said that it’s Evan Lewandowski that is behind this project, but he named the winery after the Book of Ruth.
Regarding a question about what wines work with extended skin-contact, he points out that thick-skinned varieties go well. Aromatic varieties too, can perfom very well, such as moscato and gewürztraminer.
Simon J. Woolf has every reason to be happy with the book release
I have written a more extensive review of Simon’s book in the Norwegian language for the Vinforum magazine. You can read it on my magazine page. Here is a summary:
Simon J. Woolf has written what is referred to as the world’s first book on orange wine. Woolf started his writing career in 2011 with the blog The Morning Claret for which he is still editor. He is also a regular contributor to journals such as Decanter. He is no well-known author though, and this is his first book. So there were no publishers who wanted to go for the project. That’s why he started a crowdfunding through his website, and nearly 400 people contributed to the “Kickstarter” campaign.
Woolf currently lives in Amsterdam. And it can almost seem ironic that it took someone in close contact with the Netherlands, with the historical “Oranje” dynasty, to get the idea to write about orange wines.
The book is partly an introduction to the orange wine world, partly a cultural and history lesson. Woolf writes well and demonstrates early on that he is both the passion and the insight needed. It is fascinating to take part in this journey, from his first, emotional contact with the drink in Sandi Skerks cellar in Friuli. But then he takes us further back in time and goes chronologically from the ancient Georgia, that we know as the orange wine’s cradle, via pioneers in today’s Friuli and Slovenia (with Joško Gravner as the main character) and beyond.
There is also a section on recommended producers from many different countries. Finally, the financial contributors are listed. Among them there are some wineries, although I find no reason to assume that it has affected the journalistic selection. The fact columns contain information about food for orange wine, grapes that respond well to the technique, misconceptions about orange wine, how qvevri are made, etc. Taking these columns out the main story also helps to make the text flow better .
Ryan Opaz, who lives in Porto, is one of the founders of the Catavino site, where Woolf also contributes. Opaz has provided images that depict both landscapes and people in an exemplary manner. The book itself is also made of paper with a certain texture, which responds to the wines the book is about.
Woolf says he could use different names for the same phenomenon, such as skin-macerated wines and amber wines. After a discussion with himself, he has ended up calling it orange wines. His definition is based on the technique, not the colour. An orange wine does not therefore need to be orange, but it has had extended skin contact. It can be yellow, dark mahogany, or even reddish or pink in cases where the grape has a lot of pigment, such as pinot grigio.
Here we have arrived at a point that I assume he has thought about himself, the title of the book. After choosing orange wine as the preferred term, he ends up using amber in the title. The Portuguese carnation revolution emerges in my consciousness when reading the title, and compared with this the term “orange wine” could perhaps have added another dimension. And even though the events of the 1990s and up to the present seem like a revolution, in the long term it will probably be more correct to call what we now experience a “revival,” or maybe a revitalization of a tradition. But none of this “troubles” me; Amber Revolution is a saleable title. And the subtitle, “how the world learned to love orange wines”, puts it all in place.
I will not reveal too much of the content. But I think the sections about Friuli and Slovenia, the multicultural and multilingual area at the intersection of East, West and South – and the political backdrop that is hoisted – is a particularly good section of the book. Here the story of the world wars becomes a necessary part. The families of the leading producers were finding themselves on a veritable battlefield with changing actors, not least Italy, Austria-Hungary and Yugoslavia.
There are many who will enjoy this book. It is a niche book, but it at the same time exceeds the niche, and I would think that the vast majority of people interested in wine will find it fascinating, entertaining and enriching.
Amber Revolution – how the world learned to love orange wine
By Simon J. Woolf, foreword by Doug Wregg (director of import company Les Caves de Pyrène,), photo: Ryan Opaz
Castello di Rubbia has been highlighted before. Here you can read more about their Friulian wines and their estate near the Slovenian border.
Just a brief introduction: They are found in Carso, called Kras on the other side. Their village is San Michele di Carso, where they dispose of the 13 hectares historic Ušje vineyard, with its rocky terrain of limestone and red soil. The winery enjoys long macerations and fermentations with indigenous yeasts.
This wine is made from around 20 years old vitovska vines. Manual harvest is carried out quite late, towards the end of September. The grapes are de-stemmed and fermented with natural yeasts in steel vessels and macerated on the skins for around 20 days. While fining is done naturally over a period of 1 to 1 and a half years, the wine also undergo malolactic fermentation. After three years it’s then bottled without filtration.
Vitovska 2013(Castello di Rubbia)
Dark yellow/golden. Intense aroma of white flowers, herbs or hay, dried fruits, and a touch of honey. Full on the palate, good concentration, and a stony minerality.
Food: Very versatile, and can go well with light meat, rice dishes, omelettes, salads and vegetables, charcuterie, Asian, seafood…
London’s Raw fair is over. This wine fair, founded by Isabelle Légeron (now also with meetings in Berlin and New York), is a two day celebration of individual, organic wines with a wide range of exhibitors. But what unifies them is their desire to express their place in their own unique way. Some have a no sulphur approach, while some are more pragmatic to this question.
This year the fair was back at the Strand, in central London, after two years further east. The venue is open and clean with good light, good for wine tasting. Wine bar and restaurant Noble Rot had their stand, and it was possible to savour food of many sorts.
Most of the artisans came from Europe. The bigger wine producing countries like Italy and France, and to a certain extent Spain, had their fair shares of exhibitors. But smaller wine countries were also represented, maybe most surprisingly Romania and the Czech Republic.
Among the more established producers, especially in this context, were Eric Texier (with expressive wines from Côtes du Rhône), the Catalan trio Mas Martinet-Venus la Universal (from Priorat/ Montsant, with increased focus on fruitiness than before), and mainly sparkling wine producers Mas de Serral- Pepe Raventòs and Recaredo-CellerCredo, Frank Cornelissen (who really has become a top Sicilian producer in every respect), not to mention Friulian neighbours Radikon and Gravner with their textbook skin-contact wines.
An opportunity for vignerons like Fabio Bartolomei to communicate directly with their audience
There were many contenders. Aside of the aforementioned ones here producers that I have appreciated for a long time were from France, Dom. Milan (Provence), Dom.de Clovallon (Languedoc); from Italy, Carussin-Bruna Ferro (Piemonte), Corte Sant’Alda (Veneto), 1701 (Franciacorta); Spain, Vinos Ambiz (Gredos/ Madrid); Portugal, both two participants, Quinta da Palmirinha (Minho) and Casa de Mouraz (Dão); Austria, Meinklang (Burgenland).
But not least is this an occasion to be surprised.
Here follow some memorable moments.
Chat Fou 2016(Éric Teixier)
A light entry here: A luscious, inspiring côtes du rhône. Light ruby; red berries, herbal, lightly spiced; juicy, fresh, just a hint of tannins, good acidity. A light, elegant vintage of this wine.
Carles and Montse
Carles Mora Ferrer and his close friend Montse have produced natural wines since 2008; no chemicals, no additives. I chose their cabernet; not pressed, fermented in inox, 20-25 days of maceration. Total sulphites is a mere 4 mg/L.
Cabernet Sauvignon Ánfora 2015(Clot de les Soleres)
Dark cherry, violet hint; red fruits, blackcurrant, green pepper; structured, good acidity.
Mas Martinet has been a favourite for many years, and maybe the most influential among the Priorat “pioneers” from the 1980’s, thanks to both father Josep Lluís’ teachings, daughter Sara’s and son-in-law René’s consulting and general inspiration through their wines. Sara Pérez, current winemaker, was also in the avant-garde when turning to organics in the early 2000’s. Venus is their side project in Montsant. Here I chose their white Venus, a varietal xarel.lo, fermented 20% with skins and elevated in big barrels. No added sulphite.
Venus Blanc 2014(Venus la Universal)
Yellow colour; very fresh, citrus, litchi some balsamic; glyceric, creamy and saline. So expressive!
Ivan and Ana Gómez
Bodegas Gratias of Castilla-La Mancha showed some good wines. I chose a field blend of some 20 varieties, many of them in danger of extinction, a crowdfunding project, “gratias to all those people
(‘gratias mecenas’) who believed” in the project, as they say. Fermentation was carried out in small deposits of 5 hectoliters, with whole clusters. The ageing was carried out no the lees, in oak, jars and steel. No clarification or cold stabilization.
¿Y tu de quién eres? 2016(B. Gratias)
Dark cherry colour; red and dark fruits, a hint of spice; juicy and drinkable, but also with a touch of dryness (from the stems).
Thyge of Bodega Frontío
Here were several surprises at one stand: A new, young producer in the remote Arribes, Castilian area bordering Portugal. Furthermore the man behind the bodega is Danish, Thyge Benned Jensen. I’m learning every year, says Thyge, which is good. But much is already very good: Taste his two-weeks skin-contact Naranjito, another surprise for this region. The variety is doña blanca (even though the label indicates something else).
Naranjito 2017 (B. Frontío)
Yellow with orange tones; mature apples, some peel; quite glyceric, with a supple acidity.
Andrea and Petr Nejedlich of Dobrá
Cuvée Kambrium 2014(Dobrá Vinice)
A wine from the Podyji national park in Moravia, Czech Republic, a blend of veltlín, ryzlink and sauvignon, as the back label reads. Light colour; gooseberry, white pepper; both round and light, but with good acidity too.
See also an article about Moravian wines tasted in England here.
Mladen Rožanić, jazz fan with creative Istrian wines
Roxanich of Croatian peninsula Istria makes powerful natural wines.
This is a field blend including syrah, cabernet franc, lambrusco, barbera, borgonja, malvasia nera. Bottling went without filtration, after 9 years of aging in big wooden vats and barrels. I like the reds. But the white ones, most often orange in colour, really has an unequalled quality. You can read more about them and another featured wine here.
Ines U Crvenom (in Red) 2008(Roxanich)
Red, developed colour (towards orange); a volatile feeling, mature red berries, dried fruits and roasted almonds; weighty, packed with fruit, plays with oxidation.
Fernando Paiva and his importer Ricardo Rodrigues of Portuguese Story
Fernando’s wines are marked by the Atlantic influence. His whites are covered several places on this site. This time he showed that the light (light-weight, not light in colour) vinhão can be fascinating when aged too. So that must be the choice.
Quinta da Palmirinha Vinhão 2012 (F. Paiva)
Dark with violet and some red; incredibly fresh, cherry and tint; round, mineral, with integrated acidity. It has an uplifting lightness, a feeling of weightlessness.
Corte Sant’Alda is a well-known Valpolicella producer, mostly in the more classic end of the spectrum. But the wines are thoroughly made, they are good, and they have nothing of the negative characteristics that the area has become known for in many wine circles today. Their classic wines are good. And Marinella presented an intriguing varietal molinara rosé aged in Tuscan amphorae, a vino de tavola with a total of 2 mg sulphur.
Agathe 2016(Corte Sant’Alda)
Salmon pink; flowers, strawberry and a touch of white pepper; no the palate quite smooth, but also with a surprisingly high acidity.
Lorenzo (left) and Andrea Pendin: Thumbs up for another inspiring meeting
L’Armonia of Vicenza (Veneto), Italy was one of the really great finds at this year’s Raw. Among many good wines I chose this wonderful garganega, from older plants (60-80 years). This is both an early harvest and a late harvest (with some botrytis), then blended. The different harvest times are due to Andrea’s friendship with and inspiration from Sébastien Riffault of Loire. (Read more here.)
Perla 2016 (Tenuta l’Armonia)
Complex aroma of mature apples, nuts, flowers, apricot, towards honey; medium full on the palate, and a salty, mineral aftertaste. Integrated, natural acidity.
Carso, or Kras, is the Friulian region that continues even if the Italian border is crossed. In fact the Slovenians proposed a two-country designation, to showcase all things in common, from soil and climate to political history.
San Michele del Carso is where the Castello di Rubbia is found. Here are reminiscents from the Bronze Age, as well as the First World War, anti-atomic bunkers from the “cold war” and much more.
Here in the hillside over San Michele is the historic Ušje vineyard, covering 13 hectares. The typically Carsic terrain: a rocky terrain composed of limestone and red soil, originated from a specific geological phenomenon, the so-called carsism. The landscape enjoys a Mediterranean climatic influence.
Terrano, or teran, is one of the traditional grape varieties, together with the white vitovska and also Istrian malvasia. Recent research carried out by the Universities of Trieste and the University of Ljubljana shows that terrano wine helps the body to assimilate iron, and that the content of antioxidants such as anthocyanins, polyphenols and resveratrol are higher than in most known red wines.
The winery employs long macerations and fermentations with indigenous yeasts. Depending on the vintage, the macerations will range from ten days to three months. Some times the wine is transfered to used Slavonian oak barriques. This quote says a lot: “Following the example of nature, we also reject standards. We just feel the wine.”
This particular wine is made from 100% terrano vines of an average age of 18 years. They were hand-picked at the end of September, de-stemmed, fermented in steel with indigenous yeasts at controlled temperature (20°), macerated on the skins for up to twenty days. It was then aged for more or less 15 months on lees. Malo-lactic fermentation and stabilization came when it came, and the wine was bottled after 3 years without filtration. Partial maturation took place in used Slavonian oak barrels.
Terrano Carso-Kras 2013 (Castello di Rubbia)
Dark red, young colour. Aroma of violets, red fruits (raspberry, blueberry), hints of pepper and undergrowth. Fresh and vibrant in the mouth, good concentration, with an appealing tannic grip, and an acidity that contributes to the long finish.
Food: Various meat (the winery suggests carsolina – kraški filet, and how could we contradict?), cold cuts and salami. Another local dish is grilled eel