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Tag: Slovenia

Wine of the Week

Izi going

I am on my way to Croatia, from where I soon will report. From neighbouring Slovenia I tasted a wine from Kmetija Štekar again the other day. Štekar should be quite familiar for readers of this blog. Here is a brief introduction to the winery, and notes about another wine.

This one is more easy and less complex than you would normally get from this producer. It’s made from ribolla with natural yeast, made in steel, unfined and unfiltered.

Izi 2018 (Štekar)

Golden yellow, slightly turbid. Aromas of yellow apple, bay leaf, dried fruit, and a touch of both lemon and honey. Good concentration, yet juicy in the mouth, with a fresh acidity.

Price: Medium

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The Real Wine fair 2019 – II The seminars and Simon’s orange wines

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

Amber Revolution

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

MCP Morning Claret Production, Amsterdam / Interlink Books, Northampton, Massachusetts

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Wine of the Week

A modern-traditional wine from Burja Estate

Primož Lavrenčič is found in the Vipava valley about 40 km east of the Italian border, where he owns 8 hectares of vineyards.

His objective is to make a modern wine based on traditional methods. He says that he “controls the temperature and oxidation” in the wine cellar, but “encouraging the rest”.

Burja Estate - photo - Primož Lavrenčič

(Credit: Burja Estate)

He has a holistic approach to both vine, wine and nature. This includes stimulating spontaneous fermentation, because “the diversity of yeast strains contributes to the complexity of the wine and provides original expression of each vineyard”. Some of the old folks would have prohibited the low temperatures, to take the full advantage of the extended skin-contact). So this is maybe then a modern, elegant white with a nod to the traditional orange wines of the area.
The work in the vineyard is done according to organic and biodynamic principles. The grape composition is laški rizling (Italian riesling or Welschriesling) 30%, malvazija (d’Istria) 30%, rebula (ribolla gialla) 30%. 7 days skin-maceration in steel, 10 months ageing in barrel.

Bela 2016 (Burja Estate)

Deep golden. Aroma of mature fruits, citrus, peach, herbs, white pepper. Full on the palate, a touch of nuts and a natural, integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Light meat, pig, veal, grilled and white fish, tasty salads

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Wine of the Week

Štekar’s Re Piko

Janko Štekar is based in Goriška Brda, in the small town of Kojsko, between the Pre-Alps and the Adriatic Sea, not far from Italian Friuli.

His winery is protected from the cold winds from the north, while the mild breezes from the east helps avoiding humidity and thus plagues in the vineyards. The vines are planted on terraces and worked organically.

(Photo credit: Kmetija Štekar)

The wines are made as naturally as possible. He uses just a small amount of sulphites sometimes..

He has two lines of wines, one with skin-maceration and one without. This wine is from the former selection, made from riesling 90% and picolit, and macerated on the skins for 28 days. It underwent a spontaneous fermentation, and matured in 1100L vats of acacia for four years. Very low sulphur, no filtering.

Re Piko 2013 (Kmetija Štekar)

Clear amber. Aroma of nectarines, white pepper, flowers, eucalyptus. light touch of apple vinegar. Full, grapey, some tannin and good, natural acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Fried and grilled fish, light meat, salads… We had it with panfried salmon and various vegetables

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Wine of the Week

Italian-Slovenian borderline wine

Our wine of the week 25th March was an Italian wine from the border zone of Carso. Here is a neighbour, from a Friuli-Slovenia tasting earlier this week. In fact Marjan Simčič’s winery is no more than 100 meters from the border. Another producer from our tasting was Radikon, only 11 km away, surprisingly enough to the east, because the borderline does a bend.

Furthermore Simčič’s vineyards are found in the Brda hills, on both sides of the border.

We are in a crossroads between the Mediterranean and the Alps. The Goriška Brda soil was under water in ancient times, and it’s today a soil rich in minerals.

Here the Simčič family cultivates the grapes the most natural way possible. They respect the vine’s natural capacity and are satisfied with a low crop, with the grapes on the vine as long as possible. The cellar practices are also deeply respectful of what comes in from nature.

Jožef Simčič was a pioneer in Brda. He bought his first pieces of land in 1860. Mirjan is now fifth generation.

They follow tradition and allow their grapes to mature, to produce a balanced aroma and a richer taste. No chemical fertilizers or insecticides are used.

The Selekcija is the second range of wines (the most expensive wines are called Opoka, only produced in special harvests). The Selekcija wines are selected from the oldest vines and matured slowly (2 to 4 years) in casks and wooden barrels of different sizes. None of these undergo filtration.

The ribolla grape is in Italian mostly called ribolla gialla, and in Slovenia also rebula, and other similar spellings. Typically it gives deep coloured but light bodied wines with high acidity and floral notes. It’s not unusual that it develops nutty flavours with some ageing.

We tasted three interesting wines from the winery this wine club evening. Here I chose the “selected” ribolla.

Ribolla Selecktija 2014 (Marjan Simčič)

Yellow colour. Aroma of mature apples, bread, herbs and white pepper. Rich and full on the palate, evident but rounded tannins from skin-contact, and a natural and integrated acidity.

Price: Medium

Food: Tasty fish and shellfish, foie, light meat

 

 

 

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Wine of the Week

Malvasija, spelled the Slovenian way

Here is a really lovely orange wine, and it’s not produced in one of the countries that we would call “classic”. But not far away either, because both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border share many winemaking principles, such as the “classic” ones of organic cultivation, prolonged skin contact for white wines, and maturing in clay vessels.

This wine has been a favourite for several years, and when I met Vasja Čotar at RAWfair a couple of years ago I took the opportunity to taste through most of the range, wines made from vitovska, friulano, teran, and some merlot, cabernet and such – and a very interesting passito from refosco too. The Čotar family has been in the forefront of organic winemaking in Slovenia since they started in 1974, in the small town of Gorjansko in the hills of the Karst region, close to the border against Friuli. All of them express the limestone ground with its red, iron-rich topsoil, where the cool winds from the coast some 5 kilometers away have a temperating effect on the climate. There are also quite harsh winter winds struggling to have an impact on the wines.

 

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Vasja Čotar at RAWfair, London

The 2006 from malvasija istriana underwent an 8 days fermentation with skins in open vats, matured in big wooden vessels (2000 liters). Needless to say, no added yeast, enzyme, sulphites…

 The whites bear Vasja’s fingerprints

Malvazija 2006 (Čotar)

Deep yellow, towards orange. Aroma of mature apple, citrus, dried apricots, and a hint of sweet spices. Full on the palate, grapey and quite smooth, but with a touch of tannin, and with a saline farewell.

Price: Medium

 

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