The First International Qvevri Wine Symposium held this September in Tbilisi, Georgia to promote modern Caucasus winemaking with ancient techniques (primarily the use of amphora clay pots for aging) got me thinking once again about Orange Wine. Readily attended by a couple friends (globe-trotting wine aficionados willing to travel all the way to Eurasia from Los Angeles and New York for the weekend), this three day conference invited a select sixty foreign guests to travel through the wine regions of Georgia. There they learned about the antediluvian vessels used for fermenting and aging wine in the traditional Qvevri style.
The conference was established as a multi-million dollar initiative by the US government to attract potential tourist attention to Georgia. But the tweets and pictures coming through repiqued my curiosity in the Orange Wine movement as a whole. The result of white grapes left to ferment on the skins for more than four days, Orange wine is reestablishing momentum in Northern and Central Italy. Skins contain tannins, phenols, and pigments considered undesirable in traditional white winemaking approaches. But extra skin maceration culminates in a white with more color, flavor, and texture.
Granted Orange Wine is not for everyone. It resides solidly within the category of ‘geek wine.’ But these geeky specimens are precisely what drives wine professionals: the yearning for a taste of every version of every country and culture. So on a recent weekend in New York, I set out to Inoteca Liquori with two friends, a somm from Resto and a somm from Lupa, to delve into a few bottles of Orange. Here is what we liked:
2006 Tenute Dettori Bianco: 100% Vermentino from Sardinia ferments uncrushed on the skins for four days in cement vats (which are growing in popularity especially for biodynamic winemakers) No sulfites are added. The wine is cloudy and golden with a nose of exotic flowers. Its apple-cidery component paired surprisingly well with eggplant parmesan.
2006 La Stoppa Ageno: Malvasia, Trebbiano, and the rare, indiginous-to-Emilia Ortrugo ferment for 30 days on the skins using all natural yeasts. It ages for 12 months and undergoes no filtration of any kind. Saffron and Marigold on the nose lead to brown sugar, honeysuckle, and coffee on the palate. Amber in color and only slightly cloudy, Ageno will benefit from a good decanting. The acidity is pure and refreshing.
Back in Los Angeles, an importer friend came to visit toting a bottle of 2002 Gravner Anfora Ribolla Gialla: Grapes for this Friulian showstopper come from vineyards straddling the Slovenian border. The juice ferments on the skins in large open-topped amphorae without added yeast, temperature control, or sulfites. Natural winemaking in its apogee. This Gravner is honeyed, savory, and mineral all at once. Spiced and complex, it breaks with contemporary wine convention entirely.
So if you’re a trade geek like me or simply an interested consumer, check out the new face of age-old Orange Wine. And keep an open mind. Even if it’s not your cup of tea, it’s pretty fascinating in its own right.
Summer solstice weekend was the only time of year I could bring myself to go to Chicago, a city widely known to have the worst weather in the country. With the exception of the tempest that kicked off just as I touched down, whipping winds and sideways rain for 20 violent minutes, the weather is soft, skies flooded with blue and buttery light, and deciduous greenery dancing on currants of cool air. After a shower in River North, we hop into a cab and speed to the spot Anthony Bourdain calls “the holy trinity of pork rinds, oysters, and beer” – The Publican on the Fulton St. Meat Market. The 2009 Michel Delhommeau Cuvee St. Vincent Muscadet Sur Lie satisfies the Fire River and Moon Shoal oysters we’re slurping, while NV Renardat-Fache Cerdon Rosé of Gamay and Poulsard gives wings to our crunchy handmade pork rinds dusted with powdered cheddar and cayenne. Flesh-lovers unite.
But we are still hungry. We stroll next door. To our delight, we find on the menu a burger, which turns out to be a dripping hunk of ground sirloin smothered in salty Fontina cheese and served between two slices of fried green tomato. The “Erotoburger” went seamlessly with a 2008 Seguret Cotes du Rhone. At once spicy, balanced, and indulgent.
Morning: Gooey French Toast and bellinis at Toast in Lincoln Park. Then we head on foot, through parks of orange daylilies and pines, through the zoo, to the cerulean, lapping, lake-like-an-ocean, where more friends meet us for a picnic. Out of the basket I’d been lugging I pull the 2010 Masianco Pinot Grigio/Verduzzo, a funky Veronese white that’s wicked inexpensive and guzzleable. Also, a crisp, limey screw topped 2010 Man Chenin Blanc (I LOVE screwtops,) and a pop top 2008 Winter dry Riesling liter bottle. The wines are cold. The sun nails us to the grass, lovingly. We watch people on bikes enjoying the rare perfection of the weather, pretty girls in bathing suits splashing, seagulls hovering. I don’t understand this lake. I lie back and watch light scatter through undulating maple leaves.
Up and at ‘em. Hotfoot it to Wicker Park to dive into the crowds at Big Star. Queso Fundito with Poblanos + pitchers of salty margarita and Schlitz + dirty jokes = joyful friends. A cab brings us back to the flat in River North to shower before late night dance party at Danny’s in Bucktown.
My final afternoon in Chicago yields the holy grail: the Chicago-Style hot dog. At a friend’s in Lakeview we steam the beef dogs and toast the poppy seed bun. Chop green tomatoes, pickle spears, and onion. From the fridge we take pickled sport peppers, piccalilli (neon green relish) and yellow mustard. Finish off with a dash of celery salt. Swallow in three bites washing it down with the 2010 Tablas Creek dry rosé which tastes like red chili pepper jam. Complete Chicago. I may not ever need to go back.
A while Back I had the pleasure of the attending Viva el Vino, www.vivavinola.com a tasting event held at the Skirball Center in Los Angeles. The food and setting were perfect; just to be surrounded by so many wines from all over Italy was a phenomenon. A few regions present were: Campania, Friuli, Marche, Piedmont, Puglia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria and beautiful Veneto. It was a great atmosphere for a wine lover. Many wines at this tasting stood out for me, but I wanted to showcase a few in particular to share in this blog.
Walking to each table and checking out the amazing selection of wines picked specially for this event, I found myself drawn to Fattoria Viticcio. Viticcio Chianti Classico ’07 was the hit. The wine gives hints of cherry, and berry characteristics. The acidity of the wine is well-balanced, and followed by a long finish. A full-bodied wine to have with pork or meat. The Viticcio ’07 comes with a price of only $16.99 – it’s definitely worth trying.
Next stop was Masi Agricola. After tasting through, the wine I liked the most was Masi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico Costasera ’06. The nose was full of flowers, spice, blueberry, and cherry. Medium-full bodied with smoke and soft fruit, this wine is juicy and round and follow by a good long lasting finish. This wine can be drunk now or be held for another 5 years, but I wouldn’t wait too much longer beyond that especially if you’re pairing it with lamb, beef, and pork.
To conclude I had two Super Tuscan wines (I always say leave the big boys at the end.) Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno ’07 is a blend of 50% Sangiovese, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot. Aromas of flowers mingle with blueberry and cherry. this wine is a full bodied with refined tannins, and coffee on the back palate. Even though this wine should be tucked away in a cellar for a few years, its characteristics are starting to show already. The last bottle I tasted had to be the Antinori Tignanello ’07. What a wine! It blew my companion and me away. The Sangiovese sure shows in the body, so ripe, with a great acidity and structure, but the nose belongs to the Cabernet Sauvignon. With 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon & 5% Cabernet Franc, the nose jumps right out of the glass with aromas of berry, spice & tobacco. What a great wine to keep in your cellar for a decade…then drink! It has serious aging potential.
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