There's been a small but fresh breeze trickling through the wine world lately in the form of "orange" wines. No, these aren't fruit wines made in Florida, but a new class of white wines that harken back to the olden ways of winemaking. Today white wine grapes are usually fermented after the juice has been pressed off the skins to produce today's crystal clear wines with light colors, fruity aromas, & very little tannin. However, once upon a time winemakers crushed white grapes and fermented them on the skins to produce hearty & robust elixirs that have a tannic edge and a light orange color. There have been a few innovative winemakers who have decided to take a page from history and re-introduce these "orange" wines to the world. Makes sense that these wines would be first re-made in the Collio Goriziano sub-appellation of the Fruili region of northeast Italy along the Italian-Slovenian border since their ancestors made wine in this fashion centuries ago. Producers such as Movia, Radikon, Josko Gravner, & Vodopivec have re-introduced this style of wine to the world wine market.
I became interested in these wines after reading an article about orange wines from New York in Imbibe Magazine. Seems wineries such as Channing Daughters on Long Island, Red Hook Winery in Brooklyn, and others have been experimenting with this technique. Intrigued and in need of a tasting theme for an upcoming meeting of my American Wine Society chapter, I set out to find some orange wines. I quickly found that getting a hold of these wines is no easy task. Most retail shops gave me a befuddled look when asked if they had any orange wines in stock. Buying direct from the wineries was also not an option thanks to the continuing inaction of the wonderful legislators in the MA Statehouse on Beacon Hill to pass any bill allowing for direct shipment to consumers into MA (stay tuned for a diatribe post on that topic later). Fortunately, some Google searching finally led me to the Belly Wine Bar & Central Bottle in the Kendall Square area of Cambridge, MA. Denizens of Kendall Square have the unique opportunity to sample a variety of orange wines by the glass at Belly and then can wander down the street to purchase bottles to take home at the sister store Central Bottle.
Armed at last, the AWS chapter met earlier this week to sample some orange wines. All of the wines purchased were from the Collio region. Tasting within a group is a great way to sample these wines since they are definitely not cheap.
Movia Ribolla Gialla 2008 ($37)
Movia Lunar 2008 ($52)
Radikon Slatnick 2010 ($44)
Vodopivec Vitvska Amphora 2005 ($66)
The tasting results were really quite eye-opening. Bronze colors. Aromas of apricots and dark tropical fruits with hints of cedar, cinnamon, & nutmeg. Rich & full on the palate, slightly salty tasting, with lingering aftertastes and only a slight tannic bite. Interesting sippers that paired well with dried sausage, cheeses like aged gouda, and bruschettia with mushrooms & caramelized onions.
It was definitely an interesting research tasting event. Will there be an orange wine in Aaronap Cellars' future lineup? I'm going to remain tight lipped on that for now, but stay tuned!