Orange wine seems to be the new kid on the block. Popping up in wine bars, restaurants, and the best bottle shops (wink), you could be forgiven for thinking that this delicious, food-friendly style is some new innovation from the talented winemakers around the world.
In fact, orange wine is very old. Coming originally from the Caucasus region (now mainly modern-day Georgia), there is evidence of these skin-contact wines being produced around 8000 BC. It appears to be one of the earliest methods of wine production, pre-dating the Romans by quite some time.
So what exactly is it?
In very simple terms, it's a wine made from white grapes, but vinified in the manner of a red. That is to say, the grapes are crushed and left to macerate on their skins for a period of time - anywhere from one week to 12 months. This maceration extracts flavour compounds, phenolic compounds (that provide texture and grip), and colour - hence the orange or amber hues of the wines.
The exciting thing about orange wines (apart from being utterly delicious!) is that there are no limits to style, variety or profile. They can be made using any white grape - single variety or blend - and they can be vinified in a number of different ways, all producing vastly different wines. For example, the traditional amber wines from Georgia are fermented and aged in ceramic vessels known as "Qvevri," which are buried in the ground to stabilise the temperature, and then left for months or sometimes years. This technique has been adopted by a number of modern-day winemakers, seeking to emulate the original production methods. But there are also producers using traditional oak barriques to ferment and mature their wines, as well as those using stainless steel tanks and everything in between. The sky's the limit!
To showcase all things skin-contact, we've put a special pack together, from both Australian and Italian producers. We've categorised the wines into two main styles - Lightly Textured Delicate, and Heavily Textured Intense. And it's probably no coincidence that all the Italian wines fall into the Heavily Textured Intense bracket, given the Italian culture of wine and food. Most (nearly all) Italian wines are made to pair with a meal. In this respect, they often extract far more tannins and make bolder, richer, more food-friendly styles in both whites and reds. Whereas here in Australia, wine is often consumed on its own, leading to lighter, more delicate, aperitif styles.
Either way, you're bound to enjoy the bottles we've selected. No matter if this is your first foray into skin-contact wines, or you're a hardened amber fan, there are drops here to appeal to all wine lovers.
Radikon Sivi Bianco 2018 (Orange) (Preservative Free) - $84.00 single / $71.40 in a mixed six pack
The Radikon Sivi Pinot Grigio is Sasa Radikon's (Stanko Radikon's son) personal project, although he now makes all the wines for the estate. These wines are fresher and released earlier so you can still expect a challenging Orange wine, but it's much more alive and vibrant. The Pinot Grigio is a little higher in acidity so I do insist on drinking it with food (the Slatnik is a bit rounder and easier). This wine comes in a 750ml bottle which can be easily distinguished from the standard cellar releases in 500ml and 1000ml. - Chris L
Smokestack Lightning by ArFion Gewurztraminer 2020 (Orange) - $45.00 single / $38.25 in a mixed six pack
Smokestack Lightning by ArFion Gewurztraminer is an exciting wine full of spice and showing lovely flavours of rose-water and orange peel. This aromatic skin-contact wine is so vibrant in the glass, it just oozes personality. Lipsmacking. - Chris L
Little RaRa Roopa White 2020 (Orange) - $31.00 single / $26.35 in a mixed six pack
Roopa... What a name! Simple in the best kind of way. Roopa is a skin contact Sauvignon Blanc that is all about the texture. Sav B is a variety that tends to split the crowd but a bit of skin contact might bring us all together again. - Pete L
Leeona Bianco 2019 (Orange) - $43.00 single / $36.55 in a mixed six pack
Delicious orange wine from Tuscany. This is a must if you like your orange wines reasonably intense in weight with round mouthfilling tannins. Super approachable. - Chris L
Podere Pradarolo Vej 180 Bianco Antico 2019 (Orange) - $50.00 single / $42.50 in a mixed six pack
This is about as eccentric as wine gets. Incredible though! It pours an orangey-brown colour, but don't let that scare you off. Put your nose to the glass and allow your senses to be invigorated by this outrageously aromatic wine. It's intense to say the least. Then take a mouthful, not a sip. The flavour will envelop every last bud and the round tannins will fill your cheeks. This is definitely a wine to be consumed with food; my choice, pork of any sort. Decant or drink over a number of days. Serve at 14 degrees. A devilish delight to drink. - Chris L
Dub Style Tangerine Skin Contact Arinto 2019 (Orange) - $28.00 single / $23.80 in a mixed six pack
Arinto is a Portuguese grape variety that we rarely see planted here in Australia. This version sees some time on skins to express the flavour and texture of the grape. Great value orange wine. - Chris L
Get the pack here!
As always Fresh Drops is a snapshot of what is exciting us each week. We've just received the latest release from one of our favourite producers: Manon Farm.
Manon is the label for Tim Webber and Monique Millton, farmed from their high altitude vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. Tim and Mon have a strong belief in working with nature, and have implemented a number of different programs to support this. Everything in the vineyard is done by hand, following biodynamic principles, they have begun to gradually remove introduced flora, and replant with native vegetation, as well as encouraging native animals, such as kangaroos, who keep the grasses under control, but don't damage the soils through compaction.
A similar philosophy is utilised in the winery, with everything carried out slowly and without any additions. Bunches are harvested by hand, carefully sorted and then allowed to ferment naturally, with indigenous yeasts. Left to settle over the winter months, the wines are finally bottled unfined and unfiltered. These are natural wines - a pure expression of their site and fruit.
Check out the release below, with all notes provided by Tim.
Manon Blush Pinot Gris 2019 (Orange) (Preservative Free) - $55.00 single / $46.75 in any six
Pinot Gris macerated on skins for a fortnight. It has texture from maceration and a fruitfulness from the warm and dry 2019 vintage. Despite the heat of the season it has a piercing acidity - thanks to our 600m elevation, rocks and minerals, and cool mornings. This wine should be chilled and drunk after a hard day’s work... or while sitting at the beach, or under the shade of a tree at the park.
Manon Wild Nature Ozone Pinot Gris 2019 (Orange) (Preservative Free) - $55 single / $36.55 in any six
The Wild Nature collection is lead by experiment and the willingness to see and feel those ‘what if’ elements in life. We do not prune, tend or tame these vines. They are left to their own orchestration, growing petite bunches and forming a wave-like canopy over the wires that remain in the vineyard, creating a wonderful umbrella on hot summer days for our Kangaroo mates. Not neglected, but left without the controlling touch of human hands, resulting in a truly unique and wild wine. Ozone is a carbonically fermented Pinot Gris. It is left in barrel to develop and bottled later in spring. We leave the description of this wine to you as it presents itself is so many ways, styles, motions and emotions and is forever evolving. It is wild, interesting, tantalising and a wine to keep the true lovers loving and we hope interested! On opening this wine let it have a chance to take a breath in your glass. Please do not shake the sh*t out of the wine or decant with vigour - treat it with delicacy. Enjoy from a chilled temperature and allow to blossom. Ozone, like most of our wines, complements food well.
Manon Cuvee Selene Blanc 2019 (Orange) (Preservative Free) - $59 single / $50.15 in any six
Fermented in large handmade terracotta ‘Huevos’ - an egg shaped fermenter that we store the grapes in for 6 months. Pressed lightly in the heart of winter after the solstice. Once the lid was removed we discovered the whole bunches were still in such pristine condition. Fermentation was very delicate and the berries still whole, pure and full of life. The longer maceration luring in the chalky tannins, creating texture to awaken the taste buds. With its soft fermentation and time in bottle, the fruit is beaming with light and brightness. Selene is the Greek Goddess of the moon. Apt, as we spend much of our farming, growing and living life with focus and respect to this glowing orb and the ancient peoples who worked with the Moon in the movements of their life.
Manon High Paradise White Blend 2019 (Preservative Free) - $59 single / $50.15 in any six
High Paradise is a combination of early picked fruit, and a later pick of sun-ripened fruit - direct pressed and some whole bunch maceration. The structure of the fermentation presents itself like its season. It has striking acidity, with balance and structure, owing to the quartz stones beneath us. This wine is drinking beautifully now, but also one to have much longevity. Possibly our favourite and most well orchestrated image of High Paradise, capturing the vintage and its place. Drink this over a few days, if you can. High Paradise does not feature in the 2020 vintage. We, instead, took the journey with the high quality fruit to express Geoponika, which we are extremely happy with. This is another dimension of Savagnin & Chardonnay grown on Peramangk Country at 600m elevation, with the ancient rocks and minerals below, which the vines send their roots down deep in to reach for the cool moisture beneath.
Manon Peaches 2019 (Orange) (Preservative Free) - $59.00 single / $50.15 in any six
The quality of the fruit led us to ferment in whole bunches and hand de-stem over a wooden frame we built many years ago. Each berry is popped off as a whole, creating a delicate carbonic fermentation inside. We believe this process captures the pure essence of the grape and its colour. This wine is a collective ferment of most of the white grapes we grow. Chardonnay, Pinot Gris & Sauvignon Blanc with a little dash of Savagnin. The texture is velvety and succulent like a peach - delicious! The cloudiness of the wine is due to no filtration, the wine having energy and life inside.
See the new Manon wines here!
From The Cellar this week:
When Anne Gros took over her father's Domaine in the late 1980s, it was in a bad way. Through illness, the quality of the wines had begun to suffer, and most of it was sold off in bulk. The family's original holdings had been divided up amongst the children, and Anne was left with just 3 hectares under vine.
But she rose to the challenge, converting the vineyards to organic practices, and consolidating her family holdings, growing the estate from 3 hectares to 6.5 hectares, including the jewel in the Domaine's crown, 0.6 hectares of Richebourg. This, along with small parcels in Echezeaux and Clos Vougeot, make up the three Grand Crus that Anne produces each year.
In the winery, all the fruit is carefully sorted and de-stemmed, then fermented in the traditional methods - open-top concrete fermenters for the reds, and stainless steel tanks for the whites. Barrel maturation takes approximately 16 months, with varying percentages of new oak, depending on the wine. In recent years, Anne has pulled back on the use of new oak, preferring to emphasise the quality of the fruit, which under her guidance, has never been better.
From her humble beginnings, Anne has risen to become one of the most respected winemakers in Burgundy. Taste her wines to see why.
Three centuries of knowledge, passed down from generation to generation, gives the Colla family a special difference.
The three estates that they purchased in 1990 and unified under the Poderi Colla umbrella, are Dardi le Rose in Monforte d’Alba’s Bussia cru, Tenuta Roncaglia of Barbaresco, and Cascina Drago, an excellent piece of land just across the road from Barbaresco vines. The careful selection of these sites was down to Beppe Colla, who held an almost mythic standing in the community, before his death in 2019.
Beppe owned the now famous Prunotto estate, starting in 1956 up until the early 1990s when it was sold to Antinori. In 1961, he was the first in Barolo to commercially bottle and sell with the name of the Barolo cru on the label: the 1961 Barolo Bussia. This wine became his calling card, and allowed countless numbers of winemakers to follow in his footsteps.
Today, Poderi Colla is managed by Beppe's younger brother Tino, and his niece (Beppe's daughter), Federica. Federica’s words perfectly summarise the Colla philosophy: “Our wines are not ‘high-tech’. They are man-made, with a strong human element, outstanding natural concentration thanks to terroir and fruit and very well balanced components”. This less-is-more approach is indicative of the very best producers, and something that the Colla family has learned over their three hundred years of growing and making wine.