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Posts Tagged ‘Orange wine

Orange line

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The Mo’ Wine Group have been fans of Radikon’s “blue label” orange wines since discovering the Oslavje when it was a private import. All three wines are now carried by the SAQ, albeit in minute and fast-disappearing quantities. This year, though the 2010s were released on different dates, all three were on the monopoly’s shelves for a few days in late February or early March, giving us our first opportunity to taste them side by side.

The wine-making is the same for all three cuvées. The manually harvested grapes are destemmed, then placed in neutral Slavonian oak vats (no temperature control) for maceration and fermentation with indigenous yeasts and manual punch-downs three or four times a day. When alcoholic fermentation is complete, the vats are topped up and closed until the wine has been in contact with the skins for two to three months. The grapes are then gently pressed and the wine is racked into neutral 25- to 35-hectolitre Slavonian oak barrels for about 40 months’ maturation, with further racking performed as needed. The wines are bottled unfiltered, unfined and with no added sulphur and aged another six months in bottle before release.

The bottles are 500 ml because the late Stanko Radkion felt that is the ideal amount of wine for one person to drink by himself or for two people to share, assuming they’ll also share a 500 ml bottle of red. Convinced that using a standard cork would allow too high a rate of oxygen exchange, he designed his bottles to have smaller bore necks and long, narrow corks. Long corks usually indicate that a wine is age-worthy and, in fact, the ageing potential of these wines is not in doubt: opened last year, a bottle of the 2002 seemed at or near peak and likely to remain so for another 10 years.

Venezia Giulia 2010, Jakot, Radikon ($44.25/500 ml, 13571312)
100% Friulano (formerly known as Tocai Friulano, as referenced by the cuvée’s name, which is Tokaj – the Hungarian spelling – spelled backwards) from organically farmed vines. 13.75% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Lovely, wafting nose that elicits several unexpected fruit descriptors, including “preserved plum,” freeze-dried strawberries and “peach Melba.” Swirling and time bring out savoury aromas, including yellow spice (turmeric, saffron), beeswax and old wood, and a hint of oxidation. Quite substantial on the palate. Zingy acidity pushes the fruit into citrus territory (kumquat, maybe?), while light tannins dance across the palate. Mineral and savoury threads intertwine with the fruit and last well into the long finish. A dense yet cutting wine with great focus: intense and exciting now but sublime in 10 years. (Buy again? Def.)

Venezia Giulia 2010, Oslavje, Radikon ($44.25/500 ml, 13571283)
A blend of Chardonnay (40%), Sauvignon Blanc (30%) and Pinot Grigio (30%) from organically farmed vines. Quebec agent: oenopole.
Complex, engaging nose of honey, “cedar,” “anisette,” pear compote, sultanas and a jasmine-like floral note. In the mouth, it’s rich and smooth, verging on opulent, despite the underlying acidity and tannic rasp. The flavours are less fruity, more savoury than those of its flightmates, with old wood and minerals providing ballast. Spice, dried fruit, an almond note and a faint bitterness linger. Approachable if a bit monolithic, this will benefit enormously from extended cellaring. (Buy again? Def.)

Venezia Giulia 2010, Ribolla Gialla, Radikon ($44.25/500 ml, 13555953)
100% Ribolla Gialla from organically farmed vines. 13.75% ABV. Quebec agent: oenopole.
At this stage, the most complex bouquet of the three: dried clementine, floor wax, straw and cedar, among other things. Dense, somewhat waxy texture. Subtle tannins provide grain, piercing acidity freshness. A surprising creamy streak marks it out from its companions. Spice and minerals linger. Breadth and length it has in spades; greater depth and complexity will come with time. Astoundingly pure and savoury and nowhere near its prime. (Buy again? Def.)

MWG March 9th tasting: flight 5 of 5

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Written by carswell

May 13, 2018 at 11:17

Unique, authentic, treasurable

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Dolceacqua is a commune and village in western Liguria, just inland from the Mediterranean and touching the border with France. It is also a DOC for red wines made from the Rossese grape. The DOC’s annual production averages a mere 1,500 hectolitres.

Founded in 1961, Testalonga is widely considered the top estate in Dolceacqua. Its owner-winemaker is Antonio Perrino, now in his 70s and preparing for retirement (his niece Erica has begun assisting him and will eventually take over). The estate’s holdings total around one hectare of vines in small terraced plots on steep hillsides, like all the best vineyards in the appellation. Testalonga’s overlook the sea and are located a half hour’s drive from town. The vines average 35-45 years in age though some are as old as 100. Two varieties are grown: Vermentino and Rossese. The farming is organic (uncertified) and the vineyards are worked manually. Harvesting is manual, too.

The wine-making takes place in a converted garage in the centre of town. The wine-making equipment is pretty much limited to a vertical press and a couple of old large barrels. All fermentations are spontaneous. No temperature control is used. With total annual production typically being seven 600-litre barrels (five red, two white), Testalonga qualifies as a micro-producer. Antonio says he makes wines like his father made them and there’s no denying that have a rare timeless quality.

Vino da Tavola 2016, Bianco, Testalonga ($43.12, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Vermentino. Macerated on the skins for five days. Matured in 600-litre old oak barrels. Unfined and probably unfiltered. 14% ABV. Total production: less than 1,000 bottles. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
More deep yellow than “orange” in the glass. Somewhat closed yet intriguing nose dominated by dried citrus and whiffs of alcohol. Suave and spicy in the mouth. Tending to full-bodied. The savoury fruit is overtoned with dried herbs, deepened by minerals, tensed with acidity. Ghostly tannins confer a lightly gritty texture, most noticeable on the mid-palate and long, saline finish. Involving and rewarding. (Buy again? Def.)

Rossese di Dolceacqua 2016, Testalonga ($51.74, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Rossese di Dolceacqua (aka Tibouren), nearly all of which comes from the Arcagna vineyard, considered one of the best in the appellation. Made using the whole clusters. Matured in 600-litre old oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. Total production: around 2,000 bottles. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Deux Caves.
Dusty cherry with notes of dried flowers and iron shavings. Medium-bodied. Dry and savoury, with rich fruit, a dusting of black pepper, light but pervasive acidity and rustic tannins in the background. While there’s plenty of breadth and a certain depth and length, this seems more about flavour and texture. Not a knockout, then, but unique, authentic and teasurable. Reportedly ages well. Probably shows best with food; a Ligurian rabbit stew sounds like just the ticket. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG February 22nd tasting: flight 5 of 5

Orange zeal

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Vermont 2015, Vinu Jancu, La Garagista ($45.76, private import, 6 bottles/case)
Vinu Jancu means “orange wine” in a Sicilian dialect. 100% La Crescent. Spontaneously fermented on the skins in glass demijohns. Overwintered on the lees. Unfiltered and unfined. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Les Vins Dame-Jeanne.

Hazy bronze-orange. Effusive nose: floral, choco-orange, wax, tamarind, cinnamon, hints of caraway, “grappa” and honeycomb. Almost too intense on the attack, “like strong chestnut honey,” but mild-mannered more nuanced on the mid-palate. Fruity, even muscaty (the grape’s Muscat of Hamburg parentage comes through) but dry, with smooth acidity and faint tannins. Focus and you’ll find a mineral vein running throughout. The finish – “really pithy,” “like clementine pith” – lasts for minutes. Fascinating. Like nothing else I’ve encountered, orange or otherwise. (Buy again? A bottle to revisit and contemplate.)

Mo’ Wine Group November 23rd tasting: flight 4 of 6

Orange anarchy

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Based in Šentjur, in eastern Slovenia, about 20 km northwest of Zagreb, Aci Urbajs became interested in wine-making in 1969 when, as a boy, he worked in a vineyard his parents had acquired. In 1987, he received, as a present for graduating from university, a small vineyard on the Rifnik hill, where unearthed Roman artifacts pointed to a long wine-making tradition on the site. A disciple of organic farming from early on, he was soon attracted to biodynamics and joined the Slovenian Demeter association in 1999. In the cellar, his approach is resolutely minimalist: spontaneous fermentation, no racking, no filtering, no fining. Two lines of wines are made: one with a small amount of added sulphur (20 to 30 g/l vs. the allowed 250 g/l), the other a “natural” line with no added sulphur. Chardonnay, Kerner, Pinot Gris, Welschriesling, Blaufränkisch and Pinot Noir are grown. Production is tiny, only a few thousand bottles a year.

Posavje 2012, Organic Anarchy, Aci Urbajs ($59.25, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Chardonnay, Kerner and Laški Rizling (“Italian Riesling” aka Welschriesling) from vines planted in 1988 and rooted in marble-rich soil. Two weeks’ maceration on the skins. Fermented in open barrels using indigenous yeasts. Matured one year. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. Vegan-friendly. 12.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy orange. Surprising, evolving nose: spicy, “kind of soapy,” “lit cigar,” dried orange peel and a hint of honey, among other things. Medium-bodied. Surprisingly fresh and vibrant for a five-year-old orange wine. The mineral-dusted fruit (stone fruit mainly) is almost sweet and yet so savoury. A hint of botrytis only increases the already complex set of flavours and aromas. Bright tingly acidity and a tannic rasp turn the silky texture a little raw-silky. The long finish is marked by pepper and nut notes. The way the wine evolved in the glass suggests carafing an hour or two beforehand may be a good idea. Very impressive. I look forward to encounters with Urbajs’s other wines. (Buy again? The high price notwithstanding, yes, a bottle to savour at leisure.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 4 of 9

Orange crush

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Located in Šempas in the western Vipava valley, about 20 kilometres east of Gorizia on the Italian border, the family-run Batič estate can trace its roots back to the late 16th century. It is known locally for its organically grown fruits and increasingly for its wines made from local and international varieties.

Primorska 2015, Zaria, Batič ($44.75, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Pinela (55%), Zelen (20%) Rebula (aka Ribolla Gialla, 5%), Vitovska (3%), Rumeni Mušat (aka Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains, 2%) and Chardonnay (1%) from biodynamically farmed vines planted in 1982 and rooted in marl soil of the Zaria vineyard. Manually harvested. Spontaneous co-fermentation on the skins in non-temperature-controlled open vats. Matured in Solvenian oak barrels. Unfiltered, unfined. No added sulphur. 13% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy orange-bronze. A whiff of volatile acidity gives way to white spice, “cake,” yeast, minerals, peach and orange aromas. Lighter-bodied than expected (based on the appearance and nose) yet also very present. Complex and intensely flavoured with fruit, spice and minerals vying for attention. Light tannins and bright acidity give it some bite. The long, saline finish brings a hint of nuttiness and “lingering tortillas.” Characterful, engaging, satisfying, food-friendly and relatively affordable: what’s not to like? (Buy again? Yep.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 3 of 9

Written by carswell

November 27, 2017 at 13:13

Primo Malvasia

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Uroš Klabjan’s eponymous estate is located on the Istrian peninsula in Slovenia just south of the Italian border and three kilometres inland from the Gulf of Trieste. The around 10 hectares of vineyards are devoted mainly to indigenous varieties, primarily Malvasia and Refosco. Most of the vines are several decades old though one plot of ungrafted Malvasia is well past the 100-year mark. The estate is certified organic and the wine-making practices are traditional and non-interventionist. Annual production is typically in the 30,000-bottle range.

Primorska 2013, Malvazija Maceracija, Klabjan ($53.00, private import, 6 bottles/case)
As far as I can tell, Klabjan makes two Malvasias: the fresh and easy-going white label and this, the more savoury and complex black label. 100% Malvasia from dry-farmed old vines. Manually harvested. Macerated 10 days on the skins. Spontaneous fermentation. Underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured 30 months on the lees in oak barrels. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur (total sulphites: 35 mg/l). Vegan-friendly. 14% ABV. Quebec agent: Vadim Fonta.

Hazy straw-bronze. Inexhaustibly protean nose of orange, apple, apricot, “rye whisky” and hints of vanilla and smoke that eventually heads into earthy mushroom territory. Smooth textured and possessed of a certain weight, layered and enveloping. The complex set of flavours echoes the nose and adds lees and minerals. Luminous acidity throws it all in relief, a effect sustained through the very long finish. Perfectly accessible now but also capable of ageing for years. Vibrant and engaging, this spellbinding wine was a favourite of just about everyone around the table. Despite the high price, we would have taken a couple of cases had any been available. (Buy again? Gladly. And I’ll make a beeline for any Klabjan wines I run across in the future.)

MWG October 13th tasting: flight 2 of 9

Written by carswell

November 25, 2017 at 11:49

Natural Catalans

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BN 2015, Blanco Natural, Partida Creus ($27.45, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A skin-contact white made from biodynamically farmed Macabeo (90%) and Cartoixa Vermell (10%). Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Unfiltered and unfined. No added sulphur. 10.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Bronze to the eye. Engaging nose of hayloft, dried white fruit, sawed wood, apricot skin and lees. Smooth and buoyant on the attack. Layers of flavour, only one or two of which are fruit. Broad and long though not remarkably deep. A light tannic astringency adds some structure to the finish. So savoury. A very good orange wine at a very good price. (Buy again? Yes.)

Côtes Catalanes 2015, L’Année blanc, Les Clos Perdus ($26.85, private import, 12 bottles/case)
Macabeu (aka Macabeo, 65%), Grenache Gris (30%) and Muscat (5%) from biodynamically farmed grapes. Manually harvested. Fermented with indigenous yeasts. Matured in stainless steel and barrels. Undergoes malolactic fermentation. Sulphur use is minimal. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: Vinealis.
Delicious nose. Blast of minerals, especially granite (“presque pétrole” notes André), along with orchard fruit (yellow apple in particular), a hint of funk and eventually “honey” and white meat notes. The ripe fruit and dense, almost oily texture come with compensating acidity. Finishes long and strong with a mix of spice and minerals. A serious, savoury wine that delivers considerable bang for the buck. (Buy again? Yes.)