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Posts Tagged ‘Orange wine

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

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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.)

Orange roughly

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Québec 2016, Julep, Domaine Négondos (c. $27.00)
This orange wine isn’t even mentioned on the winery’s website while on the wider Web you’ll find more information about the label than the wine itself. The label and name wryly refer to Montreal’s iconic Gibeau Orange Julep drive-in and its signature drink. 100% Seyval Blanc from the winery’s organically farmed vineyard in Mirabel in the lower Laurentians. Manually harvested. Macerated several weeks on the skins. After pressing, the juice is fermented with indigenous yeasts. Clarified by settling. Probably unfiltered and unfined and minimally sulphured. 11.5% ABV.

“Floral” by general agreement though there is little consensus on the type of flower (dandelion, I think). Hay stubble, stone fruit and citrus (including a little bergamot?) complicate the aromatic profile. In the mouth, it’s smooth, barely medium-bodied and super dry. The light nectarine, citrus and browning apple fruit is dusted with minerals, structured by sleek acidity and ghostly tannins. The evanescing savoury/earthy finish could be longer. Not very orange (if memory serves, the 2014 was significantly more so) but a very convincing expression of Seyval. (Buy again? Yes.)

I’ve contacted the winery for more technical information and will update this post when/if I receive it.

MWG July 27th tasting: flight 7 of 7

Written by carswell

October 4, 2017 at 11:29

White orange

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Vipavska Dolina 2015, Bela, Burja ($37.60, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Istrian Malvasia (30%), Welschriesling (30%), Ribola Gialla (30%) and unspecified other varieties from biodynamically farmed vines grown in the Vipava Valley and ranging from 25 to 75 years in age. Macerated on the skins for eight days before pressing. Fermented with indigenous yeasts in stainless steel tanks. Matured in 25 to 50 hl Slavonian oak barrels. 13.5% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV.

To all appearances, not an orange wine; the skin contact may add complexity and depth but the colour is lighter and more golden than, say, the Konkret Weiss, the nose is aromatic without being particularly estery/phenolic and if tannins are to be found, they escaped my notice. So, what are the aromatics? Preserved lemon, white pepper, quartz, maybe a floral note. In the mouth, the wine is very dry and savoury. The fruit takes a back seat to the minerals and a surprisingly intense salinity while sleek if sustained acidity counters the oily texture. The finish is long and vapourous. A food wine if ever there were one and probably a bottle that won’t suffer from a few years in the cellar. (Buy again? Yes.)

MWG June 8th tasting: flight 2 of 6

Written by carswell

July 8, 2017 at 12:00

WINO tasting (6/6)

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Located between Siena and Arezzo, the 60-hectare Fattoria di Caspri estate has nine hectares of grape vines and seven hectares of olive trees. The estate’s founding dates back nearly to the beginning of the Common Era, when Roman general Casperius Aelianus made it his home. The current main building is a relative youngster, having been built in the 18th century.

Farming has been organic and biodynamic since 2006, when the estate was acquired by its current owners. The soil tends to be light and sandy mixed with decomposed gneiss and a little clay. While the focus is on traditional grape varieties (mainly Sangiovese, Canaiolo Cillegiolo, Trebbiano and Malvasia), the estate also has experimental plots of Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

The wine-making is identical for all the reds. The manually harvested grapes are fermented in small, non-temperature-controlled conical vats with indigenous yeasts. Total maceration time is three to four weeks. After pressing, the wine is transferred into old barrels for 18 to 20 months’ maturation. The wines are bottled unfiltered and unfined. No sulphur is added.

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Rosso di Caspri, Fattoria di Caspri ($31.21, private import, 12 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from young vines. 12.3% ABV. 650 cases made. Quebec agent: WINO.
Attractive nose of bitter cherry, fresh herbs, slate, turned earth and a little ash. “Kind of meaty” is the first (and accurate) comment about the flavour of this medium-bodied and very dry wine. Red fruit, tingly acidity and fine astringent tannins made for a somewhat austere if appealingly rustic mouthful. Finishes clean. (Buy again? Sure.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2013, Poggio Cuccule, Fattoria di Caspri ($41.15, private import, 6 bottles/case)
100% Sangiovese from 45-year-old vines. 125 cases made. 13.1% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Gorgeous, floral nose of cherry, fresh almond and old wood. Medium-bodied. A sip is like biting into a morello cherry. Fresh, fleet, intense and pure. The energy is palpable and the wine seems lit from within by glowing acidity. The tannins are fruit-cloaked. Minerals, wood and earth undertones add depth, not darkness. Finishes long and clean. Stunning Sangiovese. (Buy again? Oh, yes.)

IGT Toscana Rosso 2014, Casperius, Fattoria di Caspri ($67.31, private import, 6 bottles/case)
A blend of Sangiovese and Syrah. 12.7% ABV. Quebec agent: WINO.
Closed nose that with coaxing reveals red fruit, dried herb, violet, leather and mint notes and a whiff of barnyard. In the mouth, it’s fuller-bodied, smoother, rounder and less acidic than its flightmates, though it does share some of the Rosso’s meatiness. Depth, breadth and length it has in spades though it would probably benefit from a year or two to come together. Perhaps a little overshadowed by the Poggio Cuccule, I suspect this would prove wholly satisfactory on its own at dinner. (Buy again? Maybe.)

IGT Toscana 2010, Luna Blu, Fattoria di Caspri ($28.50 in 2013, private import, 6 bottles/case, NLA)
An orange wine made from a 50-50 blend of Trebbiano and Malvasia. Macerated on the skins for four weeks before pressing. Matured in small wood barrels. No filtering, fining or added sulphur. Under 100 cases made. 13.3% ABV. Quebec agent: La QV at the time, now WINO. The newest vintage is slated to arrive later this spring.

Bronze with a rosé cast. Sultry nose of “elderflower,” sawdust and hints of apricot skin and dried tangerine peel. Rich and smooth in the mouth, bright acidity notwithstanding. Fruity yet dry, the flavours tending to citrus and spice with a mineral undercurrent. Faint tannins add a little grit to the otherwise sleek texture. Long. As mentioned in my October 2013 tasting note, the winemaker has stated that the wine would be at its apogee in 2017. In the event, while it may not be the deepest, most structured or even most involving orange wine, it is definitely a pleasure to drink. Paired beautifully with a selection of cheeses from Yannick, especially a raw-milk L’Étivaz. (Buy again? Moot. But I’m looking forward to the new vintage.)

MWG March 23rd tasting: flight 6 of 6