Orange Wine Tasting
Orange wine refers to white grapes being processed like red wine where the fermentation includes the skins and sometimes the stems. As a result of the presence of the skins, phenolic compounds are extracted resulting in an orange colour. This is returning to the roots of winemaking where Georgia is one of the earliest homes of grape growing and winemaking. In this early era there were no machines and hence winemaking was all done by hand and there were no additives; minimal intervention. Georgia is also home to amphora (Qvevri) which are clay vessels and often buried in the ground. Burying helps maintain a constant temperature during fermentation and minimise oxidation. Winemaking like many things follows trends and fashion. In the 90's there was a big movement towards automation and clean, New World winemaking techniques. Almost in retaliation to this clean, commercial and sometimes sterile form of winemaking, many producers are trying to make wines with little or no intervention; the way they were orginally. Typically Orange wines are not fined or filtered and hence often cloudy. Usually little or no sulphur dioxide is used to protect the wine from oxidation. The tannins extracted from the skins and/or stems helps to protect the wine from oxidation. Most producers use grapes grown organically or even biodynamically but there are no specific rules, unless the winery/vineyard adheres to one of the many forms of Organic or Biodynamic certification programs.
Orange Wines from New Zealand:
Mt Edward Clockwork 2014
An equal blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Chardonnay.
Riesling and Pinot Gris came from Opiki Vineyard in the Cromwell basin, with soils consisting of gravels and a wind blown loess. Managed conventionally
Chardonnay came from a vineyard on the other side of the road from Rippon, Wanaka. The vineyard has glacial soils and is managed organically.
Each variety was picked separately; the Riesling and Pinot Gris early in April and the Chardonnay mid-April.
The varieties were fermented separately. Three barrels had the head boards removed and the destemmed grapes were put inside to completely fill each barrel. The head boards replaced and the barrels positioned on a rack for fermentation. Obviously there was no plunging or cap management, only topping to keep the barrels full.
Total cuvasion for each variety was 1 month, then the head boards were again removed and the wine pressed. Each variety was then blended together and the blend was put into stainless steel barrels. 20ppm SO2 was added at this early stage. Elevage was for one year in these SS barrels and then the wine was bottled directy via gravity from the barrels to bottle.
No more SO2 was added prior to bottling.
Duncan Forsythe believes making the Orange wine helps him to understand the impact that total time on skins has on the aromatics and structure of the resulting wines. His first vintage (2013) had a total cuvasion of 8 months, 2014 had 1 month and the 2015 was in between these two. As a result of these experiments it has influenced all of his other white wines in that they all have a degree of skin contact. He is still experimenting and learning what is the right thing for each white wine.
Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Series Kerner Estate Vineyard - Marlborough, Pinot Blanc/Pinot Gris/Gewurztraminer - Fermented on Skins "Orange" - 2014
The vineyard is located in the Waihopai Valley. This site is slightly elevated and is some distance from the sea. Therefore, the temperatures are cooler, meaning the grapes ripen more slowly, retaining and intensifying their flavour. 2.7 tonnes/acre from this gifted site, whose cool macroclimate protects the lifted and fresh aromatics, while healthy, dense soils provide length and concentration. Soils consist of a silty loam. This vineyard has been managed by Mike and Claudia Weersing since 2006. Previously it was handled conventionally and the vines were pruned using VSP where 4 canes were laid down. Quickly they converted it to dry farming, laying only 2 canes, using an undervine weeder instead of herbicides and has since been certified Organic. This conversion process took 3-4 years and especailly to see the increased quality of grapes that allowed the production of a Natural Orange wine.
Selectively picked, for perfect fruit, knowing this wine would spend time on skins; no botrytis or slip skin berries. Sorted again at the winery, then destemmed, and transferred to tank. Grapes were put into 5 different vats layering each variety in a different configuration. One vat had 1/3 Pinot Blanc then 1/3 Pinot Gris with the Gewurztraminer on top. There were various combinations made in the 5 vats. There was a vineyard yeast fermentation using a pied de cuve from grapes picked 2 weeks prior to the harvest, natural malolactic, and one month on skins before being lightly pressed in their tiny basket press. Each vat was gently piegeage by foot and near the end of the fermentation, hands were used to fold the berries at the top down into the vat or taking a bucket of fermenting juice from the bottom and pouring it over the skins on top. After pressing the wine settled for two months and then transferred to old oak barrels. Bottled on the Summer Equinox; neither fined nor filtered.
Alcohol 13%, TA 4.5g/l, RS <1g/l. Contains no added sulphites. Only 175 cases produced.
Lush and ripe and juicy, almost non-confrontational for a wine in this style, but still focused and driven by phenolics.
The Hermit Ram Skin Fermented Muller Thurgau 2015
Vineyard: Lone Goat, Burnham, the old Giesen vineyard with Muller planted in 1980 on own roots.
Soil: Canterbury gravels with low levels of silt
Winemaking: Hand picked, grapes sorted in the winery and destemmed into two fermenters, no SO2 at harvest.
Two fermenters; one in an open topped concret vat and the other was an egg shaped vat.
Open topped concret vat had Muller on skins for 6 weeks. Each day the vat was gently pumped over to wash the cap and give air to the yeast. For the last 1/3 of the ferment the vat was gently foot plunged until dryness. The vat was pressed and stored in old barrels.
Egg shaped ferment: same processing; destemmed but was left on skins for 168 days with the same cap management as the open topped vat. Malo occurred naturally on skins. After 168 days this vat was pressed and the free run wine was blended with the wine from the open topped vat. This wine was stored in barrel and then racked into a tank and the 168 day skin contact wine was blended into the same tank.
Bottling occurred one week after blending with 20ppm SO2.
Theo believes that Muller is very prone to oxidation and low levels of SO2 help retain fruit freshness.
pH 3.9 and Ta 3.8
Aromas and flavours of exotic brown spice and ginger, almost Galangal. This wine gains structure from the phenolic on the finish rather than acidity.
Muddy Water Growers Series Skin Fermented Pinot Gris 2015
100% hand picked Pinot Gris (two clones 2-15 and 2-21 on compact calcareous clay) Grown at Greystone Vineyard situated on gentle North facing slopes.
There were just over 3 Tonnes in total. 1.5 T fermented on skins in the winery (35 days on skins). 1.5 T fermented on skins in the vineyard from the rows that the grapes were picked from, ( also spent 35 days – outside in the vineyard). Light hand plunged in open top fermenters. A very small volume of grapes 250Kg were fermented in an old oak barrel with the head board removed. This ferment had stems included and spent 9 months with skins and stems in amphora after the initial 35 days in the old oak.
The 1.5 T lots were pressed off skins and transferred into neutral French oak where they went through full natural MLF. Each component was blended and estate bottled without fining, filtration or any sulphur adds ( no additions ). This has zero FSO2.
Orange Wines from the EU and Russia:
Friuli-Venezia Giulia – North-East Italy Friuli is the north easternmost region of Italy, and borders on Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east and has long been a confluence of three distinct peoples and cultures: Italian, Germanic, and Slavic. It is considered one of the more interesting and distinctive winemaking regions of Europe in the present day.
PRINCIC DARIO, Gorizia, Friuli – Biodynamic, Natural, Dario Princic makes his wines near the town of Oslavia in northeastern Italy, very close to the border with Slovenia. Here limestone predominates. The dry winds are an aid to organic viticulture, which Princic has been practising for more than twenty years. He is one of the founding members of Vini Veri, an association of Italian natural wine producers.
Ribolla Gialla, native to Friuli, the earliest mention of this variety dates back to 1296. It is mid ripening and susceptable to millerandage and rot. Low fertility. Traditionally wines from this variety have been light bodied, high in acidity and slightly floral. More innovative producers are now producing more concentrated and characterful versions with deep yellow colour and rich yellow fruit flavours. Gravner being one of the most famous producers growing and making this variety.
The grapes are processed a la red wine, with 20 days on skins and punch downs, followed by 2 years ageing in vat. The result is what has been described as an “Orange” wine, where the skin contact and resultant phenolic pick-up has given the wine an amber colour. It is bottled unfiltered and with a relatively small sulphur dioxide add, so turbidity can also be a feature of this wine.
ZIDARICH, Duino Aurisina, Carso, Friuli – Biodynamic, Natural Carso is the thin slice of land connecting Trieste to the main mass of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia. Officially speaking, this is Italy, but, as is the case all along Italy’s border with Slovenia, the wine culture transcends national boundaries. Winegrowing Carso extends well beyond the border into Slovenia (as does winegrowing Collio further north), and its trio of peculiar local grapes – the whites Vitovska and Malvasia and a strain of the red Refosco known as Terrano – are uniquely Slavic contributions to the “Italian” viticultural whole. Carso is a limestone-rich plateau that extends out from the city of Trieste and reaches toward the Julian Alps to the north. The heavy limestone content of the soils likely gave the zone its name (Carso is thought to be derived from a Celtic word meaning “land of rock”). Zidarich is located in Prepotto, near Duino Aurisina. Jagged chalky rock is the keynote of Carso viticulture, which is carried out on small terraces of red, iron-rich soil that have been reclaimed from the woodland. This lends the wines the characteristic acidity and mineral notes.
Vitovska is a rare white varietal native to the Carso area. It was rescued in the 80s by Zidarich and a handful of other winegrowers, including Vodopivec. It’s a natural cross between Prosecco and Malvasia Bianca Lunga. Zidarich’s Vitovska is hand harvested from vineyards at 280m elevation (planted at 8-10000 vines/ha) de-stemmed and spontaneously fermented on skins with punchdowns for around 15 days, before aging for 2 years in larger format Slavonian oak. Bottled unfined and unfiltered.
GEORGIA is an independent state of the former Soviet Union between the Black Sea and the High Caucasus. It is one of the birthplaces of wine culture and wild vines, indeed wine's name itself is of Georgian origin - "Gvino" and October, harvest month, is named "Gvinobistve" (the month of wine). Wild Vitis Vinifera Silvestris vines are still widely distributed across the country. Archaeologists and historians have discovered evidence and material artefacts including seven thousand year old grape seeds and antique vessels (pruning knives, stone presses etc.) as well as written testimony of foreign chroniclers and travellers. There are more than 500 identifiable varieties to be found, of which 38 are officially allowed for winemaking.
Rkatsiteli is one of the most ancient grape varieties in Georgia, DNA studies showing that it’s very closely related to local wild varietals. It isn’t however rare (at least not in Georgia!) with about 19500 Ha planted. A mid ripening variety that is hardy, resistant to winter frost and summer droughts. Large triangular bunches weighing up to 1kg each but with small berries. Grapes can reach high sugar levels while still retaining high acidity.
PHEASANT’S TEARS, Kakheti Region, Georgia – Organic, Natural Pheasant’s Tears is owned by three individuals in equal shares: John Wurdeman: Wine Tourism/Idea Person/Public Voice/Sales; Gela Patalashvili: Vinedresser/Winemaker, and Georgian Wine Legacy: a small Swedish importer of wine set up to facilitate small sales volumes in the EU. They make a number of wines from low cropped, native Georgian varietals, in the traditional Georgian style in Qvevri sunk into the ground. Grapes are destemmed then a portion of stems is added back. The wines, white and red spend between three weeks and six months on skins, depending on the varietal. They are all attractive and approachable, extremely interesting wines. The skin contact whites come into their own with food that compliments their extra structure. The white Rkatsiteli is from 30 year old vines, and has 30 days on skins, giving a nice perfume and some gentle tannin structure.