Demystifying Orange Wine

When it comes to the term orange wine, a lot of casual wine drinkers can be confused, even if this style of winemaking is on trend right now. Orange wine simply refers to the fact that white wine grapes are fermented with the skins on, imparting color, tannic structure and body not necessarily typical of these grape varietals.

The amount of time fermented on the skins can vary wildly, from just a few days to months. This difference in fermentation can create much fuller bodied wines, though even some of the longer skin contact expressions can be released as quaffable versions for peak summer enjoyment.

In the end, these orange wines should be approached like any other wine: what are the fundamental smells, fruit characteristics, acidity and tannic structure that you get while drinking a glass? With that in mind, it was an exciting week for us as we moved from Mexico to Italy to California with surprising results along the way.

AmByth Sauvignon Blanc O.W. - 2106

AmByth Estate – Sauvignon Blanc O.W. 2016

Hailing from Southern California, AmByth makes some of the most forward thinking Californian wines we have tasted. They are consistently innovative and delicious. For their Sauvignon Blanc O.W., they showcase the lighter and juicier expression of orange wine, without sacrificing flavor.

If there was ever a wine that signifies a particular, the AmByth would be it. When you first open it, you smell vibrant peach candy notes. This follows with this similarly sweet peach flavor tempered by a driving acidity that keeps the wine balanced. As things open up, the peach notes evolve; you get more taste of peach skins, as if biting into an overripe end-of-summer fruit. There are some tannins but they are light in this expression, offering just enough grip to keep things interesting.

Casa Vieja - Palomino wine

Casa Vieja – Palomino 2017

Mexican wines are hot, hot, hot right now. Thanks in part to Bichi dominating the natural wine conversation. But newer Mexican producers with every old wines are starting to enter the scene, including Casa Vieja. Using Palomino, a grape typically used for sherries in Spain, the winemakers demonstrate the elegance of old vines and the success of skin contact wine making.

This is a deep yellow in color, verging on a light orange, that opens up with floral aromatics and a soft floral palette. You get ripe apricot and a touch of nectarine acidity, which is broadly elegant overall, owing to the wine’s lower acidity and the vines’ age. For all of this broadness in the mid palette, however, you get a surprisingly wispy finish as the stone fruit notes return with even more subtlety.

Calalta Davvero 2017 wine

Calalta Davvero Riesling, 2017

Our last wine comes from a Riesling made in one of the northernmost regions in Italy. It was the most full bodied of orange wines we had for the week, capturing the richer and rounder characteristics we come to expect from an aged Riesling.

Out of the glass, this wine is undeniably amber in color. It’s not a particularly aromatic or delicate wine, but the initial overripe apple and stone fruit notes quickly evolve into something more savory. We got whiffs of woodsy notes with a camphor profile. This wine is particularly dry and especially tannic. Even though it is broad, it has a nice structured minerality to balance out this roundness. On the second day, there is more integration of the fruit and tannins but be careful of the sediment that lingers in the end of your pours.

Finding the Perfect Light Reds

Summer isn’t over yet, at least not for another week. Even if summer is still here, we’ve hit the point when the sun goes down before 8 PM and there’s a noticeable chill in the air. While we’re not going to turn down a rosé, we found ourselves asking an important question recently: What should we be drinking next?

The answer, it turns out, was really quite simple. A light red. The difficulty was more in finding which ones to highlight. Light reds have been gaining transaction precisely because of their seasonal versatility and their ability to please a wide range of palettes. Who doesn’t love a fruity, low tannin, acid forward wine?

In the end, we ended up choosing some winemakers we love. These are producers who make consistently good wines while taking risks in the process. We hope you enjoy a glass or three during this most beautiful time of the year.

Joe Swick Ellaguru wine

Joe Swick – Ellaguru

First up is Oregon producer Joe Swick’s Ellaguru. Swick is always known for his unusual grape choices and this 50/50 blend of Melon de Bourgogne and Counoise is no exception, though there is nothing about the taste that is unfamiliar or off putting.

In the glass, you can expect a ruby red color that is unfined and unfiltered. The initial taste on the palette is vibrant: juicy blackberry crunch intersects with a lively, racy acidity. As it opens up, fresh herbal notes build into a refreshing finish that demands you keep sipping and sipping. We felt it lost a bit of verve on its second day but even then it still had plenty of life in it. (We’re not sure you’ll be able to save the bottle for a second day, even if you tried!)

It’s been called a tater tot wine and we couldn’t agree more. If you don’t have those on, a slice of pizza or empanada would provide a similar effect.

Foradori Teroldego Lezèr wine

Foradori – Teroldego Lezèr

Elisabetta Foradori is the queen of Teroldego – an Italian red grape varietal that thrives in the mountainous northern region of the country. For her first take at this light expression back in 2017, she actually used vines badly damaged by storms. It was such a hit, however, that she repeated the process in 2018 to a sold out allotment.

The varietal produces a deep red colored wine that is transparent in the sunlight. It’s hard to imagine something being juicier than the Ellaguru but this wine is, featuring raspberry notes at first with plum soon creeping in. Notes of tobacco and spice soon follow. They are not there to provide tannin structure as you might expect in a medium bodied red. Instead, they are there to soften the fruit. The finish features a wonderful sapidity that keeps you going back for more.

Lezèr is generally hard to find but if you can snag a bottle you’d be the envy of any late season BBQ.

Nestarec Super Pufft Popcorn wine

Milan Nestarec – Super Pufft Popcorn

For our last wine this week, we have Czech producer Milan Nestarec’s take on a Blaufränkisch, part of his higher end, more expensive single varietal wines that have charmed us, including the excellent Sauvignon Blanc GinTonic, which tastes deceptively like its cocktail counterpart. Super Pufft Popcorn is a more serene affair but Nestarec manages to take what we generally expect as a heavier, more tannic wine and turn it into a refreshing evening breeze.

It is the darkest wine of the bunch, deep purple when you first pour in to the glass. As you take a sip, you are transported by a mix of strawberry flavors, with hints of ripe and dried notes. A white pepper mid palette soon follows, reemerging throughout the evening. This blends harmoniously into an ethereal and long structured finish showcasing only a hint of tannins. Even as a 2016 vintage, it tastes much younger than it is.

Bring this to your next dinner party to impress your friends.

Rosés With a Sip of Intrigue

When you think of rosé, you probably imagine a salmon-hued glass of refreshing, acidic wine, meant for sunny beach days or with a hot dog at your backyard BBQ. It turns out that rosé is more complex than this.

Enter the darker hued rosés.

These rosés can vary considerably in color – from a much darker pink to decidedly ruby color. However, what the darker color does not mean is that these wines are at all rich or full bodied. They might certainly have more structure than the vins de soif that most people are used to. But many feature the signature acidity, reduced tannins and mouthwatering fruit that define our expectations of a rosé.

This week we drank three of these darker hued delights and discovered just how much these wines showcased the endless versatility of this style of wine. We are true believers that every season can (and should) be rosé season. And we hope you will soon believe the same thing.

Susucaru 2018

Frank Cornelissen – Susucaru Rosato 2018

We wanted to start with Susucaru because it’s likely the one that you’ve heard of and tasted if you’ve followed natural wine over the last few years. Allocations tend to fly off shelves, with people venturing from Jersey or Long Island to pick up multiple bottles. And it’s hard not to see why people go crazy for it: it’s 100% clean glou glou that can appeal to just about anyone.

At 11.5%, it is the on the lighter end of the spectrum. Cornelissen, who manages vineyards quite high on the slopes of Mount Etna, infuses his rosé with an unmistakable floral nose and delicately soft textural quality upfront. This is nicely balanced with bursts of tart cherries and an integrated acidity in the mid palette. Perhaps the best quality of this wine is that avoids becoming too ethereal by grounding itself in slightly toothsome herbal tannins on the finish. It’s perfect for a late season BBQ or with a generous charcuterie plate.

Minimus 2018

Nicolas Carmarans – Minimus 2018

Next up is Nicolas Carmarans’ Minimus, a 2018 rosé from Aveyron in Southern France. Like Susucaru, his rosé is a remarkably clean wine that holds up well with both generous and light chills, making it versatile for a number of occasions and cuisines into the fall season. This vintage is particularly fresh, with brambly blackberries and other darker fruits intermingling with green pepper notes to zesty effect throughout a glass.

Though it features the same 11.5% ABV as Susucaru, this is a much more structured wine, though not in terms of tannins. Instead, Carmarans manages to balance a high toned acidity with a laser focused mineral depth to create a rosé that has broader elegance than you might typically expect. (Or you know you needed!) Without much in the way of tannins, this is very drinkable, making it difficult to share. As such, we know it would be perfect with just you, a glass and your next Netflix binge session.

Levat 2018

Ad Vinum – Levat 2017

Last, but certainly not least, is Ad Vinum’s Levat rosé, again from Southern France in Gard. This is by far the darkest of the rosés we tasted, with an impenetrable ruby red color that nods to Grenache and Cinsault being used. This wine is also significantly higher in ABV at 14%, which might make you wonder: why is this a rosé at all?

When you take a sip for the first time, you understand.

This wine has notes of overripe and dried red fruits in the beginning but the richness upfront is quickly counterbalanced by a dense acidity and fluttering notes of orange zest. All of these dance between fruit and acid is anchored by gentle tannins into a contemplative, long finish. This is a complex wine that thrills with each sip. The more it opens up, the more its driving power is apparent. Even if it is a brawny wine, tannins never overwhelm its movement, owing to the addition of white grapes and their vital lift that is common in Tavel-style rosés.

We wouldn’t recommend bringing this to a BBQ but it would be perfect for heartier winter fare and some cellar aging.

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