Burja Estate – Selection Bela 2010

 Every week, I select an orange wine (a white wine made with extended skin contact) that grabbed my attention. View the whole series here.

Burja Selection Bela 2010Last week’s wine was definitely an edge case, with only two days of maceration, yet utterly inhabiting the “orange wine” end of the flavour spectrum. Here’s another.

Primož Lavrenčič’s 7.4 hectares are situated in the stunning Vipava valley, about 40 km east of the Italian border. Vipava is interesting for having one of the oldest documented traditions of extended skin maceration – local priest Matija Vertovec wrote Vinoreja za Slovence (Winemaking for Slovenians) in 1844, and not only recommends skin macerations ‘from 24 hours to 30 days’, but also talks about “the old Vipava method” of using a week’s skin contact for white grapes.

Lavrenčič plays with the tradition a bit, using 8 days of maceration in his white blend “selection”, but at a controlled low temperature. This approach is frowned upon by traditionalists who feel that temperature control prevents full extraction of the flavour from the skins. Be that as it may, Burja selection is successful on its own very elegant terms.

Burja Estate – Selection Bela 2010 is a blend of Laški rizling, Rebula (AKA Ribolla Gialla), Malvasia and an intriguing 10% of “other varieties”, presumably obscure or even unknown as this is a field blend (all varieties grow together in the vineyards, which are up to 60 years old). Aromas of white peach, honey and toast draw you in. The palate is full and generous, with fresh apricot and pear fruit. Nervy acidity keeps it all taut and fesh. Everything feels restrained and refined, right down to the long finish, showing a touch of phenolics from the skin contact.

Primoz Lavrencic with open top fermenter (photo courtesy Marijan Mocivnik www.studio-ajd.si)A very fine wine indeed, but one that highlights how inadequate the term “orange wine” sometimes is. Yes, this is a white wine made with extended skin maceration, but Lavrenčič’s goal is neither the more rustic Rebula his forefathers might have produced, nor the more extreme “orange” styles made by some producers in Friuli Collio or Goriska Brda. I have no problem with this hybrid approach, which fuses the freshness and poise of modern winemaking with the personality and intensity that skin contact adds to the mix.

Lavrenčič is also a frontrunner in Vipava for the movement towards more sustainable, ecologically aware farming. Certified organic since 2012, he is now in conversion to biodynamic agriculture. I was struck not only by his passion for the land, but also his humility. He admitted “the soil here is so complex, I think even at the end of my life I’ll die stupid – no matter how hard I try to understand it. But biodynamics is a way to try to approach this understanding.”

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Burja wines are available in most European countries but not yet in the UK. Selection Bela 2010 can be ordered in the Netherlands from Good grapes, price €17.50

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