The message from Menti, a small family estate in Northern Italy’s Veneto, has a clear intent – these wines are strong, characterful and rather distinct from the usual light, fruity fare that one would expect. Monte del Cuca is a 100% Garganega feremented on its skins for 22 days.
Old wines never cease to fascinate me. They invariably come to the table with a story to tell, with baggage attached, with secrets and profundities that are simply impossible in the latest vintage.
This 1997 Breg from Josko Gravner is laden with resonance – it’s one of the first years that Gravner bottled his then “new” style of wine, abandoning steel tanks and French oak barriques entirely, for long skin contact and ageing in much larger more neutral oak vessels. It’s the last year that Gravner kept his old label – the now iconic red/brown vine lable has graced every produced sine 1998. It also predates his usage of amphora for commercially bottled wines.
Large oak maturation vessels at Gravner
Rossidi winery is the brainchild of Edward and Rosie Kourian, who make wine together with their friend and consultant winemaker Peter Georgiev. Rossidi are one of a very few producers in Bulgaria who are daring, playful and savvy about what 21st century consumers might like – Eddie’s character runs through everything from his self-confessed “extravagant” satorial style to the beautiful self-designed labels. I tried their wines at a large tasting in Plovdiv last October. They were a breath of fresh air amongst many rather clumsy, oak-monsters.
Right now, amphoras are hip. So is minimal intervention, and extended skin contact for white wines. Diane Iannaccone and Mario Basco of “I Cacciagalli” in Campania do all three, so that makes them super-on trend. Any thoughts that they might be bandwagon jumpers were banished with one taste of their “orange” Fiano, “Zagreo”. It’s an exceptional wine, produced by people who know exactly what they are doing.
This is Grüner Veltliner, but not as you know it. Martin Diwald fermented it in open plastic tubs, on its skins for 7 days. The result – Zündstoff – was destined for a blend, but turned out to be so delicious that it’s been bottled in its own right.
I’ve featured wines from several of the Schmecke das Leben producers in this series, but not Tauss until now. Roland and Alice Tauss are perhaps the least well known winery in the group, partly due to their very small size – there’s a mere 6 hectares of vines at their bucolic estate in Southern Styria.
The spiritual and traditional nub of Georgian winemaking is the qvevri – a clay, amphora like vessel buried in the ground and described by Josko Gravner as “a womb for the wine”. Wellmade qvevri white wines can be revelatory in their freshness, intensity and uniqueness. Qvevris have become hip, and producers all over the globe are buying them up. But sometimes you need to go back to the source, to find a winemaker who really knows how to make the style sing. Gogi Dakishvili is just such a chap – head winemaker at Schuchmann estate in Kakheti, Georgia.
Regular readers will have noticed I’ve featured a few wines in this slot that merely flirt with the orange wine category. So to end the first year of these orange segments, here’s an all-out, serious contender made with 12 months of maceration: Strohmeier’s Wein Der Stille 2013, from Southern Styria, Austria
It’s starting to become a theme in this series – edge cases which are not really orange wines. Take the sole white wine from microscopic but world reknowned Le Due Terre, in Friuli Colli Orientali. A blend of Friulano with 30% Ribolla Gialla, it has 10-12 days of skin contact, and is spontaneously fermented without temperature control. Yet it definitely doesn’t fit the “orange wine” moniker in a stylistic sense.
This autumn’s Orange wine festival (Vienna edition) was once again a busy, joyful occasion with some 80 producers from 9 countries, and 500 or more enthusiastic tasters. Many great producers were in the room, but one new discovery wowed me enough to want to share it here. Erzetič is a long established winery in Goriška Brda (effectively the Slovenian part of Friuli Collio), with 5ha of vines. Andrej Erzetič, the youngest member of the family involved in production, told me winemaking here can be traced back to 1721.