In November 2014, I met five winemakers at a small tasting in San Floriano del Collio. Quietly spoken and rather shy, Mitja Miklus from the Draga estate seemed to blend into the background. But this young chap is smart – he doesn’t need to adopt the bluster of a salesman, his wines do the talking quite well by themselves.
“The really big change was when I tasted the wine. It was something completely new, totally different and exciting. It made me crazy, just tasting it.”
This is how Stanko Radikon describes the life changing moment in 1995 which prompted him to change the family’s entire wine production to what we now know and love as “orange wines”.
You can tell a great winemaker not by what they produce in a good year, but by what they pull together from a catastrophic one. And it didn’t get much worse than Dario Prinčič’s 2008 vintage, where some 90% of his harvest was infected with Peronospora (downy mildew). Prinčič salvaged a pitiful amount of grapes, blended the entire output together and made a one off – the aptly named “Favola”, meaning fable or legend.
There are a small number of winemakers out there who defy any attempt at categorisation, apart from superlatives. Elisabetta Foradori is one. She’s the darling of the Italian biodynamic wine movement, an early convert to amphorae, and a peerless exponent of long skin maceration for white wines. But it feels clumsy to describe Foradori’s output with such limiting terms and techniques.
White, red and rosé wines can have bubbles – so why not orange? It hadn’t crossed my mind that such a fascinating sub-genre might exist, but it does. Ernesto Cattel might well have been one of the first to bring it to market – his Costadilà estate on the Northern slopes of Valdobbiadene was founded in 2006, to showcase the more traditional face of Prosecco.
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.
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.
I’m delighted that this feature was awarded “Best editorial/Opinion wine writing” in the 2015 Born Digital Wine awards. It originally appeared on Tim Atkin’s website in March 2014. Mount Etna’s most controversial winemaker, Frank Cornelissen, is a hard man to track down. After a first failed meet up (my tardiness partially to blame) and a number […]
Think Pinot Grigio, think insipid, water white cheap glugging plonk? Think again. Here is a 100% Pinot Grigio from Friuli Collio which confounds everything you ever knew about the variety.Dario Prinčič’s version macerates on its skins for around eight days during fermentation.
When life gives you oysters, break out the bubbles. Or crack open the Muscadet. That is at least the conventional wisdom. But last Thursday, life (well, The Remedy to be precise) gave me a stunning skin contact Catarratto from Sicily, followed seconds later by a large plate of my favourite molluscs. Was this going to work?