Chinuri is one of the more important white grape varieties indigenous to Kartli, and Iago BItarishvili is without doubt its best exponent. His focus on the grape is absolute, inviting comparison to the Vodopivec brothers in Friuli who focus solely on their native Vitovska. Iago makes two Chinuri wines, one with and one without skin contact.
Supernatural is the project of globe trotting Gregory Collinge, and Green Glow is the estate’s skin fermented Sauvignon Blanc. This 2015 is by far and away their best effort yet, it really blew me away. And yes folks, the label glows in the dark!
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.
I’m wondering around a small winery in Marche’s Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi region. Frank Zappa pours me barrel samples of bright orange juice. Any minute now, I expect him to strap on his guitar for a blistering avant-rock solo. Then I pinch myself.
OK, I’m actually at La Distesa, and this is Corrado Dottori, who makes the wonderful “Nur”, a skin fermented white blend.
I’m a huge fan of Georgian qvevri wines – that’s to say, wines made in the 8,000 year old traditional manner, where grapes, skins and sometimes stems are piled into a 500 – 2,000 litre clay amphora-like vessel, buried up to its neck in the ground.
The challenge has always been how to get hold of them. A tiny amount is imported into the UK, even less to the Netherlands where I currently reside. And what little there is often ends up languishing on restaurant lists, as it’s mostly too pricey to be easily sold in shops.
But times are changing, awareness of the wines seems to be increasing (admitedly from a very low base), and one adventurous Dutch wine merchant “Andere Wijn” has hugely expanded their Georgian range.
Damijan Podversic’s decision in 1999 to reject his conventional winemaking education, in favour of a more “back to the roots” style, did not sit well with his dad who denied him usage of the family’s ancestral cellar. Since then he’s developed an impressive and tradition style of skin macerated white wines, following in the footsteps of Josko Gravner.
What’s the biggest problem with organising a natural wine tasting? Defining the parameters ranks very high. Also, if one publicises the results with any level of exposure, being prepared to fight off the negative, trolling comments is sadly a serious undertaking.
Sometimes the path of true love really does alter everything. When Austrian Martin Lichtenberger and Spaniard Adrianna Gonzalez met in 2007, during their winemaking studies in California, they might not have predicted that they’d soon be making wine together on another continent. Not to mention a skin contact Muscat Ottonel (an orange wine).
Tasting at a busy wine fair is hard. Where to go, what to taste? Did I miss something mindblowing amidst the crowds? A tall, rather statuesque lady with impressive dreadlocks grabs my attention. I offer my best/only Portuguese “Posso provar os vinhos brancos?”, she retaliates with a stream of Spanish. I catch the word “Galicia” and little else. The owner of the dreads is Laura Lorenzo, Daterra Viticultores, Galicia.
Aleš Kristančič is a man whose reputation precedes him. Movia, the family’s estate in Western Slovenia since 1820, has become one of the most well-known producers from the region, and also a trailblazer for the skin contact style.