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 not sure that I have heroes anymore – and those I once had were certainly not wine writers. That said, if I did, and if they were, Hugh Johnson OBE would be a candidate. Several of his books are on my shelf, and his writings have accompanied my entire journey into wine over the last 25
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.
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.
If you want to have a masterclass in how skin contact affects white wines, there’s probably no better place than Franco and Anna Sosol’s tasting room. Il Carpino is their 17ha estate, situated on the same winding hill road as Radikon and Gravner, in Friuli Collio.
Last 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. Burja is another. Primož Lavrenčič’s 7.4 hectares are situated in the stunning Vipava valley, about 40 km east of the Italian border.
Keber is typical of many small producers in Friuli Collio, in producing a range varying from the more conventional fresh, fruity varietal wines, to the more traditional. Keber’s Ribolla Gialla Extreme is a nod to the long skin maceration technique that has been embedded in Friuli’s wine traditions for centuries.