We’re in an age where it’s not just small artisan wineries experimenting with minimal intervention, low sulphur and extended skin contact in white wines. The big guys want to play too. And why not? When the results are as fascinating as Domäne Wachau’s amphora fermented Riesling, I’m all for it.
“Sorry, but this is absolutely nuts!”, says one member of our group during a visit to restaurant/apartment/winery Bina 37, and he’s merely stating what everyone else is thinking. We’re talking with Zura Natroshvili, a medical doctor turned traditional winemaker. Well, almost traditional. Most winemakers don’t install their cellars on the 8th floor of a city residential block.
Tricky things these artisan-made natural wines. Some days they sing, others they sulk. I presented 17 orange wines to a large group of Dutch sommeliers back in May, and although there were gems, many of the classics just weren’t showing their best. La Castellada’s Ribolla Gialla and COS’s Pithos Bianco seemed particularly grumpy, passing muster
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.
It’s very fitting that the first ever wine I tasted from Peru was not just anything, but rather an orange wine made in an ultra traditional style. The winemaker is José “Pepe” Moquillaza, from Lima, and Albita de Ihuanco is his skin-fermented blend of Albilla and Italia (a Muscat crossing).
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.