Orange wines have been on my mind lately, having spent the last few weeks writing an article for Decanter. Needing inspiration, I pulled the cork on two rather fine examples of the genre. They were so good, they deserve some blog love here…
First up was Radikon’s Oslavje 2003 – a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc which is tasting quite sublime after more than 8 years in bottle.
This wine is quite cloudy, and has a dark amber colour, with brown tints. The nose is full of pear, apple and even red fruits. There is a hint of acetone, which I don’t find offensive (think an older vintage of Chateau Musar) – but there is no denying there’s a bit of volatility.
The palate is gorgeous, very fresh and alive, with pin-sharp acidity, more autumnal fruit and a lovely silky texture. Long, satisfying and astoundingly youthful. We just sat and finished the bottle, without food.
Two days later, I took a less well known wine round to fellow wine writer Mariëlla Beukers’ house for dinner. Paraschos is a small estate near San Floriano, in Friuli Collio. Greek winemaker Evangelos Paraschos migrated to the area in 1998, and inspired by Josko Gravner, Radikon and the Bensa brothers (La Castellada), started making skin-contact white wines in small Cretan amphorae, from 2003.
The Amphoreus Malvasia 2011 is delicious, again a lot of fruit (candied pear, honey) and a nuttiness that feels very characteristic of Malvasia Istriana. The structure is extremely fine grained and elegant. Overall very focused and pure – a great effort.
Interestingly, the acidity in this wine seemed quite low, until we paired it with some delicious wild goose spiced with Ras-el-hanout (thanks Nico!). With the food, the wine suddenly became more lifted and fresh.
Both these wines are evidence of how long skin maceration (aka orange wines or amber wines) can produce genuinely fine wines – that’s to say, wines with complexity, length and gravitas – not to mention impressive ageing abilities. I would expect the Amphoreus to age equally as well as the Oslavje has so far.
Both producers ferment with wild yeasts and no temperature control – something Sasa Radikon believes is essential for any proper “orange wine”, in order to extract the varietal and vintage characteristics from the skins.
UK readers can buy the current vintage (2007) of Oslavje online from Buonvino (Check wine-searcher for other vintages and outlets). I can recommend it as being no less delicious, although frankly it needs another year or two to really come together. Paraschos wines are not yet available in the UK – a golden opportunity for an adventurous importer out there somewhere…
Paraschos have a rather posh agriturismo in San Floriano which also comes recommended to anyone considering a visit to the area.
Pictures: Alexis Paraschos takes a closer look at one of the estate’s amphorae.