Maceration Nation

A few weeks ago several wine peeps in LA gathered in the back room of Terroni, as usually happens with any cool tasting in LA. We arrived with notebooks and eager palates, thirsty for that of the unfiltered variety. We were there to taste skin contact aka extended maceration aka orange wines.

Lou was acting as MC with Max from Terroni as host, Stetson from Blue Danube as organizer and Jay Latham and Ben Andersen as bottle contributors. The wine was at the ready; decanters, funnels, ice buckets and thermometers on hand.

We tasted 16 wines in 4 flights, arranged according to length of skin maceration. Basically, all the wines are fermented without temperature control or commercial yeasts, some with oak (usually older oak) and some in steel, cement or amphora or a combination and little to no sulfur additions.

I’ll list all of my notes as I wrote them that day…

Flight 1: Baby orange wines. A few days of contact with skins or less (many of us noted that they pretty much looked like chardonnay.)

2004 Movia “Veliko (pinot grigio and rebula/ribolla gialla, Slovenia)- lees-y, yeasty orange ice. *One wine rep, a newly minted Master Sommelier, dubbed this wine “undrinkable” because of the yeasty/bacterial finish. Lou loved the wine and I enjoyed it as well. This started a good discussion on how we judge wines in this style, if some people are prone to love them and hate them no matter what, etc. The discussion continues…

2009 Monstero Suore Cistercensi “Coenobium” (trebbiano, malvasia and verdicchio, Lazio, Italy)- dirty flowers, high minerality, touch of smoke, good acidity, fresh.

2008 Brkic “Greda” (indigenous grape zilavka, Bosnia Herzegovina)- oak more perceptible, smoke spice, savory tang.

2008 Zidarich Malvasia (malvasia, Friuli, Italy)- corked or off-bottle. not presented.

2008 Batic Pinela (pinela, Slovenia)-  spicy, has the most weight of the flight, pine resin.

Flight 2: 2-3 week macerations. When the tannins finally come out to play.

2009 Monastero Suore Cistercensi “Coenobium Rusticum” (trebbiano, malvasia and verdicchio, Lazio, Italy)- no oak, tobacco, orange pith, tannin, acid=mouth water

2009 Paolo Bea “Santa Chiara” (grechetto, malvasia, garganega, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, Umbria, Italy) – chew, tangerine spice, touch of petrol. delish!

2006 Paolo Bea “Arboreus” (trebbiano, Umbria, Italy)- body, salinity, spice, dusty grip. the energy of the wine matches the color- golden copper.

2008 Zidarich “Prulke” (malvasia, sauvignon blanc, vitovska, Friuli, Italy)- smoky peach, petrol, limestone, salt water, savory essence of wood, cool climate.

2009 COS “Rami” (insolia/inzolia and grecanico, Sicily, Italy)- lactic quality, bruléed grapefruit, tannin.

Flight 3: Maceration until fermentation complete or around 1 month.

2008 Terzavia “Occidens” (grecanico, catarratto, grillo and zibibbo, Sicily, Italy)- better than i remember. *Sorry for the rather unilluminating tasting note. See the link above to get more in depth and spot on notes.

2008 Zidarich Vitovska (vitovska!, Friuli, Italy)- very aromatic, sauvignon blanc element, smells like weed or hoppy IPA in a bright and fruity way, spice crunch, little bitter on finish, velvet tannin.

2008 Kabaj Rebula (rebula, Slovenia)- celery, rocks, lemonade.

2009 Batic “Zaria” (pinela, zelen, rebula, vitovska, klarniza, chardonnay and yellow muscat, Slovenia)- Flinstone vitamins and weed.

2007 Dettori Bianco (vermentino, Sardegna, Italy)- preserved lemon, stone, a purity and focus in texture and visually.

Flight 4: the Amphora/Qvevri flight. 2 to 10 months maceration.

2004 Radikon “Jacot” (tocai, Slovenia)- sweet whiskey, coconut undertones.  *The only one not in amphora.

2009 Foradori “Fontanasanta” Nosiola (nosiola, Trentino, Italy)- i love this wine. *And that was my complete tasting note…

2006 Vinoterra Khakheti Kisi (kisi, Georgia)- leaves, band-aid, warmth, musk, savory.

2007 Kabaj “Amfora” (rebula, malvasia and tocai, Slovenia)- dusty tannic chew, masculine, tar, oxidation.

We’re not the only (or the first) geeks to gather and drink orange wine. For further reading, please do yourself a favor and read this from Levi Dalton and Dr. Vino. And if you want to go even deeper, check out Mr. Thor Iverson’s account of Levi’s epic Orange wine tasting back in 2009.

Bottom photos of the full lineup from Ben Andersen.

  • Thor Iverson
    December 18, 2011

    Cool tasting. Very cool tasting.

    I had the Foradori just days after its release, and I remember my eyes rolling back in my head. There may have been some moaning. It was that good.

    • whit
      December 20, 2011

      i want to be best friends with elisabetta. me, lizzy and arianna o. the dream team! except i can’t make shit. i’ll just be the team drinker.

  • Thor Iverson
    December 20, 2011

    From each, according to our abilities… 😉

    Though Arianna’s no slouch in the consumption biz.

  • David Harvey
    April 3, 2012

    Like Thor said, cool. And necessary.
    There are still so many restaurants and stores without orange wines, an orange section…
    Personally, I feel that it is the ripeness of skin and pip tannins, and/or the extraction methods used, which determine tannin quality and quantity, rather than merely the duration of maceration. As is the case with red wine.
    Would be interesting to redo the tasting in flights of sulphited or not, qvevri, short or long elevage, varying terroir types, inclusion of pink/red grapes – with wines being included several times as they so fit.
    Can such a tasting proceed without Gravner being present – or Vodopevic, Massa Vecchia, who along with Radikon make the finest examples? Or Cornelissen, if we are going to talk intensity? It would appear so!

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