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.

Lamb & Bea

This was the scene last Wednesday for a small Umbrian tasting in Terroni‘s back room.

Umbria is a region smack in the center of Italy, east of Tuscany and home to the towns of Assisi, Orvieto and Montefalco. And the Montefalco area is home to a grape called sagrantino. And I love it.

I also love this wine- 2006 Paolo Bea “San Valentino”  (sangiovese, sagrantino and montepulciano.) And I love this pasta- capunti al ragu d’agnello (handmade pasta with lamb ragu.) A match made in Umbria heaven.

If you haven’t read it already, check out my visit to see Giampiero Bea of Paolo Bea in 2009.


A little over a year and 125 blog posts ago, I started Brunellos Have More Fun.  Also around this time, I was settling into my cozy digs at Casa De Conciliis, working my very first harvest and beginning what would be the most marvelous adventure I’ve ever had. I’m feeling a bit nostalgic. So, I’ve decided to get retrospective and share some of my very favorite photographs from that magical time (and the posts that they accompanied). I mean, can you get better photography inspiration/subject matter than Italia??

Sit back, grab a glass of vino and enjoy.

It’s Raining Pasta– Sunday morning with a family in the kitchen. Happiness.

Mezzogiorno – aka Lunch at The Winery.

Ode to Moscato di Terracina– in Lazio with Andrea Pandolfo in some of the most beautiful vineyards I’ve ever seen.

The Secret Vineyardmy secret vineyard.

True Wines and The Ultimate Cellar– A day with Giampiero Bea at Paolo Bea in Montefalco.

The Lion Count & The Forgotten Varietals of Emilia-Romagna– Leone Conte, a wild Vespa ride & two people in love.

An Attic Full of Acid Never Tasted So Good– a peek into the Medici acetaia.

Liguria: A Love Letter in Photos– a stroll down the sea cliffs of the Cinque Terre.

A Lot of Olives Equals Not  A Lot of Oil– working the olive harvest in Tuscany with some donkeys and WWII parachutes.

Looking back over all these words and photos and memories, my heart aches (more than) a little. The people I have been so lucky to know, the laughs and stories shared, the glasses clinked and bread broken, the utterly breathtaking landscapes I have been able to experience…

If I never get back to Italy ever again, these could fill me with happiness for a lifetime.

True Wines & The Ultimate Cellar

I had the very good fortune (i have said and will say this many times over the course of the next few months) of spending the day with Giampiero Bea of Paolo Bea in the town of Montefalco, home to Sagrantino di Montefalco. Giampiero is well known in the world of wine. Not only for the fantastic wines he produces, but also for his innovation in cellar technique and his philosophy of making “true wines”. He is one of the founders of a small group of winemakers called Vini Veri. They abide by a set of principles which outlines their mission to “focus on production that reaches the objective of obtaining wine free of acceleration and stabilization, that returns the balance between man and nature’s seasons.” Basically, they are making wine with extremely low added sulfites (if any at all), no nutrients to speed up the fermentation and no forced temperature control. This is a delicate process which leaves room for many mistakes. But, Giampiero takes this risk. And it pays off.

The highlight of my visit was to see Bea’s incredibly unique cellar which is still under construction. Giampiero is not only a winemaker, but an architect as well. Which certainly comes in handy when wanting to build a state of the art, never before realized cellar. The work begins in the vineyard where he uses no herbicides or chemical fertilizers, cultivates and plants only non-genetically modified indigenous varietals and harvests the grapes by hand. If this wasn’t enough, he harvests and bottles only during a waning moon because the natural processes of nature are at rest, therefore slowing down the active bacterial growth of a waxing moon. The work then continues in the cellar.

lines and vines

bars of stone

windows windows everywhere

The cellar is made of whole porous stone blocks. Which absorb the heat from the sun and keep the heat away from the fermenting juice, aging wine and drying grapes. The temperature inside will of course rise and fall during the seasons but at a more even pace. The entire facility is open to the air and breeze with the exposed grids built into the stones walls and the multitude of windows throughout. One of my favorite rooms in the building is the drying room where rows upon rows of sagrantino grapes dry to make the prized Sagrantino Passito dessert wine.

the man and the grapes

sagrantino fields forever

The innovation continues with the tubes of air he has built from a nearby hill under the ground reaching the barrel room in the bottom of the building. This creates a constant flow of cool air from the ground up. There is soil and a water misting system also built under the floor to create humidity for the barrels. I could go on and on with the ingenious ways in which Giampiero has married his knowledge of architecture and winemaking to create truly innovative techniques in order to make the absolute best natural product. The grapes and the land speak for themselves in their purest form. And they sing.

quite a pair

the label of all labels

the man and the juice