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Orange wines: it’s time to get in touch

It’s the new colour on the wine spectrum – white wine made as if it were a red. Simon Woolf debunks the myths behind this centuries-old style of vinification...

Orange wines: recommended producers

Although winemakers in just about every corner of the globe are trying their hand with orange wines, almost no one outside Italy, Slovenia or Georgia really specialises in the style. Producers listed here are strong advocates who make most or all of their white wines with long skin maceration. All four Friulian producers are originally of Slovenian heritage.

Gravner, Friuli Collio, Italy

Josko Gravner’s wines are for many the ne plus ultra. From 2001, everything has been produced in Georgian qvevri, with five to six months of skin contact. The wines have extraordinary focus, density and ageing potential. Gravner built on a long-established reputation as one of Italy’s finest white wine producers when he changed direction in the 1990s. His mentoring of other producers has been critical to the re-emergence of the style.

Radikon, Friuli Collio, Italy

Together with Gravner, Stanko Radikon can be credited with kickstarting the skin-contact revival – the two worked together during the mid- to late 1990s. Radikon’s wines, now made by son Saša, have an impressive vitality and drive, ranging from the S Line, made with less skin contact and oriented towards a wider market, to the Oslavje blend and a savoury, dense Ribolla Gialla – both exceptional wines.

Vodopivec, Friuli Carso, Italy

Brothers Paolo and Valter focus purely on Vitovska, a Slovenian variety which responds well to long skin contact. Inspired by Gravner, the brothers also use Georgian qvevri for their Amphora cuvée. One of the more intense and intellectual orange wines, Vodopivec Vitovska is austere in youth, but ages for a decade or more to become marvellously complex and complete.

Lagvinari, Kakheti/Imereti/Kartli, Georgia

Winemaker Eko Glonti is producing some of the purest and most varietally defined qvevri wines in Georgia, working closely with farmers and nearabandoned vineyards in several key regions. The wines have a strong sense of place, while also being accessible and technically faultless – something one cannot always take for granted in this country.

Skerk, Friuli Carso, Italy

Sandi Skerk achieves such elegance and finesse in his wines that it almost ceases to matter how they’re made or categorised. Farming organically, and vinifying in a dramatic cellar carved out of the Carso rock, Skerk produces some of most accessible orange wines in Friuli.

Weingut Muster, Southern Styria, Austria

Sepp and Maria Muster have led the charge for a revival in low-intervention winemaking, biodynamic farming and skin-macerated wines in this beautiful corner of south-eastern Austria. The cuvées Erde and Gräfin are great examples of balance, refinement and complexity. The Schmecke das Leben (‘Taste Life’) group now includes five winemakers in the region who all work in a similar way.

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