In the last board meeting of 2021 for the regulatory council of DO Terra Alta, in Catalunya, Spain, a long list of changes was approved.
The most prominent was the making of a very strict certification system for wines that are 100% Garnatxa Blanca given that it’s their flagship grape variety. But perhaps the most interesting item is a bit further down the list that allows certification for a type of wines that in Catalan are called “vins brisats”.
The name refers to white wines that are produced in contact with the “brisa” or, the skins, stems, and seeds of the grapes. This is a method of wine production that has gained a good deal of visibility and popularity in recent years and is more commonly known internationally as “amber/orange wine”.
Via wine bars and especially restaurants the style has been more seen due to its gastronomic pairing abilities and weightier heft. Despite appearing to be a modern trend, it’s actually been produced historically in countless regions such as Georgia, Armenia, parts of Slovenia, and others. Terra Alta has produced this style of wine for as long as anyone can remember, but in general, the wines are lighter bodied than what many others produce.
As Núria Altés, co-owner of the winery, Herència Altés, told Decanter, ‘Locals in the region have historically drunk wine made in this style. People had in fact been more accustomed to it instead of the current style. It was a good deal simpler to produce as you put everything into the tank to ferment together.’
But the brisat style fell out of fashion in most regions of the world as it was often rightly viewed as more rustic and tannic. Given that the inclusion of the skins allowed for a good many faults to be hidden, it was also not always the best wine of any given cellar.
With only half a dozen wines produced in this style in Terra Alta, there is however the question as to why they chose now to include it in their official bylaws given that it seems to be a very small part of their overall production.
DO President, Joan Arrufí told Decanter, ‘We have many more wines soon to be released on the market as many winemakers have come back to these wines, but this time using modern winemaking techniques, allowing for traditional ‘brisats’ yet with more finesse and compatibility to current tastes. We wanted to include it in this revision of the plec (bylaws) in order to reflect this history in our region as well as its evolution, and also because it’s quite clear to us that the wine drinking public has a growing interest in these wines.’
Once the new version of their bylaws is fully approved (set for mid-2022), any wine that can show traceability for the regulations will be allowed certification no matter the vintage. The same will be true for the 100% Garnatxa Blanca wines. And as they hold 1/3 of all the vineyards of this variety in the world, it also forms the standard base for the “brisat” wines.
What more, it is believed this will make DO Terra Alta the first DO in all of Spain to have a legal certification for this style of wine. Arrufí and others within the DO can’t say for certain, but they believe they might be the first of any regulatory appellation in all of Europe to do this as well.
While reaction to the greater orange wine segment can at times be polemic due to the vastly varying strengths of the resulting wines, the fact that a DO is showing the willingness to introduce a legal certification speaks to their belief that it’s a market segment with potential growth.