The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Josko Gravner and…Josko Gravner!

Posted on | November 17, 2015 | Written by Crystal Edgar | No Comments

Crystal 2014Today, I recommend reaching for something a bit more adventurous, austere and beguiling, two bottles from Friuli’s Josko Gravner. These special “orange” wines offer remarkable weight with a punch of tannin, tricking your palate to believe that it might be a red wine. Personally, I find these wines utterly fascinating both alone and with food!

While rosé wines are made with red wine grapes whose skins are removed early in the process, oranges are made in the opposite style. They come from white wine grapes that are left to macerate with their skins on, instead of separating the pressed juices from the skins to preserve clarity and avoid tannins. The result is a pour with a unique amber hue, tannins that grip your mouth, and flavors and aromas that range from red tea, musk and mushrooms to cantaloupe and ginger.

Orange wines have been made in the republic of Georgia for thousands of years, but more recently Italy and Slovenia have resurrected the traditions. Gravner is considered the leading pioneer in the skin-contact wine movement; he spearheaded this unique style of winemaking, and his wines are often considered the standard bearers for other wines in the category. Today I am highlighting two different versions of his Ribolla Gialla, both “amber” wines, as Josko likes to call them. Drink these with cheese, pasta, seafood or steak, these special bottles are chameleons when it comes to the realm of food pairings.

If you’re trying orange wine for the first time, I recommend to serve these wines at red wine temperatures, and don’t be shy to decant so that they open up and reveal their full personalities.

Gravner 2006 Ribolla Gialla Anfora $94.99

Exquisitely balanced, the ’06 Ribolla is a gorgeous, textured wine. This saffron-hued wine has an unctuous mouth-feel that’s filled with velvety tannins, a deceptively chewy body, and Gravner’s trademark psychedelic palate. Ripe apricots, honeycomb, red tea, wildflowers and spices are all found here.

Gravner 1998 Ribolla Riserva 1.5L $339.00

I had the great pleasure of tasting this special wine with Josko Gravner earlier this year. The 1998 Ribolla was only made in magnum format, using wooden vats rather than Anfora. This wine offers more “umami” character with incredible elegance as the wine has had time to soften and evolve. This large bottle is a rare treat!


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