The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Expert Picks: Paolo Bea and Josko Gravner

Posted on | April 5, 2016 | Written by Michael Adler | No Comments

Michael Adler 5.29.15At IWM, we love our orange wines (also known as “skin-contact whites”). This robust, textured and complex style of wine is achieved by vinifying white grapes as if they’re red and allowing the juice to macerate on the grape skins, imparting additional color, texture, weight, complexity and tannins. The result is a highly aromatic white wine that drinks like a red, replete with chewy tannins and a dizzyingly complex, kaleidoscopic flavor profile.

These wines are not for the faint of heart, inspiring divisions between wine-lovers who are enamored with their unique characteristics and those who find them confusing. I personally enjoy introducing people to the style because whether or not a person enjoys these wines, they’re sure to be surprised. While orange wines traditionally haven’t really been given much thought by the American wine media, in recent years they have been steadily growing in popularity with young sommeliers in New York and can be found on many of the city’s most exclusive wine lists. Today I’m shining a light on two of our absolute favorite orange wines from two of IWM’s all-star natural winemakers, Paolo Bea in Umbria and Josko Gravner in Friuli.

Paolo Bea 2012 Bianco Santa Chiara $49.99

A dense, chewy blend of Grechetto, Malvasia, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Garganega, the juice for Santa Chiara macerates (think about steeping a tea bag in hot water) on its grape skins for about two weeks, which gives it a dense, weighty mouth-feel, tannic backbone and oxidative characteristics. These sherry-like qualities make it an excellent match for a wide range of dishes that you wouldn’t typically pair with traditional white wines, and Santa Chiara will show you a whole slew of flavors and textures that you never thought you’d find in a white. It’s at once rich and savory, with a pronounced mineral component that borders on salinity and a finish that lasts over a minute. For those of you who are adventurous and love to try new and interesting wines, this is definitely something that should be on your radar!

Gravner 2005 Ribolla Gialla Anfora $89.99

A saffron-tinted blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Riesling Italico, the 2005 Breg Anfora is impressive. The massive ’05 Breg shows heady, concentrated notes of cooked orchard fruits, red tea, stony minerals, spices and a distinct floral note, among many other interwoven characteristics that simply defy words. It is likely that you’ve never tasted anything like this! Textured and tannic in the glass, its glossy texture coats the palate in a wash of dry extract that is balanced by ample acidity that grips your palate on the long, aromatic finish. Aged on the grape skins for twelve months in clay amphorae buried in the ground, the wine then finishes for about six years in casks before bottling. This is a meditative wine for serious enthusiasts and those who like some adventure in their wines!

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