Posts Tagged Orange wine

Orange wine? Yes, it’s strange but give it a go


First published in The Irish Times, Saturday 15th September, 2018

In a move that has already upset the purists, German supermarket Aldi has launched an orange wine, priced at an incredibly cheap €8.99. Not just orange either, but natural and organic as well.

What is orange wine? Firstly, it is not made from oranges. I came across it back in 2005, in Slovenia, where the winemaker described it as “white wine made like red wine”.

Orange wine is made by macerating or fermenting white grapes on their skins for a period, as a winemaker normally would with a red wine. They taste very different, with the freshness and acidity of a white wine and the grippy dry tannins of a red. Some have light red fruits, others are sherry-like, sometimes with grilled nuts and, usually, a pithy quality. If that sounds strange, it is. Not all orange wines are natural, but some are, made using organic grapes in a oxidative way which adds to the general funkiness.

Orange wine is drunk at room temperature, or slightly cool; serve it chilled and the tannins stick out. It has been making waves in the wine world, and now features on wine lists in fashionable restaurants, wine bars and independent wine shops. Some, including Ottolenghi in London, have an orange wine section on their lists. Adherents argue that it is the perfect food wine, able to cope with white and red meats, as well as smelly cheeses. Critics argue that they all taste the same, regardless of grape variety or origin.


I asked two independent retailers for their thoughts. Gerard Maguire of 64 Wine said “we sell it but with difficulty – it is a challenge for consumers because it runs counter to our perceptions of how we think wine should taste”.

“You have to learn to love it,” says Maguire, adding “it took me a long time to get it. Now I understand it but I don’t necessarily always like it”. However, he believes that “the Gravner wine ( see below) is spectacular; every wine lover should try it at least once”. Dave Gallagher of Green Man Wines agreed with Maguire: “It ticks away as a curiosity value, and has a following from people who want to try different things, but it will never be a mass market wine. It is too individual,” and he adds “reasonable expensive”. You don’t find many under €25, hence the surprise with the Aldi wine.

My Slovenian producer, whose winery was close to the Italian border, had probably been inspired by Josko Gravner or Stanko Radikon, the first two winemakers to reinvent orange wine in the 1990s, although the Georgians had been making it for thousands of years.

The Aldi orange wine was made in Romania by Cramele Recas, a very large, modern go-ahead winery. Made from organic grapes, fermented without added yeasts or sulphur, and bottled unfiltered and unfined.

Aldi Orange Natural Wine 2017, Romania 13%, €8.99
Made from a blend of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, this has light apricot and orange peel fruits and pithy tannins. My bottle had a slightly off-note on the finish. Why not experiment with various foods?
From selected branches of Aldi

Tbilvino Rkatsiteli Qvevris JSC Tibilvino 2015, Kakheti Region, Georgia 12%, €16
A lightly orange wine that I have featured before but the new vintage is even better; light orange peel, toasted nuts, lively acidity and fresh pear fruits. By itself or with Khachapuri – look it up, they are delicious.
From Marks & Spencer

Craven Clairette Blanche 2016, Stellenbosch 11.5%, €28
Partially skin-fermented this was slightly cloudy, with an intriguing mix of fruits; quince, apple and orange peel with a lovely hit of stewed fruits on the finish.
From Green Man Wines, Terenure,; 64 Wine, Glasthule,; Bradley’s Off-licence, Cork,

Ribolla ‘Anfora’ 2008, Gravner 14.5%, €75-€80
Seven months in amphorae, seven years in cask; an unbelievable riot of flavours; nuts, butterscotch, sherry, dried fruits, lemon peel, peaches and so much more. Unique and fascinating.
From; Green Man Wines, Terenure,; 64 Wine, Glasthule,

Posted in: Irish Times

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A Wild Weekend with Marks & Spencer

A Wild Weekend with Marks & Spencer


Marks & Spencer Go Wild

Well, not quite wild, but three wines from three very different countries, with one thing in common; they are all made by ‘natural’ methods, The first is macerated on the skins, the second and third fermented in clay amphorae with skin maceration. Whatever your opinion of natural wines, I think Marks & Spencer deserves real credit for trying them out. I can think of only a few independent retailers that stock such an esoteric range of wines, from the Mediterranean, Eastern and Central Europe in particular but from elsewhere as well. As for the three wines, they were all very enjoyable and worth trying out – the Fresquito in particular.

Fides 2014, Bosman Family Vineyards, Wellington, South Africa
14% and €22 from marks & Spencer

Skin macerated, naturally fermented orange white wine boasts the label. This has a slightly bready nose, and clean fresh pear fruits with a subtle breadiness and distinct orange and lemon peel. Dry finish. Interesting well-made wine that went down well with out roast chicken.

Fresquito Vino Nuevo de Tinaja 2014, Montill-Moriles, Spain

14% and €10.40 from marks & Spencer

If you are a fan of sherry, this is a must buy. Made from the Pedro Ximenez grape in a region next door to Jerez, this is a deliciously fresh light almondy, slightly earthy bone-dry wine – sort of a funky fino. I adored it. At €10.40 is offers fantastic value for money too. As the back label suggests, it goes perfectly with one of Spain’s gastronomic treasures – Iberico Ham.

Tbilvino Qvevris JSC Tibilvino 2014, Kakheti Region, Georgia

12% and €14 from Marks & Spencer

Sort of qvevri light, a qvevri being the traditional clay amphora of Georgia. Not as funky as some I have tried, but enjoyable with light yellow fruits, good refreshing acidity and a light touch of nuts. Made from the local Rkatsiteli grape. At €14 very good value.

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Two elderly wines with a long story attached.

Over the weekend, I dug out a couple of oldish bottles to try. Both had a bit of a story, and both were far better than I expected.


Tenuta di Valgiano 2007, Colline Lucchesi
60% Sangiovese, 20% each Syrah and Merlot.

Wonderful wine, medium-bodied, with a lifted bouquet of maturing, lightly leafy dark fruits; the palate is elegant and long with black pepper, savoury dark cherry fruits, nicely judged tannins and good mineral acidity. Superb.

I first met Saverio Petrelli when we were fellow students on an MW course down in Sète in the mid-1990’s. He somehow managed to tear a ligament and spent most of the course hobbling around on crutches. However, he bore his injury with great humour and was great fun to be around. He had just joined a new estate in Tuscany, near Lucca, as winemaker, having worked in Castello di Rampolla, I think. The estate was Tenuta di Valgiano.

A few years later I met him at Vinitaly, where he served me some wonderful local Tuscan foods, including some superb olive oil from the estate, along with his wine. I was working for Searsons, and soon arranged to import the wines (and superb olive oil) into Ireland. We took in several shipments, but I then left the company. When I retuned as consultant buyer six years later, they were no longer importing the wines, but had a collection of mature vintages. Some were great, others showing their age a little. Valgiano by now was fully biodynamic, and Saverio apparently one of the leading lights in the movement in Italy.

Fast forward a few years, and I was eating in Bistro One in Foxrock and talking to the owner, Mark Shannon. He had a holiday home next door to Valgiano, and imported the wines, and very kindly gave me a bottle of same as I left. I stuck it in my cellar, and somehow never found the right occasion to open it. Until Thursday night, when I felt like something different and cracked the bottle open, or rather Coravined a glass, as I was the only one drinking red wine. It was delicious; see tasting note above. I consumed the rest over the weekend. Drinking a glass of wine that has a story is always special, and this evoked some lovely memories of times past.

As for Saverio, I haven’t seen him for years, but browsing online he looks, like me, older, greyer, and, I am sure, wiser.

PS I see I am not the only Irish wine writer to fall for Valgiano; Paddy has a lovely post on

Batič Zaria 2006, Vipavska Dolina (Kakovostno Vino ZGP)

Orange in colour, lightly fizzy, with dried fruits, nuts, orange peel, spice and a strong mineral streak, finishing dry. Fascinating wine to sip over an evening. It went brilliantly with blue cheese (the new health food by the way. I am with them on this one).

I visited the Batič winery around 2005 on one of the strangest and most enjoyable press trips I have ever been on. It is in the Vipava Vally in Slovenia, not far from the Italian border. We had an interesting visit and a great tasting, and nibbled on the estate’s own Prszt (Slovenian prosciutto) and cheese. As I remember, father Ivan and son Miha produced some very good Cabernet Franc, a lovely rosé, and some very good whites, ‘made like red wine’ as they called it then. Basically the juice was left in contact with the grapes for extended periods, giving a unique flavour. We tasted a number of these on our visit, particularly in Vipava, where Batič is located.

Later that year, I was asked to choose my two favourite wines of the year for the A&A Farmar Wine Guide 2006, and included the Batič Sivi Pinot Rieserva 2003 – a Pinot Gris. I wrote then:

‘Is this a rosé or a white wine? Made from Pinot Gris, it was macerated on the skins for ten days, taking on a rosy hue. As a wine it is quite amazing; tantalizing, complex aromas of strawberries and light red fruits; a big, rich, broad palate, concentrated, slightly oily, some shortbread biscuits too; plenty of rich, ripe strawberry fruits; long and fascinating. Quite unlike any other wine I have tasted.’

A few months later, a case of wine arrived on my doorstep, accompanied by a lovely heartfelt letter from Ivan Batič, thanking me for writing about his wine. I felt a little guilty accepting the wines, but as I couldn’t send them back, I enjoyed them over the next few years; all except for one bottle that lurked somewhere in my cellar. I took it out over the weekend, expecting very little, but was very pleasantly surprised. It is made from seven grape varieties, Pinela, Zelen, Ribula Gialla, Vitovska, Klarnica, Rumeni Muskat and Chardonnay. They are grown biodynamically in the same vineyard, picked at the same time and co-fermented. This is an orange wine, fermented on the skins in open vats with no temperature control. Orange wines are controversial, but I loved this one.

I see on the internet the Batič winery is still gong strong, but sadly they are imported into Ireland – yet.


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