Orange wines may just be a passing fad

December 30, 2013

Here’s hoping your Christmas was merry indeed. This week, I had a question about wine that truly stumped me. Sally wrote, “On a limited budget, if you were only serving one type wine and it needed to be under $10 per bottle, which would you choose to serve?” At first I was inclined to write back with a selection of reds, rosés and whites, but I realized that was not an appropriate answer. If I were under those constraints, without any doubt I would serve Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2012. It can be found priced under $9.

I’ve yet to hear a negative comment on this wine, and most, at blind tastings, judge it expensive. Few recognize it. Composed of 80 percent Chenin and 20 percent Viognier, it extracts the best of both. The wine has cracked the 90-point range four straight years at WA. This year it took Best of Class White Blend at Winemaker Challenge. Pale straw-colored, it opens to a complex bouquet of honeydew (ripe, not the store stuff), white peach, green tea, apple blossom, pear and cantaloupe. A couple of swishes and some aspiration (that’s slurping it, for ill-informed winos) reveal pineapple, honey, pear, mango and grapefruit riding a crisp, lush fruit, zesty acid frame with just a touch of residual sugar. The blend is tart, clean and finishes nearly dry.

Antonio Galloni rated the 2010 Marchesi Antinori Tiganello 96 points and said “a magnificent, towering wine.” That was good enough for me. When Suckling also said 96 and “one of the best ever” I looked around and found some for $38 for you folks. Those who bought in last February will be delighted to hear it is selling near $80 and tough to locate. I think this wine goes to $100 plus. By the way, you can see the effect of currency translation by looking at this price. The 2008 came onstream at $105 and was only rated 94 points. You can buy it today under $80. Greg del Piaz, a guy I think is usually on the money, pointed out what he named “geek wines.” Among them were Carignan, Mencia, Orange wine and Dry Sherry. While I agree with most of his ideas on “geek wines,” which he describes, “They are wines that may very well emerge into the mainstream, as for example Gruner Veltliner has after being a geek’s darling for many years. Though that is somewhat unlikely, seeing as the geekiness factor has been ratcheted up over the years and now focuses on not only the obscure, but oftentimes the rare as well.” In a slight rebuttal, I think dry sherry has been around and very well known by “salt-ophiles” and little old ladies since forever. Those of you who enjoy older movies may recall how often a glass of sherry was called for. You see, back in the day, when refrigerators were named ice boxes, salting and smoking were the primary means of preservation, and the old winos knew of their affinity for a “Cask of Amontillado.”

Regarding Orange wines, these are white wines made in the style of reds in that the juice is reintroduced or left on the pomace (seeds, stems, and skins left after pressing), thereby imparting an orange tinge to white wines in addition to tannins and other skin-driven phenols. Tannin and anthocyanin are examples of major phenolics found in wine. Tannins are responsible for a wine’s structure and aging potential, and interact with anthocyanins (color pigments found in white grape skins) to provide color stability. I have never been a fan of these wines, as too many of them seem oxidized to my palate, even the best of them. Therefore I have not written of them. You may go here: Some may wish to sample one of these just from curiosity. The least offensive of them is Gravner Breg Anfora Venezia Giulia. The 2005, since most Orange wines are not released until they have some bottle age, are going for about $100. The Breg was rated 94 points by Galloni. This is an instance where I strongly disagree with him. Of course, I don’t think much of most of the Argentinean Malbec as a stand-alone either. Too much tannin!

Happy New Year to you all! May 2014 be bright, prosperous and successful and may most of your dreams come true.

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