Skin-Contact Whites & Orange Wines...

I’d like your observations on these types of wines. Something I didn’t see addressed in your book.

I refer to skin-contact whites as white wines made w/ skin contact, exactly how red wines are made. After fermentation is complete (sometimes w/ a further
skin maceration post-ferment), then pressed off and put to barrel and raised in a reductive manner. Sometimes, they do have an orange color (as in PinotGris),
but I prefer not to use that general term to include those made in a reductive fashion.
I prefer to use the “orange wine” term for skin-contact whites that are raised in an oxidative fashion, sometimes in amphorae or qvervi. Radikon & Gravner &
Corneilssen and many Georgian whites are good examples.

That usage is my own preference and by no means universal. Some refer to any skin-contact whites as “orange” wines, but the two classes are (for the most case)
clearly distinct. To my mind, anyway.

There has been a lot (well…maybe not a lot, but some) interest in skin-contact whites (made in a reductive fashion…maybe we need a cutsey term for that class of wines)
by some of the more adventuresome winemakers. My experience w/ them has been sort of a mixed bag. I find them, in many cases, quite intriguing. I find that the
skin-contact (depending upon the length of skin contact during fermentation) can often obliterate the varietal character (gawd knows what it’s doing to the terroir characer).
I also find that some of them are/can be painfully tannic on the palate. Most of them have a very distinct nose/taste that transcends any varietal character. I describe that
common character as “phenolic” for want of a better, more accurate, descriptor.

So, my questions:

  1. Can you identify what that common smell/taste is that I call “phenolic” that I’m finding in these wines?? It’s a bit cidery (like spoiled apple cider), sometimes
    a bit orangey, a bit pungent, a bit resinous (like the pine pitch resin you use to rosin a violin bow). When I use that term for that very distinctive smell/taste,
    some people have no idea what I’m talking about. It does smell a little bit like phenol, but not quite. Do you have any thoughts on what it is??

  2. I think the tannins in some of these wines are…maybe a bit disconcerting. It feels weird to be drinking a white wine and then get hit by the tannins on the palate.
    I think some of these winemakers are exploring this genre because they think the tannins will allow these wines to age into something pretty interesting. I would
    guess the aging of the anthocynanins play little role in that aging (I’m still trying to understand your thoughts on how the anthocynanins & polyphenolics interplay
    during the aging…gotta reread your chapters on that subject). There’s precious little evidence out there that these winemakers may be right. Your thoughts on that subject??

  3. What are your thoughts, in general, on these two classes of white wines?? Are these winemakers onto something here? Or are they just trying to cash into the latest
    fad that Somms and JonBonne are espousing? Is there a place for these wines in the wine geeks world??

Look forward to your thoughts on te subject.


Forgive me - I confess I have been gathering my many thoughts on this and have not formulated the appropriate 3,000 word reply. I recommend we do this as a separate thread, maybe next week, where I will reveal all.

Meantime the bottom line is this. Come to Georgia with me and ask John Wurdeman and the Archbishop of Kahkheti. No fooling. I am directing a tour for serious wine geeks June 7-15.

Chance of a lifetime. Can you make the time?

Sorry, Clark…that’s right in the middle of my annual GrandPa duties. My family comes first above everything.
But would like to hear your take on orange wines. And doesn’t have to be 3,000 words.

Okay, I’ll do my best. Start by reading my post over on the Hyperox thread about the four ways of making white wine, while I draft a response to your orange wine questions.