Orange wines are now a thing, but who invented the term?

The category of ‘orange wines’ – wines from white grapes that have been fermented on their skins – is now quite mainstream! In the last year, supermarkets in the UK have started listing them. And I even did a wine column in the Sunday Express on orange wines (at the editor’s request) back in 2014.

But where does the term come from? I don’t think many people realize this, but it was UK-based wine merchant David Harvey (Raeburn Wine) who coined it. In his own words, this is how the term for these wines entered the wine lexicon:

I actively discussed it from first principles (when I worked with Frank on Etna) in 2004, and started to use it thereafter. It was the year of making munjebel bianco #1, and we were drinking radikons, dario princic, gravner, vodopevic, castellada, prior-maceration era la biancara, massia vecchia etc.
It arose from the concern that there was no name or category, and the divergent wines would face rejection in both the on and off-trades. The rational was that there was no industry standard to label the wines by the same criteria as white/rosé/red, i.e. by the final colour of the wine, and not the component parts nor the technique. All the other possible names were already used in specific genres – vin jaune (yellow), rivesaltes ambré (amber) etc. – or were too pretentious, like golden.
And I did not take very seriously orange state, orange county, orange fruit. Georgia was discussed at some point: someone (who?) told me that ‘red wine’ meant just that, but that ‘wine’ tout-court meant macerated white grapes.
As sous l’nez my early offers to privates also also went to some UK press, with a section on orange wine from 2006.
I used it ‘naturally’ in tastings or conversation with Jancis, Jamie Goode, the Dressner team at Favorita, Rose Murray-Brown MW, Alice (at La Dive, in Veneto, in London, etc.) after which they all used it for the first time. There is no prior mention i have come across online or in print. I also used it with a bunch of winemakers.
The first article in print was Rose-Murray Brown in The Scotsman i think. Jancis was an early adopter online after she attended Contrada del’Etna tasting. Frank was in Belgium getting divorced and so I flew down to man his table. It has since been used in most all the major US broadsheets. L’Ortolan restaurant, whom I have helped out over the years, have run an orange wine section since about 2007.
So, we could now go back and say that trad tokaji is orange, and modern tokaji is white. Same for white port – foot tread (orange) or direct press (white but oxidative).
Of course, someone may have said it once before. I was just systematic about choosing the name and using it, with a certain group of people at a certain time, with no ambition other than enhancing communication, which seems to have worked.
However, I cannot now say that I agree with my former self entirely on the name!

Houseparty in the Hollywood Hills with nice wines

So Friday night was fun. We headed over to a home in the Hollywood Hills. En route we stopped at DomaineLA, a brilliant wine shop, and stocked up.

DomaineLA

And then when we got there Abe and Alex cooked, and a jolly and diverse crowd who had gathered tucked in. These were some of the wine highlights.

Brochet’s Le Mont Benoit is a thrilling Champagne. Such perfect balance. This went down very fast.

Abe Schoeners Scholium Project VLV Reserve 2014 had real depth and intensity to it. It’s a Verdelho from Lodi, and has a lot of fruit weight.

De Moor’s Sans Bruit (a play on Saint Bris) is a Sauvignon from Burgundy, from limestone soils. It’s rich, textured and engrossing. A lovely wine.

Herve Souhaut’s Souteronne – a Gamay from Ardeche – is one of my favourites. The 2018 is precise and delicious with really expressive red fruits.

Domaine Nicolas Faure is one to watch. Whole cluster pressing of reds, wild ferments, no new oak. From a 0.23 hectare plot, Les Herbues is from 50 year old vines planted in deeper silt/clay soils. It’s a lovely, pure, precise wine.

 

I don’t remember much about this Quintarelli other than that it was fully delicious.

But I do remember this wine: a thrilling, precise, dark-fruited Mondeuse from Jaimee Motley. This is a brilliant wine.

Finally, back to white. A delicious, compact Petite Arvine. Biodynamic Italian alpine wine from vineyards at 700 m, showing nice intensity.

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Dinner at majordōmo, LA, with nice wines

Jet-lagged as hell, after arriving early evening in LA and then working in the winery until 9 pm, I arrived at Major Dōmo, the talked-about new-ish (summer 2018) opening from New York’s David Chang (Momofuku). Despite my jet-lag, this was a sensational meal. We shared everything, and every morsel I put in my mouth was delicious and quite brilliant.

Baja California Uni (sea urchin) broken tofu, yuzu, sorrel

Fried Cauliflower fish sauce vinaigrette, cilantro

The food is amazing. But it comes at a price. One of the dishes, which was amazing – the dry-aged ribeye, B.S. fries, cheese sauce – was $153, although it does serve a few!

The wine list is stunning, with a brilliant selection of very cool bottles. Again, not cheap, but this place justifies the sticker shock. This is what we did.

This Tunia Sottofondo 2016 is an interesting wine. It’s Trebbiano (mainly) from Tuscany, and it’s refermented in the bottle with the aid of some vin santo. Tart and complex with a lot of vitality.

Labet’s Champs Rouge is a Chardonnay from 60 year old vines grown on limestone. We were served this one blind and couldn’t nail it – I thought it was Chablis. Very tight and linear.

Ex Vero III from Werlitsch, 2012 vintage. Quite profound, with intensity and minerality. A stunning wine from the south of Austria.

This was verging on the profound. Absolutely benchmark white Burgundy. Served to us blind, again. It’s on the restrained side, but with layers of complexity.

Olek Bondonio Barbaresco Starderi 2014. A brilliantly focused wine with pure linear red fruits. If you can find some of this, then buy it.

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Some nice lounge wines: Zarate, Terre Nerre, Zuccardi Concreto et al

Airport lounge wines are normally disappointing. But here in Los Angeles in the American Airlines lounge at Terminal 4 I found some wines I actually really wanted to drink.

Zarate Albariño 2018 Rias Baixas, Spain
Benchmark Albariño with a slightly smoky edge to the sweet citrus and apricot fruit, with some generosity but also keen acidity keeping things fresh. This is really tangy and bright with some citrus peel notes and a bit of fleshiness. Really refined with good concentration. 90/100

Talley Chardonnay 2016 Arroyo Grande, California
A rich, bold, mealy Chardonnay, but not overblown, with sweet ripe pear and peach fruit and a hint of caramel and vanilla in the background, with fresh fruit dominating. Has a nice spicy framing. Plenty of volume here, but with good enough balance, in a classic California style. 90/100

Tenute de Terre Nerre Etna Rosso 2017 Sicily, Italy
There’s a tiny bit of fading on the rim here, with what seems like a bit of early development. But it’s actually fresh and delicious, with a savoury, stony, mineral edge to the slightly stewed red cherry and berry fruits. Has a hint of mint and cedar, too. Finishes with some grip. 89/100

Zuccardi Concreto Malbec 2017 Altamira, Mendoza, Argentina
Whole cluster ferment and aged in concrete eggs. Intense, vivid colour with a bright, floral blackcurrant and black cherry nose. The palate shows good concentration and freshness with lovely texture to the black fruits, with a seamless core of ripe fruit but also good structure and acidity. A beautiful primary, fruit-forward wine. 93/100

Emily’s Miner Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 Napa Valley, California
14.2% alcohol. This shows lovely balance. There’s ripe blackcurrant and berry fruit, but also a nice stony, gravelly, chalky structure, with some savoury complexity as well as smooth, sweet fruit. Quite harmonious with good weight and balance. 91/100

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In an urban winery in Los Angeles

The winery: lots of space!

I’m spending a couple of days in Los Angeles in an urban winery, where my buddy Christina Rasmussen is doing vintage with Abe Schoener of the Scholium Project. Abe recently acquired this amazing facility, which – all going well with permits – will become the base for the Scholium Project. There’s a lot of space in this 19th Century building, but for now there’s just a small amount of winemaking taking place. Yesterday we processed some Chenin Blanc from Lodi using a tiny basket press – the rest of the equipment will arrive later.

Christina foot treading

Chenin Blanc

First of all the grapes are foot-trodden in plastic bins, in order to make pressing easier. Then the barrels are filled with a mixture of the juice from the bins and the pressings. Working with a small manual press like this is quite time consuming, but it’s very hands on.

Loading the press: it’s so tiny!

Christina is making her own wine here, too. It’s from a very old Palomino vineyard, and she pressed the grapes a couple of days ago. The wine is now beginning to ferment in two barrels and a demijohn.

Decorating the winery

I’m here today (Friday) and Saturday, but I’m not sure of the plans. I think there will be some vineyards to visit. It’s very exciting to see the early stages of this new winery. Here’s a video:

 

 

Lunch with Paillard, Solaia and Biondi-Santi

Had a nice lunch in the garden with Robin and Nikolai. I brought Champagne, and they stepped things up a notch with two famous Italians.

Champagne Bruno Paillard Assemblage 2009 France
50% Chardonnay, 50% Pinot Noir, 20% barrel fermented. Aged seven years on lees, then 18 months in bottle (disgorged September 2017) before release. Dosage 5 g/litre. Quite a rich style with toast, spice, apple and citrus. Lively with good precision and a nice acid line. A really nicely balanced wine, offering opulence as well as freshness. 93/100

Marchese Antinori Solaia 2010 IGT Toscana, Italy
14.5% alcohol. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Franc. Aromatic, gravelly, ashy blackcurrant fruit with some fine spiciness. Hints of tar. Quite new world in style with sleek black fruits dominating, but it’s a finessed new world style. Floral and expressive despite the ripeness. 93/100

Biondi Santi Brunello di Montalcino 1998 Tuscany, Italy
13.5% alcohol. So supple and fine. Detailed and elegant with some appealing spicy notes, and hints of tar, herbs and iodine. Fine spicy notes, too. Such precision to this wine. 95/100

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Four stunning Swiss wines

We don’t see a lot of Swiss wine in the UK. But I did get to try these wines at a Swiss-focused evening at the excellent Newcomer Wines a while back.

Domaine de la Ville Parcelle No 900 2017 Vaud, Switzerland
This is Chasselas from Corentin Houillon, nephew of Emmanuel Houillon, and it is made without any added sulphites. Grainy and detailed with a lovely mineral edge. So fresh, with a fine-grained lemony character. Subtle yet precise and really pure. 95/100

Luc Massy Dezaley Chemin de Fers 2004 Vaud, Switzerland
Chasselas built for ageing. There’s a supple green, delicate herbal edge to this wine, with a hint of weed. Some dried hay and wax notes, too: this is ageing well. It’s soft textured but appealing. 93/100

Luc Massy Dezaley Chemin de Fers 2008 Vaud, Switzerland
Rich, smooth, ripe and seamless. Quite textural and refined with nice depth and harmony. This still has some freshness. 93/100

Giani Boner Completer Malanser 2007 Switzerland
There is just 3 ha left of Completer in Switzerland (and therefore the world). People complained that it was too acidic, but now younger winemakers are showing interest in it. This is a remarkable wine. There’s a bit of sweetness and nice texture with a smooth, linear mouthfeel. This has such purity, with lemon, pear and a hint of melon, and a pure finish, as well as some smoky hints. 94/100

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London restaurants (6) an amazing dinner at Brat with a Loire focus

Had a brilliant dinner at Brat last night. It was my first time, and it was one of the meals of the year.

Our theme was Loire, and we brought our own wine (corkage £20 a bottle, which is very reasonable) as well as ordering one from the list. I spent quite a while with their wine list, and it’s one of the very best in London, full of interesting things. If I were to put together a wine list, it would look very much like this (I wasn’t terribly surprised when I found out that the list had been developed by Noble Rot).

The wood-panelled dining room is classy and a little understated. It feels very comfortable. It feels simple, in the best possible way.

Brat’s theme is a Basque one, and the menu is, again, simple and beautiful at the same time. We ate well and ordered a variety of dishes to match with our eclectic selection of Loire gems (we’d done no coordinating).

The highlight was undoubtedly the turbot, the dish that Brat has become famous for. It’s grilled whole, and at £85 it’s not cheap, but it fed four comfortably. Part of the fun is foraging through the skeleton to mine beautiful morsels of tender white flesh.

We also did the beef rib. 1.9 kg of tender fatty goodness – again, not cheap (£95), but enough for four and a treat. A statement dish. We needed this for our three reds.

Other highlights: oysters roasted with seaweed; the famous chopped egg salad and bottarga; grilled bread with girolles and truffles; grilled bread with anchovies; and blood sausage and borlotti beans.

Everything was pretty much perfect.

The wines

Claude Courtois Les Cailloux du Paradis Racines Blanc NV (2015) Vin de France
A blend of Romorantin, Sauvignon, Menu Pineau and Chardonnay. Natural. Fresh and quite tight and mineral with lovely precision to the citrus flavours. Linear with lovely acid line. 91/100

Clos de la Coulée De Serrant 2009 Savennières Coulée De Serrant, Loire, France
15.5% alcohol. This was slightly high toned on the nose with a bit of ethyl acetate, then notes of honey and spice and baked apple. Herbs and spice on the palate with nice weight and some lovely spiciness. Such a distinctive wine. 93/100

Le Clos de la Meslerie Vouvray 2009 Loire, France
A cracking Vouvray from Peter Hahn. Honey and nutty with pear, citrus fruit and some apple. Honeyed and spicy with some sweetness, a bit of tropical character and good balance. 93/100

Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny ‘Les Poyeaux’ Loire, France
Complex, spicy and meaty with some savoury spicy notes. Concentrated and chalky, a bit gravelly, some smoky notes and a really lovely texture. Expressive and perfumed with pepper, herbs and lovely fruit. Drinking perfectly now. 95/100

Domaine Guion Bourgeuil Cuvée Prestige 2017 Loire, France
Organic. Really floral black cherry and blackcurrant fruit with good density and a gravelly, chalky edge. This is juicy and expressive and pretty serious. Essence of Loire Cabernet Franc. 94/100

Thierry Germain Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur Champigny ‘Les Mémoires’ 2014 Loire, France
Brooding blackcurrant and blackberry fruit nose. Taut, fresh and quite primary with linear black fruits. Savoury, taut and dense. 94/100

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Grower Champagne focus: Marie Courtin Résonance Extra Brut

Champagne Marie-Courtin Résonance Extra Brut NV (2014) France
12% alcohol. Dominique Moreau runs the estate – her grandmother was Marie-Courtin. It’s 2 ha in the Aube, and all of the Champagnes are non-vintage, but she doesn’t use reserve wine. This wine is 2014. It’s from the village of Polisot in the south of the Aube, and this is Pinot Noir. Biodynamic farming, wild ferments, stainless steel first fermentation, zero dosage. Disgorged April 2018. This is bright and expressive with some herby hints and red cherry and plum hints, as well as apple and citrus fruit. There’s a lovely fruitiness here with a savoury, herb-tinged edge and nice balance. 92/100

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GROWER CHAMPAGNE:

Place of Changing Winds, a remarkable Pinot from the Macedon Ranges

Place of Changing Winds Clos de la Connerie 2017 Macedon Ranges, Australia
This wine is made by Luke Lambert for Robert Walters (an importer – he’s the founder of Bibendum Wine in Australia) who has planted a remarkable vineyard at ultra-high density. He began planting in Bullengarook in 2012, and has added more vines over the years, and the density of planting ranges from 14 000 to 20 000 vines/hectare. This, the second vintage, from vines planted in 2013, is 100% whole bunch Pinot Noir. Good concentration with supple, sleek red and black cherry fruit. Silky texture with a lovely finesse. Has fruit sweetness but also fine-grained structure. Lush and opulent with nice detail, and brooding intensity, showing hints of green and beetroot. 94/100

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