Orange for the Win
A great friend of Craft and Cru is getting some well-deserved recognition of late: Haley Fortier, the talented sommelier and owner behind a couple of Boston's best wine destinations, wine bars Haley.Henry and Nathálie, has received two prestigious nominations in 2019. The James Beard Foundation has nominated Haley.Henry as a semifinalist for their Outstanding Wine Program award, and Haley herself is on a short list for Food & Wine's 2019 Sommelier of the Year. Fingers crossed she gets both!
Why are we bringing up Haley? Well, because we love her and we want to say "CONGRATULATIONS!", but also because she picked out a wine we carry as one of her "benchmarks" in the recent Food & Wine article announcing their nominations. The wine is the 2017 Tears of Vulcan from Day Wines, one of the most exciting young wineries in Oregon. We discovered Tears of Vulcan in October of 2018, during the Orange October Challenge hosted by Haley.Henry and Nathálie, a fun opportunity to taste a diverse array of wines made from white grapes macerated on their skins, i.e. white wines made like red wine, a.k.a. orange wine or amber wine or whatever you do or don't want to call it.
When grapes are crushed, one can let the juice run off, or let it sit in contact with the skins. With skin-contact, red grapes turn the juice various shades of red and purple, while white and pink grapes would tend to colors that most contemporary wine drinkers are not used to. Rewind a couple thousand years or so, when light crystal clear white wines almost certainly did not exist, and people would have been quite familiar with the spectrum that results from macerated white grapes. Skin contact white wines are an ancient style and in many rural wine regions would have been common as an everyday drink up until the mid twentieth century. These days, in this neck of the woods, we tend to use "orange" to describe a wide range of colors and styles that result from white and pink grapes made with skin contact. Aside from color, a particularly notable quality of orange wines is their tannins, which can vary widely, but when significant lend them to pairings with dishes often served with reds. Oxidation also marks many an orange wine, but strangely enough some of these oxidized qualities blossom beautifully over many hours or even days. Orange wines are not always so easy to understand, but Tears of Vulcan is quite possibly the world's most amiable introduction to the category. We've a few other orange wines chez Craft and Cru, but today we'll present you two of the most seductive and succulent we've ever encountered.
Day Wines Tears of Vulcan 2017
A masterful blend of 63% Viognier, 21% Pinot Gris & 16% Muscat, Tears of Vulcan is one of the finest orange wines on the market. The grapes are destemmed and fermented on their skins for 3 weeks with daily punch-downs. Elevage was in one new puncheon (Russian oak with Acaia heads) and four old neutral barrels, with malolactic fermentation occurring naturally. Sulfur was used in small amounts only just before bottling in June 2017. Flavors are intense, exotic and myriad: candy peach rings, tangerine and juicy tropical fruits, airy vanilla, roses and spice... swirl until your wrist hurts, new notes will keep coming. Its fruitiness is sweet and ripe, but it keeps fresh and dry with pleasant pithy and herbal bitterness and fresh acidity. The texture is also something quite special, it is silky and rounded, with smooth integrated tannins. The only whisper of Pinot Gris (a pink grape) is in the color, which is deep and a little tawny, while otherwise the suave style is dominated by clear voices from the aromatic grapes and the winemaking. This stuff rules and you gotta try it.
Tenuta Macchiarola Fiano Salento IGT 'Belle Vignole' 2017
We love a good Fiano, but mostly expect them to be Avellinese. This spunky pup hails from Salento, in the province of Puglia, and it's delicious. When we tasted Belle Vignole, we already had a decent selection of orange wine, but the memory of it was haunting and within a few weeks we knew there was only one way to dispel this gorgeous ghost... order a case! Since then, it has been a favorite among our orange wine devotees. Like Tears of Vulcan, this wine spends three weeks on its skins, but the elevage is in stainless steel and concrete, and no sulfur is added at any point. A savage and savory style, it grips and tantalizes the senses. It changes in the glass but dried stone fruits, ripe citrus juice and pith, dried flowers and herbs remain constant, while tropical and meaty notions scamper about. The palate is tangy, with Fiano's signature salt and smoke, as well as serious tannins that lend a texture similar to peach or apricots skins and ally with acid to carry flavors long. Assertive and distinctive, this wine shows its winemaking clearly (often a complaint about orange wines) but it also expresses the warmth and fertility of Puglia, as well as the complex character of Fiano. Not the easiest intro to the orange wine category, it is without a doubt a win. Decanting or drinking it over a day or two is advised, it needs a bit of a wake up.