• Seasonal

Skin-Contact Wines to Sip This Summer

By Ellen Bhang · 07/31/2019

When friends start using geeky wine words in everyday conversation, you know something is trending. “Skin contact”—as in skin-contact white wine—is the current phrase on everyone’s lips. Orange wine (made throughout the wine world) and amber wine (particularly from the country of Georgia) are two expressions of the category.

First and foremost, orange wine has nothing to do with citrus. The style is made by treating white grapes as if they were red. In white winemaking, the juice from white grapes is immediately separated from grape skins, then fermented on its own. To make orange wine, juice and skins ferment together, in the same manner that red wine is made. In the rough and tumble of fermentation, grape skins impart tannins that provide texture, while pigments lend coppery, golden, or orange-ish hues to the finished product.

Amber wine from Georgia—the country east of the Black Sea, north of Turkey and Armenia—is increasingly available here in Boston. Many of these wines are made in qvevri (pronounced ‘kwev-ree’), buried clay pots that are integral to the country’s 8,000-year-old winemaking tradition. Depending on variables like the length of time that juice and skins spend together in those conical vessels, amber wines can range from delicately textural to intensely earthy.

Get into the skin-contact conversation! Here are two lip-smacking bottles to get you started.

The bottle: Field Recordings “Skins” 2018
Price: Around $21
The wine in words: Crafted by winemaker Andrew Jones in Paso Robles, California, this orange wine is made from chenin blanc, pinot gris, riesling, and verdelho grapes. Juice and skins ferment together for a week. Scents of cling peach and wet clay lead to a dry, slightly grippy palate of stone fruit, baked pineapple, and a hint of salt.
Pair like a pro: Dunk this bottle in an ice chest 20 minutes before serving, then enjoy with everything on your picnic table.
Where to buy: Darwin’s Ltd., 148 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, 617.354.5233, darwinsltd.com

The bottle: Baia’s Wine, Tsolikouri Qvevri Wine 2018
Price: Around $37
The wine in words: This year, Forbes Magazine included Georgian winemaker Baia Abuladze in its “30 Under 30 Europe” list. The 26-year-old takes tsolikouri, an indigenous white grape that grows on her family’s seven acres in western Georgia, and ferments the juice and a portion of the skins in qvevri for three months. With aromas of white flowers, baked pear, and honey, this dry, lightly textural stunner offers tanginess, salinity, and flavors of yellow tree fruit.
Pair like a pro: If you don’t have a Georgian aunty to cook the grilled meat skewers called mtsvadi, barbecued chicken goes great with this amber wine.
Where to buy: The Wine Bottega, 341 Hanover St., North End, 617.227.6607, thewinebottega.com

Both wines are distributed in Massachusetts by Hangtime Wholesale Wine Company.

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