The Oethical Oenologist

“You Left a Note in Your Perfect Script…”

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Pair white wine with white meat and red with red? Nah, break the rules! Have Cabernet Sauvignon with mushroom pizza on paper plates (but please use appropriate glassware 😂)! Serve whites warmer! Sparkling with everything! Rosé all year, not just in spring.

The wine world has taken a collective Xanax and everyone is happier because of it. There’s more “drink what you like” and “pair what works for you.” Bloggers and others share pairing tips but it’s more focused on the science of taste and provides good ideas for where to start rather than pronouncing from on high, “You must have Chateauneuf-du-Pape with a medium bacon cheeseburger.” (You should do this, though. It’s very good.)

burger and chateauneuf-du-papeFrom underrated grapes getting the spotlight to lists of awesome bottles under $20, people — and I’m talking specifically of wine people — are bravely venturing into new territory and embracing things previously avoided.

Except maybe one thing…

Back in 2005, I was newly single and not interested in meeting anyone at a bar (bars in Bennington at that time were scary, scarier and scariest) or dating anyone I worked with. And I certainly wasn’t going to do the online dating thing. No way. No how. Nope.

A few months, a bottle of wine and a long distance call (remember those?) later I found myself sitting at my computer, in the dark of my kitchen, praying I didn’t drop dead to be discovered as having drunk a bottle of Cabernet (Sterling) and signed up for eharmony. I may have said, out loud, “It’s okay. You’re drunk. That’s your excuse,” more than too many times.

After providing an in depth analysis of my personality (shout out to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator!) I was offered an attractive, smiling, bespectacled guy from Albany. They weren’t beer goggles. Dude was cute. Had a job. Sounded interesting. And, as my long distance bestie had pointed out: no one would pay for an eharmony membership unless they were taking their love life seriously.

I tucked him away in the it-would-be-cool-to-talk-to-this-guy category and went on with my night. My ego only wanted to talk to people who reached out first. I was willing to wait.

Long Story Short (too late!)

I’ll spare you all the details but eventually I went on my first eharmony date. We were a terrible match and I was so uncomfortable it was palpable. After, there was the obligatory exchange of “thanks/no chemistry/good luck” emails and I allowed myself, after this one date, to reinforce every negative preconception I’d had about online dating at the start. I’d let my free trial lapse.

A few weeks later I got an email that my trial was ending. If I signed up right then I’d get some sort of deal. I’d ignored all of their other emails but this one prompted me to go online. I wanted to make sure they weren’t going to charge my card if I didn’t click some box. (Read: I wanted to see if they’d redeemed themselves with a decent match). When I logged in I looked at my matches. The guy from Albany was still there. I was tempted. But I was still cringing from the terrible date.

After sitting there for a while, going back and forth as to whether to keep trying (I’d promised my friend, after all), I initiated conversation with him which quickly moved trough the steps to the point of us exchanging numbers.

What the *Hell* Does That Have to do With Orange Wine?!

Orange wine (also called skin contact white) is the eharmony of the fermented grape juice scene. Bloggers turn up their noses and poke fun at it. Most people haven’t even heard of it. Hell, I once asked for it at Bennington Beverage Outlet and was told they didn’t carry fruit wine. (Ack-shoo-uh-lee… no, I didn’t even bother)

Why is this? Damned if I know. It’s one of the original styles of wine. It’s no different than any other wine and yet most are uninterested in drinking, or at least to go public about drinking, skin contact white.

I tasted my first orange wine in 2015 when visiting the Brooklyn Oenology tasting room for a piece on Alie Shaper. I had no idea what to expect — I’d never even heard of it until Shaper included in an email that I should absolutely try it while visiting — but I was interested. All I knew going in was that it was a Gewürztraminer – a grape I wasn’t particularly fond of at the time. But I try everything twice.

Don’t you Mean “I’ll try Anything Once”?

No. I try everything twice. Kris and I implemented this practice when we started hosting exchange students. When you’re introduced to something new, especially something considered weird or inferior, it can be difficult to filter off the noise and approach it objectively. Trying two times helps you approach everything with an open mind.

Here are a few things I like that I would be missing out on had I only tried them once or, worse, never tried them at all:

  • The Avett Brothers
  • Portabello Mushrooms
  • Riesling
  • White eyeliner

More telling? Kris didn’t like My Morning Jacket when he was first introduced to the band he now travels to see, road trips to follow and even designated a day for (Fat Lip Friday: if you put on something other than MMJ, I’ll give you a fat lip!) (no wine bloggers were injured in the making of this post).

First impressions aren’t always right. Popular opinion can sway us. Just like white grapes can be made into dry or sweet wine, and sparkling or still, white grapes can be made into skin contact wine.

What is Orange Wine?

Remember the episode of Seinfeld where Elaine made new friends who were Jerry, George and Kramer but not? Bizarro Jerry. Bizarro George. Bizarro Kramer. Orange wine is bizarro rosé.

Wine Color

That means richer colors (think copper, amber… shades of tea and beer). It also means tannins. Yup! A white wine with tannins, which is not for everyone but definitely for me.

And it should be for you. At least try a few. You’re missing 1/4 of the spectrum by not having these. You may hate it but try it twice and if you still hate it I will never push you to try it again. To truly deepen your knowledge of and experience with wine it’s important to try all kinds of wine.

Cool Stuff About Skin Contact White

  • Orange wine is diverse. You never know what you’re getting unless you’ve had the same exact bottle.
  • Orange wines are often ethical. Many orange wines are natural (not fined or filtered) and come from independent growers who put the land first. That also means that many of these wines are sour because of natural fermentation. If you love the sour beer trend, natural orange wine is for you!
  • They look gorgeous in photos. Your insta feed will never need a filter when you’re shooting orange wine.
  • They come in sparkling varieties. That’s right – orange wines, like all other colors, can be made still or sparkling.
  • You look like a total bad ass when you show up with a bottle of orange wine. And who doesn’t want to be the resident bad ass?

Orange Wine In The Wild

On February 20 the Bennington Wine Tasting Meetup came over for a tasting called “Won’t You Take Me To Funky Town?” which featured four orange wines. We started with a Pinot Grigio that had some skin contact. From there things got really weird but this was the perfect place to start because you could still tell it was Pinot Grigio. Just different. While the Pinot Grigio was a hit, no one liked any of the other wines. But they were good sports – they wanted to understand the concept. They never want to get that weird again but they were curious. I respect their dislike and they all tried each wine more than twice. So I’ll leave them alone.

I don’t love all of the orange wines I try but since meeting the 2012 BOE Gewürztraminer I’ve been hooked. I love the orange wines coming out of New York State – they are the perfect gateway to skin contact white wine. That said, I’ll get funky with any orange you put in front of me. If you’re interested in exploring some skin contact white wine, here are my top three suggestions for a great introduction:

Atwater Estate Vineyards Gewurzt Skin Ferment 2015
Atwater Estate Vineyards Skin Ferment Chard 2015
2013 BOE “Broken Land” Orange Wine

Still Not Convinced?

Just like I gave eharmony a second change by reaching out to that cute guy from Albany and found my perfect match (yup, it was Kris!), my willingness to try the much maligned orange wines has brought good wine into my life and made me a better taster.

“…’stay as long as you want’/and I haven’t left your bed since.”

Tasting Notes

four skin contact white wines

2013 Pavi Pinot Grigio, Napa Valley

skin contact white (pinot grigio)This wine is a clear, pale to medium orange. On the nose it is clean, medium intensity with aromas of stone fruit like not quite ripe peaches and slightly sour pink grapefruit. On the palate it’s dry to off dry with medium acidity, low tannin, light to medium body. Interesting taste – similar to the nose I got peach and grapefruit with a slight taste of vanilla. Fairly short finish. This was a good quality wine. It was definitely a Pinot Grigio, but with a little more oomph.

(West Side Wines, about $18)

2016 Paleiokerisio, Greek

Greek semi sparkling orange wineImagine a Pumpkin Spice Latte Italian soda (frizzante style) with zero coffee on the nose or palate and that’s this wine. I freaking LOVED it. Very different from anything I’ve ever had but I would love to have it with grilled meat and sundried tomatoes or maybe red bell peppers just off the grill. And some fresh feta. The color was similar to a darker than typical IPA and the spice came through more than any fruit or other flavors. An absolute delight – I hope I can get some more soon.

(West Side Wines, about $17)

2013 Coenobium Ruscum, Lazio Italy

The nuns made this orange wineMade by nuns, this traditional wine from Italy is super funky. A little sour but still holding onto a bit of fruit it had a bit of astringency and definitely made everyone think. I’d need to drink it again to give a better note – definitely lots of secondary flavors (wood, spice) overpowering the fruit but not necessarily in a bad way. This one was a bit hot, but not undrinkable. I’ll have this skin contact white again at some point.

Rouge Vin de France

What is orange wine? I'm not sure this one qualifiesThere are a lot of words on the bottle so I’m not sure what to put. The picture should help you find this gorgeously hued hazy french orange with lots of Gamay. So much Gamay it might not actually be an orange wine but natural wines often qualify so we’ll keep it in the post. Imagine a sour beer, one with an attitude, gone flat. This baby punches you in the face with tartness and does not quit. Definitely the least favorite of everyone in our tasting group but definitely worth trying.

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