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The velocity with which the game changes is at times astounding. This little corner of the universe that was “natural wine” has expanded exponentially, and with it the rush to satisfy certain trends. It’s clear that skin contact, or orange wines are riding the wave right now. They sell out quickly at the distribution level, and almost never linger on our shelves. We’re seeing producers who have never made this style of wine try their hand at it, in regions that were never known for skin contact wine. Wines that a few years ago were considered niche and nerdy, that we had to beg folks to consider, are now selling faster than we can stock them. Sometimes it all gets so confusing. Yet as valiant retailers we plow on into this ever-changing landscape. Today we bring to you a selection of some of our favorite skin contact wines from the Italian peninsula, and we've secured quantities on most of these to last past the weekend. Or at least we hope. Oskar Kostecki
A perennial favorite of ours! This is one of the most eagerly awaited skin contact wines for us, and the 2018 vintage does not disappoint. Made from the distinct Trebbiano Spoletino grape grown in the hills around Montefalco in Umbria. The grapes are hand-harvested in late October, fermented on the skins for 10 days, with daily punch-downs to extract color and structure. The wine is copper-colored and the nose is an explosion of stone fruit, peach nectar, preserved lemon, pungent blossom, tea leaves, chamomile, and dried hay. The aromatic complexity continues on the palate, with great phenolic grip, ripe tannins, and a hint of dried spices. Unlike some of its cousins, Trebbiano Spoletino keeps its acidity late into the growing season, and so the Maceratum has a fresh edge to all of its denser and more rounded elements. A near-perfect orange wine. Oskar Kostecki
Manzoni Bianco is an early 20th-century crossing of Riesling and Pinot Bianco, and is almost exclusively planted in a small corner of the Dolomites. Elisabetta Foradori has a small 3 hectare parcel above the town of Trento, farmed biodynamically on clay-limestone soils. Though the wine only sees 3 or 4 days of skin maceration, there is a wonderful richness and texture to the Manzoni, coupled with notes of citrus, citrus peel, honeysuckle, almond, and a definitive herbal character running through it. Very expressive. The wine ages mostly in acacia barrels, with 15% in clay. Oskar Kostecki
COS's Zibibbo comes from organically farmed vineyards in Marsala, in the west of Sicily, grown right by the Mediterranean on sandy limestone soils. Fermentation takes place with indigenous yeasts in unlined terracotta amphorae, after which the wine spends another 6 months in clay, before being moved to concrete for 2-3 months and finally bottled. Though fermentation takes place on the skins, the wine isn't overly tannic, with just a hint of spice and phenolic grip in the mouth. On the nose it is wonderfully expressive and floral, with notes of stone fruit, dried apricot, citrus zest, citrus peel, orange marmalade, orange blossom, acacia flowers, and a hint of sea breeze. The palate introduces more floral character, but also more salinity and minerality (crushed white stones) as well as a bit of a chalky texture and a mouth-coating grip. The wine has medium+ acidity, and though maybe it isn't quite as noticeable at first with all the other elements going on, that acidity keeps this wine quite fresh and balanced. It is very expressive, with wonderful intensity, but is in no way overwhelming. I paired this wine with a salade niçoise, but I think it would really shine with grilled fish, or a Mediterranean chicken dish. Oskar Kostecki
Franco Terpin farms 12 hectares of vines in the Collio hills, right by the Slovenian border. His Quinto Quarto wines are from younger vines that are not yet destined for the longer-aged reserve wines. This Ribolla Gialla has about 20 hours of skin contact and spends 10 months in stainless steel before being released with no sulfur added. It takes a few minutes for the bottle to open up, but once it does it shows wonderful aromas of pear and other orchard fruit, citrus, preserved lemon, white flowers, as well as a bit of nuttiness. Very vivacious on the palate, with a hint of tannin and mouthwatering acidity. A great introduction to the style, and to the wines of Franco Terpin. Oskar Kostecki
Franco Terpin's reserve wines are impressive examples of long-aged Friulian whites, and this 2011 Ribolla Gialla is no exception. Fermented on the skins for 7 days, then raised in several sizes of oak, stainless steel, and finally aged in bottle until deemed mature enough for release, these are complex and enchanting wines. The 2011 Ribolla opens with a nose of great intensity, with notes of quince preserve, orange peel, orange preserve, brown spice, chamomile, hay, and an herbal character. The palate is equally enticing and complex, and delivers on all the promise of the nose, with great texture and phenomenal length on the finish. Bottled unfiltered and without any addition of sulfur, it pours cloudy and the bottle has some sedimentation. Yet afters years of aging with no chemical additions it is still so bright and lively, and most likely has years, if not a decade ahead. Oskar Kostecki
This is an orange wine made from late-harvest Pinot Grigio, which is fermented on its skins for about a month, gently pressed, and then raised on the lees for an additional 23 months. However, because Pinot Grigio has much more pigment in the skins than other white grapes, the extended skin contact causes it to look and drink like a very light red wine. A beautiful salmon color in the glass, the nose opens with notes of tropical red fruit and guava, as well as mandarin orange, a hint of red berry fruit, and spice. The palate shows more citrus, with blood orange, ruby red grapefruit, grapefruit peel and more pungent spice. Very well integrated but significant tannins coupled with great acidity. Oskar Kostecki
Not an skin contact wine per se, but a fascinating one, which we think offers some of the characteristics folks might be looking for. Mindbending! These grapes from the 2000 harvest were destined for Alessandra Bera's Moscato d'Asti when something happened. The juice fermented to dryness and developed a layer of flor, which didn't die for 16 years. Always keen to push the boundries, Alessandra let nature take its course, and bottled this in 2017. An incredibly layered wine, it still has incredible freshness, and is unlike anything I've ever tasted. With great complexity, this shows notes of yellow flowers and white blossom, apricot, peach, peach skin, tangerine, grapefruit, grapefruit pith, lemon oil, resin, honeycomb and almond. The incredibly long finish is quite herbal, with chamomile and yarrow. It has a waxy, viscous texture, but doesn't lack for acidity. A real treat. Oskar Kostecki