Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Wine Is Not Orange In Oregon

Looking at the warm salmon-colored fermenting juice in the glass, what varietal would you guess? 

Of course, it's Pinot Gris. But it's skin-fermented.   

Not exactly what you expect from a white wine. Aren't whites typically stripped from their tannin-holding grape skins to create the more familiar nearly clear Pinot Gris (AKA Pinot Grigio)?    

That's Dag Johan Sundby's hand holding a glass of Pinot Gris juice just taken from below the cap of skins and seeds. Sundby, a native Norwegian and owner of Johan Vineyards in the Willamette Valley near Rickreall, and his winemaker/viticulturalist Dan Rinke decided to try skin fermenting this year.
Actually, the technique is not so unique. At least one winery in New York is also experimenting with skin-fermentation. And it has been used for thousands of years in European regions like Slovenia, Georgia and Italy. 

While I haven't seen skin-fermented wine from other wineries, I've heard it called by the unappetizing title of orange wine. To me, those two words clash. If that title is an accurate descriptor of other winery's efforts, I must say that the salmon color produced Sundby and Rinke at Johan Winery is visually much more appealing. To a Northwesterner, salmon and wine make a perfect pair.

After tasting this uniquely-flavored fermenting juice, I can't wait to see the wine.

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