You’ve probably heard of extreme sports, generally those where the danger level is ramped up to the max. Or there’s extreme ironing, which is just a bit bonkers. But what about extreme wine? Perhaps you imagine a bottle that might explode in your face, or one with a lethal amount of alcohol. Maybe it has to be drunk whilst surfing a 100 metre wave?
Happily, I can report that Renato Keber’s Ribolla Gialla extreme puts no such demands on the drinker. The moniker indicates that unlike Keber’s other white wines, this receives one month of skin contact. Keber is typical of many small producers in Friuli Collio, in producing a range varying from the more conventional fresh, fruity varietal wines, to the more traditional. Keber’s “extreme” wine is a nod to the long skin maceration technique that has been embedded in Friuli’s wine traditions for centuries – and I suspect, a subtle homage to Josko Gravner who inspired him during his apprenticeship in the late 1970s.
The 2008 Ribolla Gialla extreme is drinking wonderfully right now. These wines really need time to reach their zenith, and I have considerable respect for a producer who knows this and wants their customers to drink the wine when its ready, not when they need the storage space freed up in their cellar.
The wild honey and dried herb aromas are absolutely typical of Ribolla Gialla made in this style. So too is the rather meaty character – by which I’m referring to both the full bodied texture of the wine, and its flavour profile. Smooth, very fine-grained tannins are balanced by freshness and acidity, and although the wine feels big and masculine, it tips the scales at a nimble 12% ABV. Less extreme, more extremely delicious.
Production methods are super traditional, with spontaneous (wild yeast) fermentation in concrete, without temperature control. The wine is then aged for a year in large oak barrels, before further bottle ageing and eventual release at around 2.5 years old.
It pains me to admit it, but this wine is next to impossible to track down outside Friuli (extreme availability!). Let’s hope that changes, as some of Keber’s wines are available in the US, and at very reasonable prices to boot.