Edge cases are starting to become a theme in this series – they’re everywhere when you start to look. Of course it’s problematic being stuck with a term like “orange wine” – even though the vernacular is convenient, catchy, and now almost universally adopted (even Vogue magazine, for goodness sake!).
Take the sole white wine from tiny but world renowned Le Due Terre, in Friuli Colli Orientali. A blend of Friulano with 30% Ribolla Gialla, it has 10-12 days of skin contact, and is spontaneously fermented with minimal temperature control. Despite ticking boxes on a technical level, it definitely doesn’t fit the “orange wine” moniker in a stylistic sense.
Sacrisassi Bianco does however demonstrate the versatility and effectiveness of extended skin maceration for producing stunning white wines.
Le Due Terre’s Sacrisassi Bianco 2013 has a wonderful tension, something I expect and love with Friulano. The variety has exuberant acidity which can cut through the more intense, full bodied style produced as a result of long skin contact. The aromas of this wine are exotic and inviting – jasmine tea, guava, honeysuckle and sage. It feels pin sharp in definition, really long lasting and complex, and the flavours just keep coming with a distinctive dried apricot or mango note at the end.
Why doesn’t it fit into the orange wine bracket? There’s virtually no perceptible tannin, no colour pickup, and generally a focus on freshness. We don’t get the heavier “autumnal” flavours of bruised apple, burnt plum skin or spices here. There’s a lightness of touch, which I decided to put to the test by serving a bottle with pan fried wild sea bass. The pairing was effortless, and supremely pleasurable.
Le Due Terre – “The two soils”, comprises just 5 hectares and a family of three. Silvana, Flavio and their daughter are responsible for everything, including the much lauded Sacrisassi Rosso, a wine that receives tre bicchieri almost every year. The two soils are argile and marl (clay), the location a stone’s throw from the village of Prepotto.
Talking about the estate’s “back to basics” style of winemaking (very low intervention, forgoing temperature control and even racking where possible), Silvana explained how Flavio went to study enology in the early 1980s, but then rejected virtually everything he’d been taught, reverting to the methods his grandfather had used. This wasn’t simple minded obstinence, she stressed – “You have to understand chemistry – you need to know what you want and how to get it. It’s fine to go back to the roots, but you need to learn the rules in order to be able to break them”.
As with many simliar Italian estates, Le Due Terre farm on organic principles, but without certification. Silvana insists “our name is our certification”. Frankly, when the results are as truly outstanding as they are here, I can gladly accept that.
That this estate currently lacks a UK importer makes no sense to me. An opportunity if ever there was one. US fans are luckier, with the wines available in a few states.