(Almost) every week, I select an orange wine (a white wine made with extended skin contact) that grabbed my attention. View the whole series here
Last week at Choux (an all-time favourite Amsterdam restaurant of mine), I happened upon sommelier and founder Figo van Onna grinning at me, as he opened a bottle of this arrestingly labelled wine. “403 days on the skins” he shouted excitedly, knowing exactly how to light my fire.
Never mind the special six course foraged dinner “010 020 Het Wilde”, cooked by a crack team of chefs from Rotterdam and Amsterdam. The star of the show was de Sol a Sol – a thrilling, profound wine which transcends its seemingly extreme method of production.
What was this curiously packaged beauty? The producer is Esencia Rural (Julian Ruiz), based in that great wasteland of wine La Mancha – home to the world’s most planted and perhaps dullest variety, the neutral Airén. Or is it? There was nothing remotely dull about de Sol a Sol, made from 100 year old pre-phylloxera ungrafted vines. Hence I suppose the walking sticks on the label – although in real life these old-timers are bush-trained without any support.
Those 14 months on the skins are spent in stainless steel, undergoing a slow wild fermentation, with a mere 2 months in wood at the end of it, before bottling without any filtering, fining or So2 additions.
The biggest surprise is that de Sol a Sol 2011 is intensely aromatic, with orange blossom and muscat aromas, offset by something slightly pickled. It’s soft textured, with a beguiling sweet/sour/umami mixture on the palate. There’s quite a bit of concentrated fruit – preserved/dried apricot, plum, damson, some nuttiness on the finish, lively, complex and really well balanced.
This is one of those wines worth sitting with for an entire evening, as it unfolds, changes and evolves. My glass grew more and more like an amontillado, with the nutty, raisined elements coming to the fore.
Props are due to Figo, one of Amsterdam’s best young somms. The man has an uncanny talent for unearthing gems like “De Sol a Sol” – delicious natural wines that also remain affordable for all.
Not to mention that it takes guts to pair a 14 month skin macerated orange wine with the two deserts! Yes, it worked perfectly – De Sol a Sol hides a surprise 9.2 grammes of residual sugar amidst its mysterious folds.
De sol a sol Airén 2011 is on Choux’s wine list as I write, for a bargain priced €36 a bottle (so effectively €6 a glass).
Visitors to Rawfair NYC 2016 can also catch up with Julian Ruiz in person.