Every week, Simon selects an orange wine (a white wine made with extended skin contact) that grabbed his attention. View the whole series here.
If you’ve tasted the orange wines of La Stoppa, Denavolo, Casé, Podere Pradarolo or Vino del Poggio, the joys of macerated Malvasia di Candia Aromatica and Ortrugo will be pleasurably ingrained on the taste buds. These two local varieties are the mainstay of Emilia’s traditional white blends, now often made with a few weeks of skin contact during fermentation. But head to Tenuta Vitivinicola Croci, located in the same sub-region (a little south of Piacenza), and this tradition mixes happily with another Emilia-Romagna speciality – bubbles.
Massimiliano Croci is at least the third generation in his family to make wine here, and his focus is on the region’s naturally frizzante style, which is also typically macerated. Three wines from the estate are made this way: Lubigo (100% Ortrugo), Campedello (Malvasia/Ortrugo and more) and the red Gutturnio (Barbera and Bonarda, AKA Croatina). What makes these wines extra-special is that they undergo a truly natural second fermentation in the bottle. Massimiliano doesn’t add additional must (grapes), sugar or anything else to get the second fermentation going. He just bottles when there’s a little unfermented sugar remaining in the base wine. Nature, or rather natural yeasts and grape sugars, does the rest.
My current favourite is the Campedello 2016, with a (frankly undetectable) smidge of Marsanne (surprisingly common in the region, which lies at more or less the same latitude as the Northern Rhone) and Sauvignon Blanc in addition to the region’s power duo of Ortrugo and Malvasia di Candia. Maceration time is about two weeks, more than enough to shore up this delicious effervescence with a seriously grippy structure. The aromas are playful and typical of Malvasia di Candia (lightly floral, but also with a touch of animal), the flavours are of sharp mandarin with dried herb overtones. That natural second fermentation uses up every last milligramme of sugar, so the end result is bone dry and very refreshing.
For me, the combination of soft bubbles and tannins is superbly drinkable, cleaning the mouth with every sip. But for those who are less convinced about the grip, pair it with lardo or a fatty cut of pork and marvel as Campedello effortlessly slices through the meat, cleansing and vitalising with every greedy gulp. The French like to talk about “vins de soif” but this is almost more of a “vin de la faim”. Either way, just uncork and enjoy a super traditional style that is now enjoying a mini-revival.
Croci’s wines are available in the Netherlands from Vinum Naturale. In the UK, try Tannico although they are not currently showing availability of Campedello. Elsewhere, see wine-searcher for your best options.