Orange from White

Colours don’t often wake up my taste buds.

Mauve. Nothing.

Black. Nope.

Does White have a taste or a bouquet? Blue, Green …..

Orange?   Yes.    Citrus and tangy zestiness jump out – because its a fruit. estrecho-monastrell

I now accept ‘Orange Wine’ as a category as valid as I do Red, White, Sparkling and Rosé. It has taken me a while as I’ve been prone to  confusion as to what Orange Wine actually is. Hint: it’s not the colour of the wine….

In Alicante recently I was privileged to be served wines at Bodegas Enrique Mendoza. They were truly exquisite – especially his Quebrada 2010 and a monumental Estrecho 2012 (I reckon even his agents will be lucky to reserve this …. mature, hand-harvested Monastrell, gobelet pruned and grown at 700ms: edges of herbs, rose water, rich dark cherry and some peat smoke. Fabulous wines.) It was quite a chilly morning and maybe the ‘peat smoke’ was from the blazing fire that had been lit for us and fueled by large chunks of air dried vines! Either way it was a captivating scene. Imagine then when the tasting began we were served an Orange wine followed by a red Natural wine both of which, we were told by our jovial host, were the wines he serves up to his family and friends.

Enrique’s Orange Wine (which by its very nature is also a  Natural Wine in Enrique’s camp) was a Muscat that had been on its skins for 60 days in a large tinaja buried into the earth.

I didn’t get a photo of Enriques tinaja’s but across the wider area of Valencia tinajas continue to be used and at more than a few wineries they are making a come back….check these out at Celler del Roure where the local white grape Verdil benefits greatly from ageing in 500 year old tinajas! Great grape btw.


Enrique Mendoza’s Muscat Orange wine is brilliant. Honey, orange zest with edges of passion fruit; orange rind on palate with fine acidity and excellent depth of flavour and an impressively dry finish. A great example of a Natural Wine made from white grapes that have been allowed to ferment on their skins  – Orange Wine. It’s not orange of course but as many of these wines take on a deep (off white even though  no wine is actually white either!!) colouration they have been described as being Orange.fiano-530x1024

Yesterday at a very fine Borsa Vini Italiani tasting in Dublin (organised by the Italian Trade Commision- ICE) I was very pleased to see some great organic wines and then to be really impressed by a couple of Orange wines shown by the CAIAFFA family from Puglia. The Caiaffa Fiano 2016 shows cleanliness, an exciting palate and a  very fine finish. The Caiaffa family’s commitment to organic is absolute and their understanding of how and why to make an Orange wine would appear (after our short conversation) to be an intuitive thing. It was a bit like I had asked, ‘What is a White wine anyhow?!!!’

 It’s probably a shame the category has been labeled ‘Orange’ as it evokes a definite colour (and even a distinct bouquet and taste). That said it is a simple and memorable title and makes a valid distinction both within and without the Natural Wine category. Now that more of these wines are being presented without funky off bouquets and flavours (which I  don’t like) or structures akin to red wines – (leave tannins to red wines)  they will become more widely available offering us all a new (and wider than ever before) range of taste sensations to enjoy.

Orange. The New White

Happy New Year (Masterclasses)

Fabulous Christmas. Tremendous New Year. Rang it all through with the very excellent Jaume Serra Cava from Spar and decided that my favourite Prosecco (while the competition was weak it shouldn’t take away from this wine distributed by Gilbeys of Ireland!) is the Maschio dei Cavalieri Spumante! There. That’s a first for me – a favourite Prosecco ….

This post is meant to bring me back to an old topic of mine – The Masterclass.

What is it?

When I was younger I thought that a Masterclass was something brilliant people became entitled to. You know – John O’Connor giving a Masterclass on the piano to outrageously talented young pianists. A MASTERCLASS was given by a Master.

The wine trade has an unfortunate history of taking words out of context and abusing them to death. ‘Minerality’ and ‘Finish’ come to mind!! It is in the throes right now of going one step further as its use of the word Masterclass is, on the one hand, bestowing a title to presenters who do not deserve it and on the other attempting to fool a fact hungry trade that it is actually going to learn something from a ‘Master’.

When a wine journalist is brought to a country of origin one presumes the idea is that they will report back to their readers when they come back home. The same applies to other journalists. Go to a medical conference and report back what’s  going on in the world of medicine. Go to a car show and tell us what car to buy. All makes sense?

This month I have been invited to a Wines of Australia Tasting where the ‘Masterclass’ is a selection of wines that impressed Liam Campbell from his sponsored tour there last year. I am sure it will be a wonderful tasting. I am equally sure it will NOT be a Masterclass. The invite includes the following: ‘Led by wine writer and educator Liam Campbell, this 90 minute master class is an opportunity to taste a diverse range of wines and gain insight into Australia’s unique and revered styles and regions.    Liam has handpicked the wines, which inspired him the most during his recent trip to Australia.  After careful consideration and plenty of re-tasting, Liam has narrowed it down to 14 wines for this master class.    Join Liam on a journey through the vineyards, hearing the stories and exploring the top tips from his visit. Covering still, sparkling and fortified, you’ll taste wines which show off cool climate regions and alternative varieties, and that challenge the traditional assumptions of Australian wine’. What happened to the journalist reporting back to his readers? Besides there will be  a stack of genuine Masters in Dublin on the day – they have come all the way from Australia where they make the wine!

Landmark Australia Tasting ’09


I have also been invited to a Wines of New Zealand tasting where ‘John Wilson will conduct a masterclass for Trade entitled “A New Zealand Pinot Noir Roadtrip” to showcase the regionality of New Zealand Pinot Noir.” This is quite simply ridiculous. On the one hand there will be 35 wineries from New Zealand in Ireland for the Fair most of whom could and should present The Masterclass and all of whom I could quote. I can’t quote the Irish Times as being the expert on regionality in NZ Pinot Noir any more than I can quote Failte Ireland on how brilliant it is to taste wines in Australia!!

Wines of NZ Marlborough Vineyards


You don’t go to a medical conference and arrive home a doctor any more than a motoring correspondent doesn’t become  a race engineer from attending the Monte Carlo car rally!

Seminars, Talks and Presentations are not Masterclasses.

It has been announced that the brilliant (I’m a genuine fan!) Jamie Goode will present a seminar at a Beaujolais tasting in Dublin this coming June. Note the word SEMINAR. (Mind you the very same Jamie recently had a blog swipe bemoaning the loss of good wine writing as edited wine columns are more and more being replaced by unedited social media commentary. The same can be said for overseas journalists arriving into Ireland taking a budget designed for Ireland to tell us about Beaujolais. I thought those days were over as when this happens these journalists invariably have no idea who they are talking to and it all sounds as if they are preaching to a UK  audience … Beaujolais is in France and we are not in the UK..)

What to do?

Well, don’t quote experts unless they actually are Expert.

Believe me when I say that journalists do form expert opinion. They should use this to inform and not to attempt to pretend to us that theirs is a masters knowledge. That, after all, would be both narcissistic and deceitful and we know that this is not their intention. (Oh, and beware journalists who apply grandiose titles to their presentations!)

Let seminars be seminars and lets look forward to the first Masterclass of 2017.