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If we had to summarize what orange wines, or macerated wines, are, we could say they are wines produced starting from white grapes, but using the production process of reds, so keeping the skins in contact with the must. The time of this contact is variable: it can go from a few hours to several months.

There has been growing interest for some years in this type of wine, which at first glance can lead one to think of a new phenomenon. In reality, orange wines have very ancient origins, we are talking about thousands of years ago. They have always been produced in Georgia using kvevri, traditional terracotta amphorae typical of the region. This is not the only area that has a historical link with the macerated wines. The area that develops around the border between Friuli and Slovenia also has a close connection with orange wines. This geographical area, in particular, has played a fundamental role in the rediscovery of this particular production method.


In recent years much has been said about orange wines. They have often been framed as extreme wines, as the right choice when you want to try something daring, perhaps even a little difficult. In short, like difficult wines. On the one hand, this perspective has some truth to it. The presence of tannins, due to contact with the skins, gives the wine a third dimension made up of hardness and edges. Furthermore, the combination of white grapes and maceration gives the wine hints that for many may be wild, or unfamiliar. Another point: often the macerated wines, especially in the case of prolonged contact with the skins for months, result in textured wines of great consistency. So much so that someone, jokingly, sometimes calls them “eat and drink” wines.

This important structure, on the other hand, opens up an equally significant and less highlighted theme: orange wines are very versatile, especially when it comes to food pairing. The reasons for this adaptability are varied. One, just mentioned, is certainly that of the body. A more present structure than that of the classic whites allows the orange wines to leave the most common pairing perimeters, which want them combined mainly with delicate dishes, often based on fish.

The maceration times, and the relative intensity that derives from them, are decisive for precisely evaluating the most suitable combinations. We can say, for example, that it is often a good choice for white meats and medium and long-aged cheeses. Going more specifically to wines characterized by long macerations, a fundamental point is the resulting intensity.

Precisely this intensity opens up various pairing opportunities, which in some circumstances can resolve cases of complex combinations. This is the case, for example, of spicy dishes, typical of oriental cuisine. An orange wine of good intensity often has the right characteristics to support the comparison with another important intensity, that of spices. The important thing, in this case, is to keep an eye on the tannins. If too accentuated, their edges could conflict with the strong personality of the spices.


A very important issue is then that of temperature. Playing with the degrees, in the world of orange wines, can give interesting results. Starting from the assumption that the serving temperature of these wines is around 15 degrees, it must be considered that lower temperatures emphasize the hardness, therefore acidity, sapidity and tannins, while higher temperatures bring out the softness, therefore the sugars, the alcohol and the glyceric component. If this happens for any type of wine, with orange wines the breadth of scents that unfold at different temperatures is, in my opinion, truly remarkable.

So much so that it often happens to me, at the restaurant, to choose just one wine for the entire dinner, an orange wine, characterized by a significant maceration time. Served fresh, to start with, it can accompany many types of appetizers, such as veal meatballs. As the wine rises in temperature, it is as if it gradually becomes adaptable to each passage of the dinner. A little less cold to accompany a first course, for example fresh pasta with duck sauce. And then, with a slightly higher temperature, an important second course, perhaps a meat of great intensity, for example lamb.

As already said, everything is related to the amount of time the wine has spent on the skins, and consequently to its intensity. In the case of less marked macerations, the combinations must be reconsidered proportionally. Munjebel VA Bianco 2019 Di Frank Cornellissen can be a good example. Born on the slopes of Etna from a blend of native white berries grapes and the processing involves 4 days of maceration. It is an elegant, complex wine, made even more special by the fact that the cuvée comes entirely from old ungrafted vines that are between 60 and 90 years old. The contact with the skins is a gentle touch that further accentuates the characteristics of breadth and finesse. And in this specific case, going back to talking about food, the right choice can fall into the world of white meat or that of fish, for example with a Mediterranean soup.

Graziano Nani

Over 15 years in communication, today Graziano Nani is Branded Content Lead in Chora, where he deals with podcasts. Sommelier Ais, he writes for Intravino and takes care of @HellOfaWine on Instagram. He teaches wine communication at the Catholic University. He deals with the same theme in the “La Retroetichetta” podcast, of which he is co-author, and with speeches at dedicated events.


Christmas holidays are unique because, for many, it is the right time to treat yourself to something special at the table. Special cured meats, maybe that caviar to be tasted once in a while, or a good handmade nougat as well as an artisan panettone. The world of Christmas sweets, in particular, is full of choice to close a lunch or dinner at home. Sometimes we tend to think that a Classic Champagne is perfect for both opening the meal and closing it with dessert pairing. That’s true just in case the chosen one has a certain amount of residual sugar. A demi-sec sparkling wine, for example, can work, because its sugars fluctuate between 33 and 50 grams per litre; as well as one sweet sparkling wine, where the threshold of 50 g/l is exceeded. Without going into the technicalities, it is enough to keep in mind a very simple quote: sweet calls sweet. It is not an absolute principle and there are many exceptions, for example when it comes to dark chocolate, but it’s a good basic rule. Not only to avoid unsuccessful pairings, but also not to waste a valuable bottle, perhaps that Champagne kept for months and months waiting for the right opportunity. It’s a typical holiday risk, and it doesn’t happen only with sparkling wines: we have a valuable bottle aside, we’ve been waiting for a long time the right opportunity to open it, and, driven by the enthusiasm of the Christmas spirit we make the wrong choice.
So, in order to avoid mistakes at the end of the meal, let’s remember to always indulge the presence of sugar with other sugar. Technically that’s what it’s called pairing by concordance. The rule does not concern sparkling wines only, but all sweet wines. Among them, in particular, there are the raisin wines, of which Italy is very rich at all latitudes, from Alto Adige to Pantelleria. These are wines made through the processing of grapes withered. The withering can take place on the plant, with a late harvesting process of over-ripening, or after harvesting the grapes, leaving the berries dehydrated for a certain period of time.
What is sought through the withering process is a greater concentration of aromas and sugars, which will be found, then, also in the glass after processing. For a good wine pairing with a dessert, choosing just any passito it is not enough. The structure of the cake we are going to eat, for example, is a key element to be taken into consideration. A Paradiso cake, for example, has a very different structure compared to a panforte, decidedly more important, since, among the ingredients, we have honey, almonds, candied fruits and various spices. If in the first case we can opt for a delicate wine, for example a Moscato d’Asti, in the second case the choice can go up a more structured product, such as a Vin Santo. Another point to be considered concerns the level of sweetness, so the amount of sugars present in the dessert recipe, because there is sweet and sweet. A yogurt plumcake, in in this sense, is very different from an apricot jam tart. In the first case a light sparkling wine from Malvasia grapes can be a good solution. In the second case you can opt for a raisin Zibibbo arriving from Sicily, where the warm climate facilitate the sweetness of the grapes and, consequently, the final product. Continuing with the factors to keep in mind when looking for the right match for a dessert, we can consider its aroma too. This can result from the aromatic herbs included in the recipe or from the intrinsic scent of one specific ingredient. An example can be that, unmistakable, of candies in panettone, characterized precisely by a marked aroma. In this case for the pairing, always in a logic of concordance, can be evaluated a wine of good intensity. Intensity, to be clear, is that parameter that describes in quantitative terms the strength of the scents expressed on the nose and on the palate. Different wines obtained from aromatic grapes typically have great intensity such as Moscato, Malvasia or Gewürztraminer. The latter is the basis of the passito Rechtenthaler Schlossleiten signed by the historic South Tyrolean company Hofstätter, ideal to combine with a good panettone. A Gewürztraminer from late harvest of great thickness, which takes its name from one of the prestigious cru from the estate vineyards. A key characteristic is its surprising freshness, decidedly above the average in the category of sweet wines, and essential to avoid weighing down the end of meals which at Christmas can already be challenging in themselves. The low alcohol content, around 7%, also helps outline a lean and elegant profile. Honey and aromatic herbs on the nose, apricots, pears and candied citrus fruits on the palate. The very long persistence characterizes this Gewürztraminer as the right choice to round off a Christmas lunch or dinner, with the idea of carrying the sweet flavour of the holidays with you for as long as possible.


How high can you go in Europe with the cultivation of vines? The question is more actual than ever, given the effects of climate change and the increasingly frequent attempts to find a decisive answer in the altitude. There are several vineyards that claim to be the highest in the Old World. The purpose here is not much to decide the winner from the orographic point of view, or compile an exhaustive list, but rather to quote some of these cases, and outline some distinctive features that characterize the vineyards in quota and the wines that derive from there.

Southern Spain, with La Contraviesa mountains, looks like it managed to reach the highest altitudes. We are close to the National Park of Sierra Nevada, southeast of Granada, at an impressive 1.368 meters above sea level altitude, mitigated by warm winds from the Alboran Sea. Here Barranco Oscuro winery cultivates 10 hectares of land, a non-trivial extension for
such extreme conditions. Among the cultivated vines there are both a number of autochthonous and some international including Pinot Noir and Merlot.
In Italy’s South Tyrol, precisely in the upper Val Venosta, there is another place that competes with the just mentioned Spanish case. Here Calvenschlössl winery cares for several vineyards, including a very special. It’s called Marienberg, and it was the namesake Benedictine monastery to grant the land so that it could be cultivated. The incredible altitude where the Solaris vine grows is 1.340 meters above sea level, truly a breath from the title of the highest vineyard in Europe. It’s a place of incredible charm, where the millenary history of the Benedictine monastery merges with steep sceneries of dazzling beauty, with Lake Resia standing out with its crystal clear waters.

Again in Italy, but at a completely different latitude, viticulture flies again up to 1.300 meters above sea level. We are in Calabria, in Cava di Melis, a small town in the heart of the
Sila National Park, in the municipality of Longobucco. The winery is managed by Immacolata Pedace and cultivates various international vines including Cabernet Sauvignon,
Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay. Viticulture at heights like this is often prohibitive: in this case, is made possible by a delicate intersection of factors, including the
presence of Lake Cecita, which with its influence acts as a mitigating element allowing to overcome the harsh and snowy winters during which temperatures reach even 20 degrees below zero.

Back to the north of the country, Valle D’Aosta is also known for the impressive altitudes of its viticulture. It’s at 1.210 meters, in the northwest part of the region, where the well-known Blanc de Morgex et de La Salle was born, produced with Prié Blanc grapes. One of the most representative wineries is the cooperative Cave Mont Blanc, today with about 80 members, each of them cultivating a small vineyard overlooking the Mont Blanc.
Back to Trentino now, and specifically to the Valle di Non, where we can find the very interesting Vin de la Neu, a winery led by Nicola Biasi, an internationally-known winemaker
famous for his ability to grow and lead different markets with several Italian wineries. More than ten years ago Nicola decided to plant over 800 meters of altitude the resistant variety Johanniter: 2013 is the year of the first harvest.

One of the most interesting traits of Vin de la Neu’s work is the experimentation that today, through science and knowledge, allows the production of wines at higher altitudes than the past. One of the fundamental building blocks that allows to achieve this goal is the study of resistant varieties, such as the Johanniter. The results they give from an agronomic point of view against fungal diseases (and not only) are truly extraordinary. This, of course, allows for a total absence of treatments in the vineyard, and therefore to carry on a viticulture that can be really defined as sustainable and respectful of the territory.

The result in the glass is tangible and unequivocal. Nicola’s wines are characterized by great purity and cleanliness, with an expressiveness that leaves its mark.
The 2017 vintage of Vin de la Neu, in particular, is characterized by rigor and freshness both coming from the mountain environment where it was born. Orange, pineapple and some pleasant herbaceous nuances join a range of scents typically belonging to the mineral range such as graphite. A mottling of tertiary perfumes is added on top, with nuances of hydrocarbons and iodine reverberations standing out clear. A tense sip, rich and perfectly centered contains the soul of an innovative project that makes harmony with the mountain environment its distinctive hallmark.