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August 08, 2019 3 min read

Joie was among the first BC wineries to make dry, European-style rosé. More than fifteen years later, we’re still using skin-contact to make innovating wines. And, in case you haven’t yet heard, Orange is the new Rosé.

What is “orange” wine, anyway? In basic terms it's the inverse of rosé: whereas rosé is made from red grapes using minimal skin contact, orange wine is made from white grapes with extended skin contact. Pretty simple, right? Sure. Except there's more to orange wine than just its colour...

Skins also contribute to a wine's other attributes like aroma, flavour and especially mouthfeel - it's the tannins in the skins that give wine its texture. That's what really sets orange wines apart: fermenting white grapes on their skins provides a structure and enhanced textural element that typical white wines and most rosés can't offer. Orange wines have the ability to bridge white and red wine worlds in a unique way - they maintain the lighter weight and crisp, refreshing acidity of a white while also offering a rich, layered texture that can really contribute to food pairings, like a red wine does.

Orange wines have gained a fan base who love them for that reason: they offer more personality and structure than their white or rosé counterparts. And because, like sour beers, they can be extremely distinctive, above all else. 

While new to many people, this is actually an ancient style of winemaking. In fact, orange wine would have been quite recognizable to many Europeans until the mid 20th century when, with the rise of larger scale commercial production and mechanization, it fell out of fashion and was largely forgotten.

However, as interest grows in traditional and more “natural” products, orange wine is seeing a renewed appreciation. Indeed, many are made with minimal winemaker intervention, without additives or filtering and are often fermented spontaneously using local, wild yeasts.

That’s certainly how we made ours! The Skin-Contact Gewürztraminer Duo is the latest in our Chic Fille series – an on-going project of experimental, natural and small-batch wines.  

Gewürztraminer - which is actually a pinkish, even red colour - is rarely left on its skins. The variety's intense phenolics (the things that make it so exquisitely perfumed) are also prone to making wine bitter. We decided to challenge conventional wisdom and see for ourselves, putting aside a small lot of fully intact Gewürztraminer to soak on its skins. We vigilantly tasted the juice each day and, to our delight, found it kept tasting better and better. After one full week on skins, natural fermentation finally kicked in - courtesy of wild yeasts - and we allowed the juice to soak a couple days more, for a total of nine days on skins. We were so thrilled with the results of this first mini experiment (using fruit from our Con Vida Vineyard) that we replicated the process again with grapes from our This Is It Vineyard.

Although both batches of skin-contact Gewürztraminer were treated and fermented identically, the grapes come from very different vineyards. Located on a granite slope on the Skaha Bluff, The Con Vida Vineyard is like a giant reflective ‘sun dish’ that generates early ripening and ultra-ripe fruit. The vines are now 32 year-old and produce tiny, tight bunches. Our This Is It Vineyard is planted on the highest spot of a higher altitude parcel on the Naramata Bench. This is a very cool location so the grapes ripen slowly and retain a great amount of acidity - Gewürztraminer has the lowest acidity of any grape and loses it quickly, so the cooler temperature here makes a big difference.      

We decided to release the two as a duo with the purpose of them being tasted side-by-side so as to highlight the significance of vineyard site on a wine’s flavours and characteristics. You will find some similarities but also marked differences. Preferences are subjective but we intend for these wines to spark interesting conversations with your friends, family or colleagues as you compare and contrast how they’re similar - and how they differ! 

As with all Chic Fille wines, these are natural wines - ambiently fermented, unfined, and have only minimal sulphur additions before bottling. Production is very small and quantities extremely limited - better order some now!   

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Chic Fille is a fun, experimental project made by JoieFarm winemaker Heidi Noble and apprentice winemakers Alyssa Hubert and Karl Duda. It was initiated by a keen interest to learn and teach at JoieFarm and inspired by Heidi’s desire to revisit techniques that she used when first teaching herself how to make wine. 

This on-going series highlights innovative, improvisational, and collaborative winemaking over the course of each vintage, often using singular techniques such as native fermentation, lees contact, skin contact, and semi-carbonic ferments. These wines distinctly reflect vintage, variety and vineyard site.


1 Response

Denise Ellis
Denise Ellis

August 08, 2019

Heidi,
Just returned from Republic of Georgia and they have been making these “amber” wines for 6000 years. Very hard to find a “white” wine there. They are still trying to sort out their grapes after the russians ordered them to grown only 10 approved varieties. So far they have identified 427 varieties and are trying to relearn which grow best where. Look forward to trying your version of the wines. I found the amber wines in Georgia very variable – some made for interesting drinking and some were almost sour.

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