‘Orange wines are versatile, hard work – and not dirty,’ says Modal Wines’ Nic Rizzi

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Drinks: Drinks, Wines
Location: UK

Modal Wines’ Nic Rizzi has launched an impassioned defence of orange wines to some of the country’s top sommeliers.

Nic Rizzi, Modal Wines

Speaking at an Orange Wines Masterclass for Senior Judges from the Sommelier Wine Awards, the merchant was keen to quash a few common misconceptions of a style that often arouses skepticism among sommeliers, despite its growing popularity with consumers.

‘There’s an idea that orange wines are funky or dirty,’ he told the gathered judges. ‘There are some examples out there that are like that, but that could be a common criticism of natural wines in general – not orange wines. There are examples of good winemaking and bad winemaking everywhere.’

At Modal Wines, Rizzi imports only organic or biodynamic producers. ‘It’s not because it’s trendy – it’s more a reflection of my belief in sustainable and responsible farming,’ he explained. However, he said that while orange wines do not necessarily have to be natural, there’s a good reason why so many of them are – as well as organic or biodynamic.

‘Orange wine requires quite excessive viticulture,’ he said. ‘A lot of growers I work with literally work bunch by bunch, to check the health of the fruit, and most people who do that tend to be natural wine growers.’

And stylistically, he remained adamant that orange wines can be a seriously useful tool in any restaurant’s arsenal.

‘As a white wine with density and tannic structure, it works with food that you couldn’t normally pair white wines with,’ he said. ‘I think it’s one of the most versatile wine styles.’

SWA Senior Judge Mattia Mazzi, from the River Café, was certainly inspired. ‘The six wines [tasted today]covered the full stylistic spectrum, but you could put all of them on by the glass because they were so food friendly,’ he told Imbibe. ‘The moment I was drinking and tasting, I was thinking of all the food I could have with them.

‘I wouldn’t be scared to put these on by the glass even in a wine bar.’


Click here to see head of judging Christine Parkinson’s call to arms to the SWA Senior Judges.

If you want to be a judge at the Sommelier Wine Awards 2019, please contact Micaela Martins Ferreira  or register here.

About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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