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