Oh, orange wine, how I adore thee. For lovers of odd wines, orange wines are somewhat of a cult item, prized for their weirdness and obscurity. Unlike rosé, which gets its color from a few days of contact with grape skins, orange wine is left to ferment — skins, stems and all — for months at a time. They look, well, orange, and they taste pretty odd.
The weirdness and obscurity is part of what appeals to me, but mainly I love orange wines because they are so food-friendly. Some people say they're difficult to pair — I disagree. And if you're a white wine lover who's looking for a non-red to pair with heavier foods, this is the wine for you.
Alaverdi Monastery's Rkatsiteli is hardly an entry-level orange wine. There are orange wines from Italy and elsewhere that are closer to a very dry rosé (although still stranger, more oxidized, less fruity). But the orange wines of Georgia (the country, not the state), where Alaverdi Monastery has been making wine since 1011, are almost a different beast entirely. The Rkatsiteli is made in clay pots, and is extremely tannic — usually a trait reserved for red wines. As a result, you could drink this wine with a steak: The wine has enough tannins and structure to stand up to just about any kind of food.
It also tastes and smells like damp autumn leaves, like dried fruit, like walnuts. It's absolutely bizarre, fascinating and delicious.
Alaverdi Monastery Cellar Rkatsiteli 2010 is available from Silverlake Wine for $26.
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