Jarring In Its Complexity
2006 Vodopivec Vitovska Amphora
Orange Wine Steeped in Rock: Obscurity Be Damned
This is a freaky wine. There's no other way to say it.
It’s from the obscure Vitovska grape. From vineyards with birdcages. It’s aged for six months on its skins, in clay pots ...which were held for ransom by the Georgian mafia before making it back to Friuli.
I remember very clearly the first vintage of Vodopivec Vitovska that we tasted. It was the 2002, and the wine was totally unknown in the U.S. The wine was jarring, its intensity, its weightlessness, the purity with which it expressed its singular minerality.
Its shocking pinkish-orange, cloudy color doled out an absolutely unbelievable mineral-peach-sage-smoke-honey combo that kept changing with every sniff and sip, and it was thrilling in its richness and striking textural complexity. It was mind-bending, disorienting almost...and jaw-droppingly compelling.
So compelling that we bought all we could - obscurity be damned, you know? Then we set out to sell a far-out orange wine from an unheard-of producer at $87.99 a bottle... (NOTE: Today’s 2006 bottling comes in at $75.95… more on that momentarily.)
One of the early buyers was Eric Asimov of The New York Times, who was very impressed by the wine and wrote up a whole blog post, concluding with, “The lesson (again) for me is that so much exciting wine can be found outside the realm of the familiar.”
Since then, the wine's circle has grown considerably - it’s now enjoying press and praise from a wide variety of publications. (Most recently, it was featured in this month's Saveur.) Asimov probably deserves much of the credit for getting word out on a grand scale, but it’s been cool for us to be at the forefront of this offbeat obsession. And we couldn't be happier that the Vodopivecs’ commitment to Friuli's Carso DOC and the obscure Vitovska grape is receiving the praise it deserves.
There’s sort of a lot to say about this wine, so maybe since it’s a rainy Saturday, you have a moment to stay in and read. We think it’s worth it.
The Vodopivecs are horticulturalists: Their business is in flowers. Their winery is a side project, and their respect for the land is evident in their biodynamic viticulture. As for the birdcages we mentioned? They put them in their vineyards in order to avoid using pesticides to combat insects.
We should also mention the ransom story. As it goes, brothers Walter and Paolo Vodopivec had experimented with aging their wines in wooden cask and Spanish amphorae (inspired by Gravner), but they just weren’t happy with the results. Paolo felt sure that Georgian amphorae would be superior, and so away they went. That’s when the local Georgian mafia who, it seems, have a bit of a reputation for holding foreigners at gunpoint, held the clay pots for ransom.
Paolo paid them off and beat it, precious amphorae in tow. And now, happily, he’s quite pleased with his resultant wines. If further evidence of the lengths the Vodopivecs will go to make great wines is needed, we come to the point of terroir.
To discuss the terroir of Carso is to speak more about rock than soil. Carso, in fact, actually means something like “land of rock” in Celtic. Walter and Paolo Vodopivec actually had to physically break up the limestone bedrock to plant their vines. The rocky terrain leaves a firm imprint on the wine with an undeniable acid and mineral streak. Upon opening, this is intensely tannic and gripping in its minerality.
To be honest, it really deserves a decant and, ideally, a full day open before you venture in. The results, if you’re patient, are wines that have a purity and fascination that's frankly incredible. This is certainly "a take no prisoners” kind of wine, with jarring complexity that commands all your attention to contemplate. But what I have always loved about these wines are their length and what I’ll even call elegance.
I also love the fascinating story, and in the end, a good part of good wine is the story it tells as you drink it.
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Crush Wine & Spirits
Special Email Bottle Price: $75.95
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