What is orange wine? How does fermenting with the stems and leave give you a more complex flavour profile? Can you find orange wine on restaurant wine lists? Which types of food should you pair with orange wine?
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, we’re chatting with Ann Sperling, winegrower and Director of Winemaking and Viticulture at Southbrook Vineyards.
You can find the wines we discussed here.
- What is orange wine?
- How does orange wine give you a glimpse into ancient wines?
- Why would you see less waste from the winemaking process with orange wine?
- How long can you expect your orange wine to last with no added sulphites?
- Why are you seeing an uptick in interest in orange wine?
- Why is the Vidal grape such a good varietal for orange wine?
- Why do you experience a savoury flavour profile with orange wine?
- How does fermenting with the stems and leave give you a more complex flavour profile?
- Where can you buy Southbrook orange wine?
- Can you find orange wine on restaurant wine lists?
- Which types of food should you pair with orange wine?
- Do orange wines mask the terroir and their grapes?
- Why was it important to have the Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) recognise orange wines in their own category?
- What’s the next step in the evolution of the making and distribution of orange wines?
- What’s the difference between orange wines and natural wines?
- Why should you buy local when it comes to wine?
- How is the winemaking process different for natural wines like those produced at Southbrook?
- Other than Vidal, which grapes are well-suited for orange wine?
- Do orange wines have to be organic?
- What is unique about the Seriously Cool line of wines?
- What sommelier secret should you know about pairing orange wines?
- What flavour profile will you experience with Seriously Cool Chardonnay, Red Wine Blend and Rosé?
- Why did Ann feel so strongly about orange wine having its own category with the VQA?
- Where does Ann see the orange wine category growing into?
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There’s a lot of tannins and catechins that are there in the seeds and stems that give this wine real texture in the mid palate. - Ann Sperling Click to tweet
The restaurants that include orange wines on their lists often are very connected with the food community, the local food producers and it’s a really interesting flavour profile that we don’t always delve into. - Ann Sperling Click to tweet
I think that once we learn and understand orange wines as well as we know our reds and our whites from the region, we’ll start to recognise specific traits. - Ann Sperling Click to tweet
That’s really what I’d like to see happen with orange wines is, lots of small batches and lots of engagement at a really foodie level. - Ann Sperling Click to tweet
Orange wines are for the lazy somms… you can pair orange wine with almost anything. - Ann Sperling Click to tweet
About Ann Sperling
Ann Sperling was raised on a vineyard, where her family has grown grapes since the 1850s; her great-grandparents planted grapes in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. “I had a miniature version of every conceivable farm tool—a child-sized hoe and so on—so that I could help with almost every part of growing the vines,” she says.
She remembers yearning to be older so that she could do even more of the farming. At dinner, the family ate and drank what they grew, and analyzed it for freshness, ripeness and balance, which helped her to develop her tasting ability. Having grown up among the vines, she says she has an intuitive feel for them: she can walk into any vineyard around the world, and within seconds assess its age and vitality.
Considered a leading force in the Canadian movement towards organic and biodynamic fine winemaking, Ann has over two decades of experience in winegrowing, winemaking and consulting for successful winery startups.
Ann prefers to think of herself as a “Winegrower,” instead of a winemaker. This vineyard-centric ideology is passionately applied to every facet of Southbrook’s winemaking philosophy, including its organic and biodynamic grape-growing practices, and gentle handling in the winery.
- Connect with Ann Sperling
- International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4C)
- Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA)
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- Nova Scotia Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
- British Columbia Wineries Shipping Direct to Home
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- My new class The 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner And How To Fix Them Forever
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Transcript & Takeaways
Welcome to episode 72!
In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, we’re chatting with chatting with Canadian rockstar winemaker Ann Sperling, who has pioneered organic and biodynamic winemaking in Canada as well as leading the charge to create the first VQA appellation for orange wines, our topic today.
When Ann was a child, she had a miniature version of every farm tool—a child-sized hoe, shovel and so on so that she could help with almost every part of tending the vines on her family’s vineyard in BC. Now as the winemaker at Niagara’s Southbrook Vineyards she says she has an intuitive feel for the vines when she walks among them and can tell within seconds their age and vitality. Kind of like the vine whisperer.
This conversation first aired on my regular Facebook live video a couple of years ago, so keep that in mind as the context for Ann’s comments. Also, you’ll occasionally hear me respond to viewer questions. You can be part of that conversation every second Wednesday at 7 pm eastern.
I’m recording this intro on April 10 and we’re still in lockdown due to the Coronavirus. During this time, I encourage you to support your local wineries wherever you live, especially since their tasting rooms are now closed, cutting off a major source of their sales since the majority of wineries don’t produce enough wine to get listed in big liquor store chains. That’s why I decided to publish this interview with Ann today — we’ll be back chatting with Dr. Gary Pickering next week.
Winemaking is the highest value-add agricultural product we make on this planet. There’s no other food or drink product that we put on the dining room table with the label still on it — we don’t keep the stickers on the apples or oranges, or the cans from the corn niblets or diced tomatoes, and yet we do keep the bottle of wine front and centre.
In Canada, there are more than 37,000 people employed in the wine industry, and hundreds of thousands of people around the world from grape growers to retail staff. The wine industry contributes $9 billion a year to our economy in jobs, sales and spin-off businesses like restaurants and tourism.
In fact, every bottle of Canadian wine produced and purchased in Canada, contributes about $90 to the Canadian economy compared to an imported bottle of wine that contributes $15 and sixty cents.
I’m not suggesting you don’t drink imported wine, but rather at this time, go local as much as you can wherever you live. Many wineries now will ship their wines directly to your home within their province or state, and in some cases, across the country. Many are also offering free delivery during this lockdown as an extra incentive. You’ll be pleasantly surprised just how easy this is to do, and there’s like getting a wine delivery… sure beats bills and junk mail.
I’ll put a link where you can find a list of Ontario wineries offering home delivery, including Southbrook, in the show notes, as well as links to Ann Sperling’s winery websites, the wines we tasted, a full transcript of our conversation and the video version of this chat at nataliemaclean.com/72.
If you want to discover terrific wines like Southbrook and others, sign up for my free, online video wine class the 5 Wine & Food Pairing Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Dinner (and how to fix them forever!)
Go to nataliemaclean.com/class and choose a time and date that work for you. I look forward to seeing you inside the class!
Okay, on with the show!
You can also watch the video interview with Ann that includes bonus content and behind-the-scenes questions and answers that weren’t included in this podcast.
Well, there you have it! I hope you enjoyed this chat with Ann Sperling.
Here are my takeaways:
- Ann gives us a clear, concise definition of orange wines: skin-fermented white wine that can also be called amber wine. Whereas most winemaking leaves 35% of the grape behind, orange wines keep more of that great stuffing in the wine. This also is an argument that orange wines, perhaps more than any other, express terroir — there’s more of it in the glass.
- I love how she puts the hot trend of orange wines into the context of ancient winemaking in Georgia, Armenia and northeast Italy and then explains about the revival of going local and natural, away from the industrialization of wine.
- My mouth waters when I think about the orange wine we shared and how Ann described it with aromas of Earl Grey tea, bergamot, jasmin, spice rather than fruity.
- Ann helps us understand how flavour precursors are locked in grape skins, like Vidal, and more of them are released in orange wine because the skins spend more time in contact with the juice. These precursors trigger the release of the flavour and aroma compounds in wine.
- I was fascinated with Ann’s explanation of how brettanomyces yeast or brett eats some of the sugars that saccharomyces cannot, and can give the wine a savoury, earthy character if it isn’t allowed to overtake other aromas in the wine. This is the barnyard aroma you get in some burgundian Pinot Noirs which I always thought was a fault, but I can see now that just a little in balance with other aromas could be nice.
- I love how Ann credits her grape growers, like Heather Laundry, in this discussion and on bottle labels. It reminds me of how great restaurants list their food producers, and it points to just how much Ann remains focused on the vineyard.
- Finally, you gotta love how Ann says that orange wines are for lazy sommeliers because they pair with just about anything given their savoury character.
If you liked this episode, please tell a friend about it, especially one who’s interested in the fascinating wine tips that Ann shared. You’ll find links to where you can find a list of Ontario wineries offering home delivery, including Southbrook, in the show notes, as well as links to Ann Sperling’s winery websites, the wines we tasted, a full transcript of our conversation and the video version of this chat at nataliemaclean.com/72.
Finally, if you want to connect with me personally, join me in a free online video class at nataliemaclean.com/class.
You won’t want to miss next week when we’ll be chatting with Dr. Gary Pickering a Professor of Wine Science and researcher at Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute, in Niagara. He is the inventor of the white wine mouthfeel wheel and the supertasting kit, and is passionate about wine education, and of course, wine. He joins me from his home in Niagara.
Thank-you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week, perhaps a local wine that helps you feel connected to your wine community!