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  • Our best orange wines

    We’ve been bringing in loads of new fun and funky wines to our range lately, and that has included several orange wines (much to Sophia’s delight). This style of wine was originally introduced to our blog in this post “Orange Peel Ain’t Real”. For more on the history of orange wine, give it a quick read.

    To recap on the basics though, orange wine is usually white wine made like a red wine – sort of.

    This will make more sense when I mention that another name for orange wine is ‘skin contact’ white wine. All red wine is made with skin contact; that is, the grape skins are left on during the fermentation/maceration process. This is what gives red wine its gorgeous colour. White wine, on the other hand, usually is processed with the skins removed, which is how its look is so light and clear. Following?

    So, leave the skins on the white grapes for a bit (a few hours, days, or weeks depending on what vibe the winemaker is going for) and voila! You have a lovely orange wine. They range from a light gold to bright orange, amber, or even rosy pink. The range in flavour is even wider, so don’t expect a simple answer if you ask: “So what does orange wine taste like?”. It’s like asking how white wine or red wine taste: how much time do you have?

    But here’s an overview of some tasty examples, and reasons why orange wine is often my go-to choice.

    One box that I find orange wines tend to tick is for the people who want something chilled, but aren’t massive fans of how bright/light/acidic white wine is. The option for that is our skin contact Pinot Grigio, Lunaria Ramoro. As someone who has had too much bad Pinot Grigio in my life already, I can safely say the Ramoro is a cringe-free Pinot Grigio experience. It pours out a soft rosy colour, and maintains all of the usual freshness of the grape. Super smooth, this wine has lovely floral, fruity qualities, making it an excellent aperitif or a partner for some lighter seafood.

    Or how about this dilemma: you only drink white wine, but your dining/drinking partner lives and dies by red wine (or vice versa). You’re splitting a bottle, and you’ve already ruled out rosé. The solution is orange wine. It has enough body, flavour and tannin to satisfy the red wine drinker, but not so much that it will put off the white wine fan (plus it’s chilled). My favourite for this scenario is our reverse orange wine, the Stapleton & Springer Orange Pinot Noir. Remember when I said orange ‘usually’ white wine made like a red, earlier? This is a red wine with the skins removed almost immediately, processed more like a white. You still get some creamy red fruit flavours from the Pinot Noir grapes, making it perfect for those who ‘only drink red wine/white wine’ and can’t agree.

    Another group that tends to enjoy orange wines might come as a surprise: beer drinkers! Particularly for those who enjoy sours, tarts, saisons, lambics, etc. our Orange Riesling by Kloster Ebernach is for that person you know who claims to know nothing about wine, but wants to dip a toe in the wine pool for a break from their usual beer order. It’s got a decent body, with enough tartness and fragrance to keep your sour beer fan happy. I highly encourage you to have it with creamy cheeses, or that cut of dark meat you’ve been eyeing on the turkey at your next roast.

    Orange wines are also stellar for pairing with really full-flavoured food: that is where I think they really shine.

    If we’re talking major umami or anything really fatty, I would recommend our Italian Baglio Bianco, which has some serious cider flavours going on. Think apples and pears with the skins left on – perfect for your pork loin, smoky sausages, mushrooms or roast chicken. Alternatively, try the Liquid Skin from our South African friends at Mother Rock. It’s got a nice bite from being fermented whole-bunch (meaning all of the stems and twigs and tiny branch bits are in there with the grapes), making this peachy, chunky orange wine much more full and tart than some of our other offerings. It’ll cut right through the fatty meats or oily fish you’re cooking.

    For anything with chilli, orange wine is my go-to for beating the heat. It’s chilled, keeping us refreshed when the heat levels get us sweating or excusing ourselves to blow our noses. And these wines often have so much texture, tannin, or body from the skin contact that they can really hold their own when drunk with foods that would have your dry Sav. Blanc or delicate Chenin tasting like water.

    Honestly, I think any of the above would be delightful with your hotter, spicier meals. I would also add our Slovakian offering from Slobodne, the Cutis Deviner. The Cutis Deviner brings all of the perfume to the party: it is flowery, peachy, fresh, and clean. A serious contender for your pre-meal drinks, or better yet for something with a bit of chilli. However, of the aforementioned, I’d probably lean towards the following as my top picks:
    Lunaria Ramoro
    Stapleton & Springer Orange Pinot Noir
    Mother Rock Liquid Skin

    Now, if all of this is sounding a bit overwhelming and you’re worried that you might need a more gradual introduction to orange wines, do not despair! We have some sneaky skin contact whites that you wouldn’t necessarily realise are orange wines without a bit of reading or chat about them.

    For those orange wine beginners among us, we have the Fontanasanta, Manzoni Bianco by Foradori. With just a touch of a golden hue, this elegant blend brings some delicious stone fruit flavours and a slight nutty quality. Skin contact or no, it’s an exquisite white wine for any occasion. Another front runner in this category is the Grenache Gris by Albert Ahrens in South Africa. Silky and fragrant, this wine only has a few days of time on the skins, making it all the more complex and floral. The final option is our Little Bastard from Staffelter Hof in Germany, which is a blend of four different grapes – most of which only have a few hours with their skin. It’s tangy and bright, with a surprise of solid minerality despite its funky, fruity fragrance.

    Feel free to come chat about orange wine in the shop – happy to gush about how delicious it is any day. And if you’re apprehensive about committing to a whole bottle without knowing what you’re in for, be on the lookout for it on the wine list next time you’re out for a meal! Our team next door at Forest Bar + Kitchen often rotate a skin contact option onto their offerings by the glass, and orange wines seem to be a staple on many lists in restaurants focusing on natural wines.

    My suggestion? If you see it as an option by the glass somewhere, ask for a taste! They’ll almost always be happy to let you try a little bit before ordering, since they want you to enjoy whatever you order. Even if you don’t end up buying a glass (or a bottle) you can try new and exciting orange wines to get a feel for how different and tasty they can be.

    If you’ve tried something new in the world of skin contact wines, let us know your thoughts next time you’re in the shop! We’d love to hear your orange wine stories.

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    Posted by Sophia Tupy
  • Red wines to savour this autumn and winter

    In part two of this consideration of early winter wine, we can move into more familiar territory: reds.

    I say more familiar, because red wine is typically what most jump to after the first jacket-worthy day. If you think you have abandoned white wine for this season, read the last post to see how you can keep white wine in your life as the nights get longer.

    So! It’s chilly, it’s gloomy, and we start to lean on our room temperature offerings to warm us up and keep up with the heavier foods we start indulging in this season. Winter is coming here. But! We’re not in the thick of it quite yet. We need to save our heaviest hitters for the icy tundra of January and February. In the interim, we need something with a little more heft than we had when we could still expose our arms at night.

    Here are some red wines from our range, for when we all start to wish we had fireplaces in our little London homes:

    Cabernet Sauvignon
    Bodega Cecchin, 2015 - Mendoza, Argentina

    This Cab is herbal and lean, with slightly smoky aromas. It has a leathery, earthy flavours, making it an excellent pair for your steak and mushroom creations, or for plates littered with roasted root vegetables. This is not a particularly fruity Cabernet, so anything with some decent umami flavours or sweet/savoury earthy qualities is what we’re after with this wine.

    Joan d’Anguera Planella, 2015 - Montsant, Spain

    A nice complex blend from the east coast of Spain, this opens up with a fragrant, almost fruity liqueur scent. It has a very plush texture, with even more fruit and some spice on the finish. Nice and rich, but not too heavy. This would be lovely with those extra savoury, meaty dishes. Another option would be to pair it after dinner with some punchy, funky cheese to finish off the night.

    Rosso di Caparsa, Azienda Agricola Caparsa, 2016 - Tuscany, Italy

    An excellent medium bodied red, reminiscent of a Chianti Classico. It is fairly fresh and silky, for when it’s approaching frosty, but not totally frigid outside. It has a gorgeous balance of dark red fruit with spice, making it a nice food wine, but not so overbearing that it couldn’t be a pre-dinner option. Scents are more leathery, woody, and floral. This Sangiovese is a nice partner for meaty pasta dishes, charcuterie, essentially anything meaty but not too heavy. Pre-hibernation wine.

    Adelina, Shiraz Mataro, 2015 - Clare Valley, Australia

    Do not be deceived by the grape varieties in this Aussie red: it is decently light for a Shiraz. In this 100% hand-picked wine, the bright red fruits (cherries, raspberries, etc.) balance the time it has spent in old oak. The tannins are subtle but present, and this red can keep us in denial of the decreasing numbers on the thermostat. Close the blinds and pretend it’s still early autumn with this one. Some nice grilled or roasted mushrooms and sausages would go very nicely with this Shiraz, as would a beef stew or pie. Let it lift up your savoury food and your seasonal affective disorder.

    Ou Treffer, 2016 - Stellenbosch, South Africa

    Cinsaut is a South African classic when it comes to wine, and this one comes in strong. Nice crunchy fruit brighten up this very structured red. It’s been fermented whole-bunch, with all the stems and skins and leaves bringing that spice and tannin. A very versatile food wine, you could even lightly chill this red. If you do, try it with some spicy seafood for dinner. If you’re keeping it room temperature, it would be excellent with richer meats, like duck or lamb. This will be a nice one to treat the family to when you’re showing off your culinary skills (or your ability to navigate Deliveroo extremely well).

    These reds, plus the whites we already discussed (Did you read it? Get on it!), should be a nice starter kit for this turning weather. As it gets colder, these wines should help warm you up — but won’t jump the gun for when you need something even bigger for the new year. If you need more inspiration, come say hey and chat in the shop. Enjoy, friends.

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    Posted by Sophia Tupy
  • White wines to savour this autumn and winter

    Now that we’re far and away from complaining about how hot it is, we can get to whingeing about how cold it is. Because winter is finally coming. And you know what that means…

    Gingerbread lattes!
    (Just kidding.)

    We start cooking more hot dishes, more comforting meals to keep us warm. It’s a nice intro for our bodies: a bit richer, but not quite as heavy as what we cook in the dead of winter (aka January through March). And a shift in food choice means a change in wine to pair with it. Some of my food favourites for when the air gets cold:

    • Risotto
    • Herbed chicken
    • Curry
    • Cream-sauced anything
    • Spicy noodles
    • Homemade soup
    • Warm grain salads
    • Fish pie
    • Roasted vegetables
    • All of the cheese

    And if you (like the rest of us) spent the summer guzzling crisp whites or doing “rosé all day” to beat the heat, you might need a little reminder which wines go with the heavier dishes we enjoy when debating whether to cave and turn the heating on for “maybe just one hour longer…”.

    We’ll start with the whites, as those seem to be a little trickier this time of year. Here are some top picks from our range to help you ignore the dropping temperatures:

    Villavieja, 2017 - Mendoza, Argentina
     Viognier  Villavieja, 2017 - Mendoza, Argentina
    This white moves us away from citrus and tropical fruit, towards richer stone fruits — think apricots and pears. Viognier has a richer texture than the whites we loved all summer, making it the perfect partner to some curried chicken, or a Thai takeaway when you just can’t be bothered to cook anything because it’s too cold and you’re too tired and you deserve it. It’ll coat your mouth, soothing any chili (or worries) like a blanket.

    Ottavio Rube Bianco, 2016 - Piedmont, Italy

    This indigenous unfiltered and unfined white blend has a medium body and a little cloudiness to it. It carries a lovely balance of big plummy flavours with some herbal qualities, making this rustic wine an excellent pair for a wide range of food. Anything from a cheese board to a complex or flavoursome seafood dish to a lighter roast would complement this bottle.

    Catarratto (Orange)
    Baglio Bianco, 2017 - Sicily, Italy
    Catarratto (Orange) Baglio Bianco, 2017 - Sicily, Italy
    Okay, so this is technically an orange wine. Keep this in mind before purchasing, as orange wine can be a fairly polarising beverage (meaning, maybe don’t pick one up to bring to a dinner party unless the guest list includes some wine nerds). With that in mind, this Catarratto has a lovely golden colour, and minimal sediment. It’s very flavourful, with the skin-contact bringing out some cider and pear flavours. For anything made with pork or dark meat poultry, this one’s a winner.

    Jackhammer, 2014 - Monterey County, California, USA*
    Chardonnay Jackhammer, 2014 - Monterey County, California, USA*
    Okay, for you Chardonnay haters: hear me out. This ain’t your nan’s buttery, oaky Chardonnay from the early 90s. This is an unoaked Chardonnay, with loads going for it. Smells fruity and bright, with some nice nutty clove flavours to balance the lovely acidity in this white wine. So when you’re feeling like something creamy for dinner, or getting your omegas in with some roasted fish, this is the one for you.

    *Disclaimer: just found out that the supplier is discontinuing this as of next year’s vintage for the time being, so if we’re sold out by the time you read this, another stellar choice would be this fresh, fruity, Italian Chardonnay as a backup!

    Vadiaperti, 2016 - Campania, Italy
    Greco Vadiaperti, 2016 - Campania, Italy
    This Italian white has flavour for days. It smells a bit nutty at the start, with a bit of bright citrus zest and smokiness among its complex notes. With a lingering, almost honeyed finish, this minerally white has a lot going on. It can easily go toe to toe with your richer pork, veal, or game bird dish that you spent so much time on perfecting. That tasty, nutritious meal deserves a wine that can match the effort (and love) you put into it.

    And there you have it. We can’t quit white wine cold turkey, nor should we, just because the days are looking as short as your lunch break feels. Hopefully this will get you started as we approach the holidays.

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    Posted by Sophia Tupy
  • We Want You(r Corks)!

    Forest Wines now has an official Cork Recycling Station! This means you can finally let go of that cork collection you started ages ago, but never figured out what to do with, and free up some space in your house: all while helping the planet!

    We’re one of many collection partners for a swiftly growing organisation called Recorked UK. They’re trying to make sure we don’t add to those pesky landfills by throwing our corks away when we finish our wine. By reselling corks in the form of crafts and cork-based products, Recorked UK is able to donate a percentage of their profits to some incredible charities dedicated to helping the environment. They also donate corks to schools and organisations that can use them for art or diy projects! Pretty nifty, eh? Check out their journal for some craft ideas if you’re not quite ready to get rid of that collection.

    So, why is it so important to recycle corks at these stations?
    Because it’s not as widely used as say, paper, cork is made from organic material that isn’t yet widely recycled. However, they don’t break down well in general waste either! They need to be properly composted in order to fully break back down on their own.

    Seems like a lot of hassle. Why don’t we just stick to screw-on bottle tops, crown caps, or plastic corks?
    Well. I won’t go into most of the ongoing debate around corks being a good or bad decision for winemakers. There are many sides to that, including considerations of a wine’s longevity, aging bottles, economic input, risk factors like mold and oxygen, and on and on. Those aspects are important, but also won’t be resolved in one blog post. Beyond the wine-based reasons, plastic corks and metal tops aren’t renewable or biodegradable resources, aren’t usually recycled and add unnecessary waste to the wine and beverage industry. Cork, on the other hand, is made from harvesting the outer layers of bark on cork trees (there are entire forests still alive because they’ve been used to make corks!) every nine years. So no trees get cut down in the process, and the trees get plenty of time to grow and thrive to make sure they aren’t being damaged by these harvests. So the cork industry is simultaneously supporting sustainable forestry and creating a 100% naturally derived, multifunctional product.

    We don’t want the sustainability of our corks to end when they leave our bottles! This is where Recorked UK comes in to save the day. So bring in your corks after you’re done using them, and drop them in our recycling station on your way out! We’ll send them along to Recorked, who’ll make sure they live on long after you’ve finished that lovely wine.

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    Posted by Sophia Tupy
  • All you need to know about Czech wine

    The Czech Republic was formed in 1993, after the Velvet Revolution and the split with Slovakia. The country had been under communist control for decades and during this period winemakers were forced to turn their businesses over to the state. Vineyards were nationalised and turned into huge farms designed for easier and automated harvests, quantity not quality was favoured.

    As Petr Ocenasek, a winemaker from Moravia, puts it;
    “If ten comrades tasted one wine, you would have ten different opinions. That was in stark contrast with their ideology, appealing to uniformity in all areas.”
    So, we can imagine what the wine culture was like during this period, mass produced blandness.

    However, as with most cycles of life, things tend to go from one extreme to another, people react to homogeneity with a strong push for individuality.
    Since the formation of the republic, producers have rediscovered the concept of terroir which, along with the introduction of modern winemaking techniques such as the use of stainless steel tanks and temperature-controlled fermentation, has led to an invigorated and exciting trend in winemaking.

    Okay, let’s get the techs out of the way:
    In preparation for EU membership, in 1995 the republic passed wine laws modelled on the German Wine Law. After EU reforms in 2008 the new terms CHZO and CHOP have been introduced, the former a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication), the latter a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin).

    The most important wine producing region in the republic is Moravia, along the Austrian and Slovakian Borders. The climate is mild/continental with relatively low rainfall, on average a half to two-thirds that of Burgundy and Alsace which are on the same latitude. Warm days and cold nights mean that ripening is slowed down. Clay and sand dominate the soil. Two thirds of production is given to white varieties which yield highly aromatic, fresh and fruity wines with good acidity. The total area under vine is 17,500 ha.

    Grape varieties grown include:
    Riesling- Ryzlink Rýnský
    Pinot Blanc - Rulandské Bílé
    Muller Thurgau
    Gruner Veltliner - Veltlínské zelené
    Silvaner - Sylvánské zelené
    St Laurent - Svatovavřinecké
    Blaufrankisch - Frankova
    Blauer Portugieser - Modrý Portugal
    Pinot Noir or Rulandské modré, has also become very popular in the newer vineyards of Moravia.

    Fortunately winemaking techniques have fully recovered from the communist era. There is a group of small independent producers with a wonderfully descriptive moniker, the ‘Authentists’ or ‘Autentisté’.
    Included in this group are; Petr Kocarik, Korab, Stavek, Ota Sevcik, Dobra Vinice, Jaroslav Osicka, Tomas Cacik.
    The culture of natural winemaking has been promoted with the help of Bogdan Trojak, natural winemaker, distributor, poet and proprietor of Veltlin, a wine bar located in Prague. This establishment has become a hub for the natural winemaking scene. It’s the perfect venue for Trojak to showcase cult Czech wines. He also organizes an annual festival, Prague Drinks Wine, very much on the ‘to do’ list.

    It is said that the Czechs drink more wine than their country can produce, an apocryphal exaggeration of course. However, much of the quality wine produced is exported to neighbouring Slovakia and Austria. So we are very privileged to be able to source high quality Czech wines for our customers. We currently have three producers' wines in stock.

    Springer and Stapleton’s Orange Pinot Noir

    Krasna Hora’s Blanc de Noir Sekt Nature, Ryzlink Rynsky and Pinot Noir

    Dva Duby’s Impera Red

    All of these wines are made with thoughtful winemaking practices, highly individual and of excellent quality. We are looking to extend the range of Czech wines we stock in the very near future. The quality of these wines is imbued with the energy and vigour of the producers. It’s like being part of a new scene, when all the protagonists have something exciting to contribute, before the new thing becomes ubiquitous, stolen by marketing and competitive sales. Fortunately, the winemakers of the Czech Republic remember the bland old days, when uniformity, conformity, were the normality. It will be a very long wait to return to the bad old days.
    Na zdravi!

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    Posted by Ruth Farnon