I am really enjoying skin contact whites at the moment. These are white wines that are made like red wines, with the skins present during the fermentation, rather than pressing the juice off before fermentation begins.
As I write I am drinking Tom Shobrook’s Giallo, and loving it. It’s an Aussie skin-contact Sauvignon Blanc, and it shows amazing aromatics – floral, delicate, apricot, passionfruit, citrus. On the palate there’s a lovely spicy, slightly grippy twist and nervy acidity that counter the fruitiness just beautifully. It’s profound.
But skin contact whites are niche, operating outside the fine wine mindset. I think this could be about to change: these wines are frequently compelling. I don’t know why they don’t enjoy greater support.
Some skin contact whites can be heavy, tannic and clumsy. Frequently, though, they show beautiful delicacy and poise. They are often aromatically thrilling. The best ones show beautiful aromatics and manage the tannins from the skins really well.
The period of skin contact can vary quite a bit: I have had a wine that spent two years on the skins, but some will just spend a few weeks (as red wines typically do, before pressing). This alters the character of the wine.
The term ‘orange wine’ has been coined for skin contact whites, because they often take on an orange colour. But not all of them do: this Giallo is a regular sort of yellow colour. The orange may come from oxidative ageing with the presence of phenolics in the wine.
It would be great to put on a tasting of the best skin contact whites to convince the sceptics because these are some of the most profound of all wines.