When we talk about Orange wine, I have to be distinct and talk about wine from the Orange region of NSW, rather than the orange wines variously fitting into categories of natural and biodynamic and skin contact and all that Jazz.
Gerald and Angie Naef planted a vineyard after purchasing a property in Orange in 1999, planting Chardonnay, Cabernet and Merlot, while purchasing grapes to make Pinot Noir and Riesling, eventually grafting some of his merlot to pinot noir cuttings and some of the cabernet to riesling cuttings. Today there is a thriving vineyard owned by this interesting American chap.
Naef grew up in Central Valley California, in the interior region north west of Fresno, informing his love of wine. It's the largest wine-grape growing region in the state. Hot and dry, it is largely comprised of some 150,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley south of Lodi, with remote Madera County to the east near Yosemite National Park and its 38,000+ acres also counted in.
But enough of the Californian geography lesson. Naef is one of those winemakers, constantly questioning his own techniques, exploring new and better ways of doing, with an innate curiosity and sense of wonder. It shows in this 2018 Pinot Noir. The nose is loaded with big berry fruit flavours - wild blackberry and raspberry, and sour black cherries dominating. There are hints of spice and vanilla which will develop over time as it ages in bottle.
14 months in seasoned French oak tempers a potentially belting acidity and works with tight tannins presenting a delightfully well structured wine with all kinds of sour notes, mostly cherry with hints of lavender and red currant for me. Its neatly complex and interesting all at once, nicely structured and ever evolving in the glass.
Its a wine for food, pairing nicely with roasted confit duck. I would have loved more of this in the colder months and I reckon a 2022 winter might be the ideal time for more of this clever wine. Naef's continued desire for excellence will ensure this is a wine we will come back to each vintage.
NSW | 2018 | Orange | 13.6% ABV