Saturday 9th July actually is International Skinny Dipping Day, so we aren't quite making everything up. But what a better way to reward yourself after a frigid winter swim than a glass of a fantastic skin-contact wine?!
Buckle up for a crash course in all things amber at this stop on the DD's Guide to the Wine Galaxy, as we skinny-dip right in to the vibrant waters of skin-contact wines.
So, WTF is a skin-contact wine anyway?
Skin-contact, orange, amber... they're all different names for the same thing: a white wine fermented on its skins, like a red wine, for anywhere from a few hours to months. This technique imparts the colour into them, ranging from a light yellow to a deep orange depending on how long the juice ferments with the skins.
But as well as the deepening of colour comes additional flavour & tannin, bolder aromatics and fleshy, floral flavours. Maybe considered a bit more rustic than sleek, but don't be fooled - there are plenty of fantastically complex and intriguing wines within this category. They're some of the world's most interesting (and maybe most polarising) wines.
Georgian wine is arguably the oldest wine culture in the whole world, going back 8,000 or so years, and it's said to be where amber wines originated all those aeons ago. They're extraordinary, deep and grippy amber wines that see extended time on skins - we're talking months and months here - while fermenting and ageing in Qvevri pots that are buried underground.
We have a fantastic range of super rare - but pleasantly affordable - Georgian amber beauties, with the famed Pheasant's Tears the most recognisable name. They're something to provide supreme drinking pleasure to the skinsy-wine fanatic, or a chance to try something completely different than what you might be used to.
Now to Friuli in north-east Italy, where we'll travel back in time to the 1990s. A couple of cult winemakers of the region, Stanko Radikon (of the eponymously named label, Radikon) and Josko Gravner pioneered the skin-contact movement in the region. They felt particularly inspired by Georgian winemaking & a natural, minimalistic approach, and began to start making skin-contact wines of their own. Naming these wines 'ramato', meaning auburn or copper coloured, they used varieties like Ribolla Gialla, Friulano & Pinot Grigio while inspiring experimentation in winemaking throughout the Friuli and elsewhere.
Sasa Radikon has now taken over from his late father but carries on the philosophy and tradition - lengthy macerations on skins, years in barrel and then a nice long sleep in the bottle before eventual release. They come out wild and characterful, and are regarded as some of the greatest skin-contact wines in the galaxy. Extremely rare and sought-after, they aren't for the faint of heart.
There's just so much to explore in this marvellous wine category, especially with the use of skin-contact being so much more common as a winemaking technique.
We also recommend checking out the Skinsy Sensations Sampler Pack - a great way to get 6 fantastic amber wines perfect for a little skinsy-dip into the orange waters. But while you're there, check out Friulian Dario Princic, the fun and dynamic wines of Cantina Giardino, or the three highly reviewed wines from Trish Nelson (the Aussie in Italy) at Gazzetta.
Skinny-dip into all amber wine here. And remember - don't panic, just explore!